In recent days, there have been two big scandals concerning Captain America. One of them is that the latest issue of his comic has him being a Hydra agent all along. I will cover this briefly, but the main focus of today’s update is the other “scandal,” (which is not really a scandal, but the internet getting people worked up over stuff. As it does.) that being the hashtag GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend.
So, for the thing that this post is not going to focus on: Other people have already covered this far better than I could. To sum it up: Hydra is inseparably linked with Nazis. Steve Rodgers was created by a pair of Jewish writers as a blatant political play at a time when much of America was in agreement with Nazi politics, before Pearl Harbor got the US involved. Marvel did not invent Nazis. Their use of them as a link to this character is really, really not OK as a gimmick to sell issues. Despite what they say, it is indeed a gimmick, and will likely get ret-conned or explained away soon, as comics tend to do. In the meantime, the best way to protest the story is to not buy the comics. Buying the comics just to rant about them tells Marvel that not only can they get away with this stunt, they can make money doing it.
Now that that is out of the way, we can get down to the topic of Internet Outrage *confetti*. For those of you who have not encountered it, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is a Twitter phenomenon, in which a community of shippers started a movement for posts, fantart, and general chatter about Steve Rodgers being in love with Bucky Barns, with a specific focus on their Cinematic Universe interpretation. Naturally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, except the horrible people on the internet caught wind of it, and it became an online war as the trolls and homophobes came out in droves to shout them down.
Of course, the quickest way to make something popular is to say it shouldn’t exist, so the community behind the hashtag redoubled their efforts and swelled their numbers. Which the trolls responded to by doing the same. So the cycle of outrage continues.
The usual arguments are being thrown around, and I’m going to just disassemble a few of them.
Stop co-opting hetero superheroes vs. Gay people need super heroes too
This one is fairly cut-and-dry. What it boils down to is the fact that the non-heterosexual community rightly feels unrepresented in media. A lot of the people on the horrible troll side try to tout how reasonable they are by simply suggesting that new superheros get made for them, and that they stop trying to get existing supers.
Here’s the thing: If a character is created in a void for no other reason than to appeal to a demographic, then that’s tokenism. Such characters can eventually grow ti be fully fleshed-out characters in their own right, but that takes time. The people who are asking for representation aren’t asking for it in 20 years, after numerous failures and restarts, in which the character they can identify with has their own series that fails, restarts, fails again, then gets a cameo in a larger-universe piece of media only to be killed with a bunch of other characters as a side note (Comics, and Cinematic Universes, are weird). They want to have an established character that they can identify with now. A sentiment that I can totally understand.
Homosexuality is not a new thing. It has been pushed into the background in the past, but the people for whom it was a part of the identity existed. They were real people, and the people whose sexuality does not align with societal mainstream today are real people too. They have always been a part of society, and they want that sort of history and weight reflected in the media they choose to consume. That, in essence, is why it is popular to re-imagine established characters in a manner that makes them more identifiable to the re-imagineer (That’s sort of a word, right?). They have history with the world they live in, their backstories are complete things with subtlety and nuance. Sort of like a real person, rather than a token character.
Canon vs. Fanfic
This is one of the more irritating arguments. Basically, one side argues that the character is canonically heterosexual, therefore no works, fan-made or otherwise, are in any way valid.
STEVE RODGERS IS A FICTIONAL CHARACTER. AUGH.
Validity of one person’s fantasy over another is not an issue. Seriously. It is a personal thing that does not affect your life at all. Arguing that one person can’t interpret a work of fiction one way because the creator of the work interprets it another way is not how literature works. It never has been. There is a phenomenon that many writers ascribe to called (in various forms) The Death of the Author. The moment a work of media gets thrown to the public, the author loses control over it. People will interpret it as they want. The author may make comments about it after the fact, but it is ultimately up to the consumer whether or not they accept those alterations.
A pair of examples of this: Harry Potter and Paradise Lost. J.K. Rowling, after the series was out in the wild, said that she had imagined Dumbledore as gay. Some people rejected it, most accepted it. Paradise Lost is generally considered a, if not the, text that depicts the Devil of Christian mythology as a sympathetic character. John Milton protested that this was not his intention when it was being interpreted as such, but the public had spoken, and most modern readers ignore Milton’s interpretation of his own work.
Those are just two examples right off the top of my head. The point is, fiction is not static. The current canon is only canonical until it is changed. Someone else’s interpretation of a non-static fiction does not affect your life in the slightest.
The Steve/Bucky relationship is more believable than the Steve/Sharon(Kate, Agent 13, whatever)
This one is a matter of taste. Plain and simple. Personally, I love the Steve/Sharon dynamic that was established in Winter Soldier, and the continuation in Civil War. I agree that it was more than a little weird that she ended up being Peggy’s niece, but hey.
The Patriarchy says Homosexuality is not OK, and that’s why you are against the pairing
Well, OK then. To be certain, this statement is valid in many cases, as evidenced by horrible people on the internet. However, applying a general statement like that to everyone who disagrees with you is fallacious.
Not much to say on this one. Not many people are using this as an argument thankfully, but the fanatics exist on both sides.
You don’t go through hell for a person who is just a good friend
HOLD IT. FULL STOP.
This one, unlike the previous statement, is one that I have seen a lot. However, when I do see this one, the particular variation often includes a mention of the Patriarchy.
Those of you who read the title of the post may have wondered where the hypocrisy and irony were in this post. Check it. Right here.
See, this is the issue I have with the Steve/Bucky pairing. Personally, I could not care less if Steve was gay. Fluid canon, affects me not at all, so on so forth. The particular pairing, however, I have issues with, due to the reflection of societal values that the argument is making.
The idea that two people, regardless of gender/sexuality, cannot have a meaningful relationship without sexual attraction is a Patriarchal concept.
By saying that Steve and Bucky must want to bang because there is no other reason for the dynamic between the two devalues the relationship that the current iteration of the characters has. Make no mistake, they do have a relationship. They have trust, intimacy, emotional openness, love, and a slew of other things that society says can only exist between people who are sleeping together.
And the irony of people arguing against a Patriarchal interpretation of a pair of characters by imposing different Patriarchal values on them metaphorically kills me.
I have friends that I love and would constantly stick my neck out for of a wide variety of genders, sexualities, politics, what have you. I share emotional intimacy with them on a regular basis. The grand majority of them, I will likely never be romantically/sexually involved with.
Hetero/Homosocial relationships are an element of society that goes back as far as we have recorded history, but for some reason, modern American society has decided that such things cannot exist between people. It sickens me, because a large part of it simply becomes part of Advertising culture. “Sex is paramount, sex is all, without sex, a relationship of any kind is meaningless. If you are not having sex, you are meaningless. Buy our products, have sex,” say the billboards. As do the Twitter boards apparently.
Is Consumer Capitalism to blame for the societal trend? I don’t know. These are just the patterns I see.
Well, that’s the rant for today. Keep overreacting, Internet humans, it gives me some good material. And keep making fanart. I may not agree with your shipping, but some of you are crazy good artists.