It’s 2021 – Stop Queerbaiting Bucky Barnes, Please And Thank You

When I said I wanted The Falcon And The Winter Soldier to generate more conversation amongst the MCU fandom, queerbaiting discourse was not what I had in mind, I’ve got to be honest. Mostly because I had gone into this series basically resigned to the fact that the character of Bucky Barnes would probably never be revealed to be LGBTQ+ either in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier or anywhere in the MCU, even after years of fans pleading for him to be. Yet here we are, a mere two weeks into the series’ run, already heading down an all-too-familiar path…[*sighs*]…so let’s talk about it.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes | comicbook.com

Bucky Barnes’ sexuality has been a subject of fervent – and occasionally heated – debate for years. Fans took one look at his intense relationship with Steve Rogers, and realized what Marvel and the Russo Brothers either hadn’t, or didn’t want to admit: it was heavily queer-coded, and that was what made it alternately so compelling and so frustrating…because once Marvel saw what they’d done in creating the pairing commonly known as “Stucky”, it felt to many fans like the studio went out of their way to squash it.

Bucky had always been just as central to Steve’s character arc as Steve’s “best girl”, Peggy Carter…if not more so, given how little the Russo Brothers actually utilized Peggy when they had the chance. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was literally named after him, and revolved around the reveal that Bucky didn’t die in WWII, but was reborn from a potentially fatal injury as an emotionless assassin brainwashed by HYDRA to assist in the overthrow of democracy. Steve couldn’t bring himself to give up on Bucky, instead spending two movies chasing him down, doing everything in his power to save him from his own demons, and from those who would hurt and manipulate him.

Ultimately Steve is successful, but then Bucky – and by extension, Stucky – kind of disappears. In Endgame, he only has a few lines of dialogue at the end of the movie…just before Steve decides to go back in time and live out the rest of his life with Peggy, whose entire character arc in her Agent Carter series (which Endgame canonized earlier in the movie!) is thus scrapped. Some people like this ending for Steve and Peggy, which is fine. But whether you like it or not, there’s no denying it marked the death of Stucky, with Steve confirming through his actions that Peggy was his one true love.

So you can see why, going into The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, I wasn’t expecting much when it came to the matter of Bucky’s sexuality. Yeah, Marvel has talked a lot recently about the responsibility they feel to better represent the diversity of the modern world. But when it comes to finally getting an LGBTQ+ superhero onscreen, their policy has always been one of “maybe next time”, and it’s getting really old at this point.

Maybe in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2…no, to be honest, I don’t even know what James Gunn was referring to in that case. Maybe in Thor: Ragnarok…nope, just a deleted shot of a woman walking out of Valkyrie’s bedroom. Maybe in Black Panther, then?…nah, just a deleted scene of ambiguously gay flirting between Okoye and another woman. Well then, maybe in Endgame…of course not, just an unnamed civilian character who mentions going on a date with a guy. Maybe in WandaVision…no, Billy and Tommy Maximoff, both queer characters in the comics, have yet to be confirmed as such onscreen.

So even though The Falcon And The Winter Soldier featured plenty of lightly queer-coded scenes of Bucky and Sam Wilson tumbling on top of each other in the grass like Anakin and Padmé in Star Wars, or going to couples counseling to work out their problems…I wasn’t prepared to read anything into that. Sure, it felt like queerbaiting, but at the same time it felt like affection between men was being used as the joke in all those scenes, and I said as much.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes | pride.com

There was, of course, that one puzzling line in the premiere where Bucky goes on a date with a woman, and mentions that he tried online dating but couldn’t get past all the “tiger photos”…something that confused the heck out of me, because I was not aware of the fact that tiger photos are a real thing on dating apps (or at least, were, before some apps banned the practice), and that specifically, they are a real thing almost exclusively found on men’s dating profiles. Men apparently pose, often half-naked, with tigers and other large cats. I don’t know why, but it’s apparently common enough information to spark a whole conversation on Twitter about the subject.

