For much of his tenure within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of James Buchanan Barnes — a.k.a. Bucky — has been something of a queer icon. As played by Sebastian Stan, Bucky always maintained a powerful emotional bond with his best friend Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a.k.a. Captain America, which only heightened when Steve risked it all to rescue Bucky from his life as a brainwashed assassin in 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Between the palpable chemistry between Stan and Evans, and Steve’s proclamation that he’s with Bucky “until the end of the line,” there was large portion of the internet that desperately wanted Steve and Bucky to be a romantic couple. To these fans, it was self-evident that Bucky was bisexual; he’s just never had the opportunity to express it.
That sentiment resurfaced after the premiere of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Marvel Studios’ latest series for Disney Plus. While on a nominal date with a woman who runs a sushi bar, Bucky laments the “weird pictures” he keeps seeing on online dating sites.
“I mean, tiger photos?” he says. “Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m looking at. It’s a lot.”
In an interview with Variety following the “FAWS” finale, however, director Kari Skogland said that was never the team’s intention.
“I think we just thought of it as an oddity of the times, because he’s so confused by it,” she says. “Because don’t forget, he’s 106 years old. So he’s just confused by the whole thing.”
Skogland laughs while talking about Bucky’s “tiger” moment; it’s clear she’s seen the fan reactions, too. But she says she and Stan never discussed the implications of why Bucky would be seeing big cats on a dating site.
“What we were really more trying to display was his complete lack of technical skills, as well as being part of any kind of community,” she says. “He doesn’t fit. So that was I think more our intention there that try to point to any one particular affinity.”
“FAWS” fans also picked up on how Bucky’s aggressive banter with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) included moments of considerable physical intimacy. Again, Skogland cautions not to read too much into it — or to necessarily assume that physical intimacy among men automatically connotes romantic or sexual tension.
“It’s really love, right?” she said. “They love each other — at the end. They don’t love each other at the beginning, but they come to a friendship place where they love each other. So I’m not really sensitive to masculinity as any kind of barrier between that love, or how it should manifest. I’m completely fluid when it comes to any of that. So there’s no defined sexuality to any of it. So it’s, really, I think, just affection.”