Whether you root for Stucky, Science Bros, or Wanda Maximoff and her android boyfriend Vision, most Marvel fans know that 'shipping plays an important role in how we engage with these movies. The latest entry into this franchise may be the most emotionally charged yet. In an interview with Bustle, Marvel Cinematic Universe writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus talked about 'shipping in Captain America: Civil War and the many bonds these characters have in the MCU films and beyond.
"I don’t have a great sense of the ‘shipping culture," says McFeely. "I certainly know that every time we don't have Steve and Bucky kiss, they’re very upset, and I don’t know what to say that. I don’t discourage anything, but I also don’t want to bait anybody and promise them something that we’re not gonna give them."
That sounds like a bummer, but I think there's a silver lining. What he's referring to is the concept of "queer-baiting," when a same-sex relationship is teased by a show or a movie in order to entice fans, but is deliberately never paid off. It's ultimately no fun for anyone. I think it's definitely a good thing that McFeeley is aware of and avoiding this issue, without discouraging fans from ‘shipping whoever they want. A large Stucky fan community certainly exists and they don’t deserve to be baited. There is also a fan community that supports the idea that Steve Rogers is bisexual, because we should never assume that a character is straight by default.
I think the ending of Civil War makes it clear why Bucky and Steve aren't riding off into the sunset, but every fan likely has different feelings about how their relationship was portrayed.
Romantic or not, the bond between Steve and Bucky is undeniable and more complex in Civil War than ever. Even if you're Team Iron Man, you have to admit that this story revolves around Bucky Barnes. "Once you put Bucky in the mix, you give Steve something to choose over siding with his friends," McFeely says McFeely says of what makes this Avenger-filled film a Captain America movie, "and that’s where a lot of the [dramatic] tension comes from." From kissing Sharon to saving Bucky, this movie is about Steve Rogers making selfish decisions, and Civil War definitely brought out a side of Cap that we haven't seen before. "He doesn't usually have these 'dark nights of the soul,'" Markus says. Until now, that is.
It doesn't hurt that Chris Evans is so charming, he has chemistry with literally everyone who shares a scene with him. The opening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is practically a romantic comedy "meet cute" between him and Sam Wilson. Another 'ship that has emerged is between Bucky and Black Widow, who have an established comic book canon. According to Markus, that would be difficult to pull off in the MCU as it stands. "Natasha is 70 years old in the comics or something, so she had an affair with Bucky in 1960s," he says. "These things become very unwieldy when everybody has to be 100 years old in order to pull off their backstories."
In the comics, the Winter Solider is one of Natasha's teachers in the Red Room. Their romance is rekindled after some circumstances that we don't need to get into here. Less time has passed in the MCU, so that 'ship wouldn't really be appropriate. There is a moment in Captain America: Civil War in which Nat says "you could at least recognize me" to a brainwashed Bucky — but while that could be interpreted as an allusion to their romantic past, I'm pretty sure it's just referencing their past encounters that were all referenced in the last Captain America movie.
Ultimately 'shipping is out of the writer's control. Everyone reads a story and interprets a moment differently. We all have to live with the fact that at some point in any fan's life, one of their OTPs is going to be non-canon. Take it from me, a die-hard Clintasha 'shipper whose heart was smashed to pieces by Hawkeye's secret family in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It's a fact of fandom.
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