So of course, in a recent interview with NME, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s showrunner and head writer, Malcolm Spellman, was asked about whether that subtle reference was meant to imply anything about Bucky’s sexual orientation. And Spellman opted to answer as follows: “You just gotta…I’m not…I’m not diving down rabbit-holes but, uh, just keep watching.” It’s a non-answer, in line with non-answers Marvel content creators have given to questions before. But this wasn’t a question about Mephisto being in WandaVision. And this answer merely teases us with the infinite possibilities of an incredibly vague “maybe”.

Because a “maybe” isn’t exactly reassuring, but it holds out a lifeline to fans who are desperate for any LGBTQ+ representation…and if you’re gonna extend that lifeline, you can’t tug it away at the last minute. Because that is the definition of queerbaiting: the tried-and-true process of luring queer audiences into a show or film with the promise of meaningful LGBTQ+ representation, then never following through in any substantial way, or else revealing in the end that “surprise! They were straight all along! Fooled ya!”

I want to give Spellman the benefit of the doubt and dare to hope that maybe, maybe, he really is hinting that Bucky is queer, because that kind of reveal would be incredibly powerful and important: and because I don’t want audiences to use this conversation about queerbaiting as a way to ignore or actively undermine everything this series has already done for Black representation in superhero media – although confirmation of Bucky’s queerness would inevitably be weaponized for roughly the same effect. Even leaving potential queerness aside, Bucky is already used by some audiences to distract from Sam’s character. It’s racist, and needs to be called out.

Bucky Barnes
Falcon And The Winter Soldier | rollingstone.com

And if fans “keep watching” only to come out the other side with nothing, what then? If it hadn’t been for Spellman’s non-answer, I’d probably be regretful but unsurprised. Mark me down as frustrated and unsurprised now if we don’t even get another “exclusively gay moment” akin to LeFou dancing with a guy for about 0.1 seconds in 2017’s Beauty And The Beast. Because up until now, I was prepared to write off every instance of queer-coding in the series as simply being interpreted differently by fans than by the creators.

So a word of advice to Marvel, and all of Hollywood: don’t tease what you can’t or simply won’t follow through on, when it comes at the expense of queer fans who are still looking for representation in mainstream media, and keep being lured in different directions by series’ and films each promising to be the one that finally gets it right…but only if you “keep watching.”

Hercules Could Bring Bisexual Representation To The MCU!

It’s pleasantly coincidental that this bit of news has arrived during Pride Month, just when it’s most relevant. Though the character of Hercules has long been rumored to join the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes (we discussed theories that he would be the lead character of The Eternals over a year ago), this time seems like it could be for real: the Olympian demigod is apparently set to enter the MCU in one of the studio’s upcoming film or TV projects, and could bring some much-needed male bisexual representation to the superhero franchise.

Marvel Hercules
pinknews.co.uk

As of yet, these new rumors give us very little to go on: we still don’t even know when Hercules will appear, though there are almost limitless opportunities. The Eternals is an epic which will span thousands of years of human history, and blend reality (well, the MCU version of it) with mythology, so that seems like the earliest point at which the Olympian could make his debut. The Loki series on Disney+ will also explore different timelines, and quite possibly different worlds across the universe. Thor: Love And Thunder is perhaps the likeliest option, as Thor and Hercules are best buddies in the comics and fans have been rooting to see them onscreen together for quite some time. And the She-Hulk Disney+ series could feature Hercules’ companion Amadeus Cho (a.k.a. Smart Hulk), allowing for Hercules himself to show up as a supporting character alongside Cho before upgrading to leading man status later on – though it’s not clear whether Herc will actually headline his own series of solo films, or if he will only be a supporting character. His backstory is rich with detail, so there’s plenty there that could be used to design an entire trilogy, but there’s also an argument to be made that he’s too similar to the MCU’s Thor for that to ever happen.

But the most interesting bit of information about this new report is something that actually leaked on the internet even before the rumors of Hercules’ imminent arrival. Yesterday, several insiders hinted through social media posts that the character of Hercules would be openly bisexual whenever he finally appeared in the MCU, and could very well be in a relationship with the X-Men’s Wolverine.

Both characters have a history of being bisexual, though only in alternate universes in the comics – well, technically, in Hercules’ case, he’s been bisexual since his origins in ancient Greek mythology, but that’s something people have tried to ignore for quite some time. More recently, Marvel faced backlash after definitively stating that the version of Hercules in the comics’ main timeline was, in fact, still straight, something which fans contested. But if Marvel does choose to adapt the character now, there’s a good opportunity for them to fix their publishing division’s mistakes, and add bisexual male representation to the MCU.

Hercules
thegww.com

Hercules will likely not be the first LGBTQ+ superhero to show up in the franchise: Phastos, a major player in The Eternals, will be an openly gay character and be in a same-sex marriage; WandaVision on Disney+ is almost definitely going to introduce Wanda Maximoff’s gay son Billy Kaplan, and his boyfriend Hulkling; and one of the subplots of Thor: Love And Thunder will follow bisexual heroine Valkyrie, newly crowned King of Asgard, as she goes looking for her queen. But Hercules could be the MCU’s first male bisexual hero – and male bisexual representation (or bi representation in general) is exceedingly rare anywhere, thanks to persistent bi erasure.

So what do you think? Where do you hope the Olympian appears first? Will he be bi, or are we just getting our hopes up? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

For Pride Month 2020, Let’s Discuss The Year’s Biggest LGBTQ+ Moments In TV And Film!

SPOILERS FOR HARLEY QUINN SEASON 2 AND SHE-RA SEASON 5!

Happy Pride Month! As we begin to celebrate the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the community has accomplished already in 2020, through the mediums of TV and film. Though coronavirus has prevented many inclusive films from making it to theaters this year, there are still plenty that did get there before the world went on lockdown, and many more that have released on streaming. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the setbacks the LGBTQ+ community suffered early in the year, and three outstanding breakthroughs in representation that both occurred just last month which could signal big changes in the industry.

Of course, I should note that this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of every film or TV series released this year that touches on any of these issues – this is merely a discussion of some especially significant incidents spanning the course of the past several months, which I feel present a fairly accurate depiction of the year’s many ups and downs as a whole.

She-Ra LGBTQ
She-Ra rescues Catra | tor.com

2020 opened on a promising note with Marvel President and head producer Kevin Feige boldly announcing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would welcome its first ever transgender superhero in the very near future, at a Q&A where he used the words: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.” Unfortunately, the moment was irreparably tarnished when it was revealed that Feige hadn’t realized the question was specifically about transgender superheroes, and only meant an LGBTQ+ superhero was coming very soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender heroes aren’t going to appear in the MCU at some point (there are rumors that a transwoman superheroine, Sera, could appear in either the Loki Disney+ series or Thor: Love And Thunder), but it does cast doubt on when that will ever happen. It was a bad omen, heading into the new year.

Marvel LGBTQ
Marvel Comics’ transgender heroine Sera | mcuexchange.com

In February, Marvel’s rival DC had a golden opportunity to explicitly confirm that one of their most major characters was canonically LGBTQ+ – but instead, their hyped-up zany comedy Birds Of Prey danced around the issue of sexuality, giving only eagle-eyed viewers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to lead character Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in an animated sequence, while simultaneously hinting through stereotypical mannerisms that flamboyant, misogynistic villain Roman Sionis and his partner-in-crime were a gay couple. A lesbian character in the film, Renee Montoya, did play a large role and had an ex-girlfriend who also showed up, which makes Birds Of Prey something of a “one step forward, two steps backward” sort of situation.

Around the same time, the Disney+ streaming platform came under fire for a slew of reasons, most of which involved the service’s attempts to whittle down their roster of upcoming original content in a manner which many saw as discriminatory towards series’ with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. While Disney+ didn’t do this with all of their shows (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary Of A Future President both featured openly LGBTQ+ characters), they did make the decision to move their hotly-anticipated Love, Victor (a spinoff of 20th Century Fox’s successful gay romance Love, Simon, obtained during the Disney/Fox merger) to Hulu, deeming it too mature for their own platform. One of the service’s most high-profile original series’, a sequel to the Lizzie McGuire Disney Channel series, was shut down entirely – with some sources saying that it was due to the way in which the story tackled matters of sexuality. It didn’t take long before the whole situation had raised a very interesting discussion about what is “family-friendly”, but that hasn’t saved Love, Victor from heading to Hulu, nor has it resurrected Lizzie McGuire.

Love, Victor LGBTQ
Love, Victor | deadline.com

In March, as the world started falling apart thanks to coronavirus, the Pixar film Onward was lost in the catastrophe, and moviegoers barely had any time to acknowledge the fantastic animated feature or its moment of LGBTQ+ representation – a moment that would have been great, had it not been leaked to the press by eager journalists prior to the film’s release and subsequently massively overhyped. In the film, a cop played by openly lesbian actress Lena Waithe briefly mentions her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue. Despite how brief the moment was, the film was still boycotted by conservative groups like One Million Moms and banned by several Middle Eastern nations.

Within a few weeks, the coronavirus had already caused major shifts in the film industry: films were being reshuffled across the board, movie theaters around the globe were shutting down and studios were hurrying to push all their upcoming or recently released content onto streaming. Unfortunately, one notable victim of all the release date rearrangements was Marvel’s The Eternals, a film already remarkable for its diverse cast. The superhero epic directed by Asian-American indie icon Chloe Zhao is set to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple, and was supposed to release in November of this year. Sadly, the film has now been pushed back to February of 2021, meaning we will have to wait even longer before we can find out what Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman was talking about when he said that there’s a gay kiss in the film that’s so emotional it made people on-set begin crying. Another Disney film, Jungle Cruise, was delayed an entire year, and will now be opening in summer, 2021: though it’s been invisible in the film’s marketing so far, Jungle Cruise is supposed to introduce Disney Studios’ first openly gay character – which is already somewhat controversial, as Disney couldn’t even be bothered to find an openly gay actor to play the role, rumors say that the character’s depiction is “hugely effete”, and test screenings apparently revealed that the character has a coming out scene in which he never actually states that he is LGBTQ+. Perhaps a delay for that movie wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could allow them to do some much-needed reshoots.

But not everything has been all gloom and doom. The past month has introduced a wave of new representation: some of it from DC Universe, some from Netflix, some, most shockingly, from Disney+ – all of it through the form of animation.

In the first instance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series rectified Birds Of Prey‘s glaring omission by adhering to comics canon and having Harley Quinn and fellow Gotham City supervillain Poison Ivy begin a tentative relationship, which has even resulted in the two sharing a kiss. The duo now have to sort out their messy, complicated feelings for each other, and that’s great. It’s the first time the relationship, which was wildly popular in the comics, has been represented onscreen – and fans are already enjoying the canonization of the pairing, which they have labeled “Harlivy”.

She-Ra LGBTQ
Adora and Catra | polygon.com

However, something that sets Harley Quinn apart is that the series is exclusively for adults, meaning that its audience is necessarily limited. That’s not a problem that faces Netflix and DreamWorks, whose collaboration on the animated reboot of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power is something that can be enjoyed by all ages – the fifth and final season premiered on the streaming service just recently, and made the hopes and dreams of the series’ many LGBTQ+ fans finally come true when lead characters Adora (a.k.a. She-Ra, Princess of Power) and Catra rekindled their friendship: which turned into a slow-burn romance, which culminated in the two confessing their love for each other in the series finale, kissing, and saving the world with the power of love. That, my friends, is representation done right – because as much as I enjoy seeing “casual” representation (such as the cop from Onward, who simply mentions her girlfriend without making it a big deal), I infinitely prefer seeing characters whose sexuality or gender identity is something that actually helps to define who they are. And with Adora and Catra, whose relationship has been at the heart of She-Ra for all five seasons, it made complete sense that their love would play a huge part in the conclusion to the story – and it did, because showrunner Noelle Stevenson is a brave, brilliant genius, who fought to make sure that she wouldn’t have to pull a Legend Of Korra on her fans and just have Adora and Catra hold hands and/or gaze platonically at each other.

Out LGBTQ
Pixar’s “Out” | nytimes.com

Finally, we have to talk about Out. Though Disney+ is still new and working out many of its flaws, they did just recently make a big step forward – or rather, Pixar did it for them and Disney+ gets to take the credit: Out, the newest of Pixar’s animated Sparkshorts which debuted exclusively on the streaming platform, follows a gay man in an interracial relationship as he struggles to come out to his parents. Even though the story involves an unpredictable magical mishap and a lot of dog humor, it never loses sight of its true focus, which is a heartwarming message of acceptance. The short, which clocks in at around nine minutes long, is an understated milestone, becoming the first Pixar story to star a gay lead – and much to its credit, enjoyed a spot on Disney+’s top trending section, which shows that audiences are curious and eager for more content like this.

And so, as we head into Pride Month coming off of small successes like Harley Quinn, She-Ra and Out, I must ask of all my readers that you keep fighting for change in any way you can: whether that means demanding more LGBTQ+ representation from Hollywood, or protesting police brutality because black lives matter – or, preferably, by doing both. One day, we will see that change, and it will come from people like you. 2020 is a wake-up call for all of us: to fight harder. To do better.

Marvel’s “The Eternals” casting FIRST GAY SUPERHERO?

Some big news broke recently concerning Marvel’s The Eternals, a movie set to begin filming in August, which should be released next year. We had been getting some small teases as to what this film might be about, and which characters might be in it – for instance, we had received news that Margo Damian might be in the film, though this is unconfirmed and the female lead is still going under the alias “Karen”, while her character description is vague and says Marvel is looking for an actress in her early 30s, of any ethnicity (but especially African, Native American or Middle Eastern). Meanwhile, other character descriptions had also been revealed, which seemed to suggest that classic Eternals characters like Ikaris, Makkari, Sersi, Starfox, Thena, Zuras, Druig and Gilgamesh were being considered for roles in the movie: there were also surprising additions to the line-up like Elysius and “Piper”, who seems to be a take on the Eternals character Sprite. But one of the most interesting by far was the male lead, which didn’t even get so much as an alias, and was described merely as a Greek God. Now, thanks to a new report, we may have a clue as to who that character might be – and it bodes well for the future of LGBTQ superheroes onscreen.

Because, yes, the news that broke March 1st – and appeared to be given additional credence first by Marvel production chief Victoria Alonso, and then by Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige himself – was that Marvel is seeking to cast an openly gay male actor to play the male lead: who is set to become their first openly gay superhero. Combine that with the fact that this male lead is described as a Greek God, and what do you get?

Hercules, that’s what.

Marvel's "The Eternals" casting FIRST GAY SUPERHERO? 1
pinterest.com

The character, a Greek God who is somewhat similar to Thor (well, Thor post Thor: Ragnarok that is), has been bisexual in the comics – but it didn’t end very well, and attracted some backlash after the character was suddenly made straight again. Bringing Herc back, and making him definitively gay or bisexual in the MCU would be a great way to settle that issue. The character description, it seems, has been updated so that now Marvel is looking for an openly gay male actor age 30-49, who “physically looks like a superhero”. That last note is interesting: other actors have been able to bulk up for roles in Marvel movies, but Hercules is massively muscled, and would probably require an actor who is already at least similar in size.

So, considering all that we know so far, I’d say that Hercules is, if not a sure bet, than at least a definite possibility. It could be that Marvel is choosing to make Ikaris or another male character gay instead, and that Hercules won’t show up at all, but fans have definitely been looking forward to seeing him in the MCU, and having him be the first gay male superhero in their impressive roster would be pretty cool. But either way, this news is most interesting because it means Marvel will finally be delivering its first gay lead – scratch that, its first gay character, period. Another Marvel character, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) has been confirmed to be bisexual, but this was never even hinted at in the films, and in fact a scene with some lesbian overtones was cut from Black Panther. This is a step in the right direction for the MCU, and I can’t wait to see where we’ll end up.