Straight by “Default” (or, “No, your straight interpretation of a character isn’t any more valid than my queer one”)
So it’s been a while that I have felt so completely just shut down in a debate about comics. I guess I spend way too much time on Tumblr, but when I dared post something alluding to Steve Roger’s bisexuality on Facebook, man did I awaken the Beast.
Here’s the thing. “Tim” is a good guy. He’s super cool, and I miss him, a lot, as he lives far away. But I was just shocked that someone who usually so respects my opinions and views on thing how quickly my interpretations into Captain America were dismissed.
Why are “fangirls’,” especially queer fangirls’, opinion on things so irrelevant to CisHet Fanboys? In the course of the discussion, which I’ll get to below, he basically implies that he knows more about Captain America than I do - which isn’t to say he DOESN’T - I mean, he might. But why just the assumption that he knows more? Because he’s a guy? He said that he felt he could “offer some insight” in this discussion about Captain America because “he has almost an obsession” with Cap.
That’s nice, Tim. But did it EVER occur to you that I, also, have a “treasure trove” of knowledge about my favorite character, too? Why did he assume I didn’t have my own “treasure trove” of Cap comics at my disposal? We’ve never discussed comics before - he has NO IDEA the breadth and knowledge I have about any comics… I was just taken aback that the “Man” obviously knew more than the “girl” who was babbling on about this icon of Americana.
Anyway, here’s the conversation below… opinions? Again, the conversation started about me mentioning I interpret Cap as bisexual, and that that’s NOT the same as thinking he’s gay.
Tim: It’s like the whole “who would win” argument that goes on all the time. It all depends on the writer. They always lend a bit of the way they see the characters they’re writing at the time. Take for example the run of Cap after 9/11. It was a very raw version of Cap. The writer took him in a direction that fit the mindset of many Americans at the time fighting Muslim terrorists. In that run he had flings with at least three women that I can think of off the top of my head (Scarlet Witch, Namorita and I believe Agent Carter). In two of these cases in particular he would have stayed with them had they not moved on by their own choice.
As far as the situation between he and Falcon in the movie, their meeting was playful but in a friendly brotherly kind of way. They weren’t necessarily checking out the car when Widow pulled up to get Cap.
Me: Yeah but they weren’t necessarily checking out Natasha by that same argument. Maybe Sam is bisexual, too. Or, you know, some people are just so how it kind of transcends sexuality: like ScarJo.
for real - Marvel doesn’t hide who they consider the better
writers/helmsmen for certain characters. Ed Brubaker, for example, is
pretty universally reknown for being one of the best.
In the MCU - Marvel obviously LOVES the Russo Brothers/Marcus-McFeely team. The Winter Soldier wasn’t the most financially successful of the Marvel Movies but they snatched that quadro up to not only write/direct CA:CW but Avengers: Infinity Wars 1 & 2.
So, in lots of cases you can generally deduce who they thing “nailed” the character and who didn’t. Also, by how much ret-conning is needed.
Also: how many women Steve has slept with doesn’t prove or disprove anything about his true orientation - especially if he’s bisexual.
Also, in the comics Sharon Carter ends up asking Steve to marry her because she’s tired of waiting for him to. And his response was basically “Meh…. maybe?”
Talk about a romance for the ages.
he had quite a few reasons not to marry her. She had turned much colder
after her trials and being left for dead and all that. She was a much
darker character and Steve never really found her to be the person he
had cared for before all that.
As far as his sleeping with women not proving anything, you’re right. It doesn’t. It is however concrete evidence of his love of women. Everything else is just people reading between the lines (which doesn’t prove anything) and the opinions of writers who enjoy the debate (like the while Wincest thing).
Source: an almost unbroken collection of all things Captain America from 1988 - 2015 (excluding Avengers runs except in the case of major crossovers) lol
In the end I wouldn’t care if he was bisexual, straight, gay, asexual. It wouldn’t matter. But at this point his sexuality is pretty straightforward unless there’s some serious retconning. Though after the changes that were made to his origin story during his Fight Terror run in the early 2000s, they can do anything they want. And in that case the changes were well done. They reflected the climate of American society at the time.
Me: I don’t think you’d have to do ANY retconning at all with Steve to have him “come out” as Bisexual, or even closeted homosexual (honestly I think he comes off as more coded gay in the comics than the movies, even). I guess that’s my point - its not breaking ANYTHING that’s happened in character if he comes out. Gay people sleep with women all the time before they realize their sexuality. And if he’s bisexual than the fact that he hasn’t slept with a man (yet) doesn’t make him any less bisexual.
Another (queer) Friend: And given he’s a character from the 40s, lends more credibility to this being a character who had more of a reason to live in the closet or not have a full understanding of the modern gamut of sexuality. Hell, I barely knew what being bisexual was until I was in my 20s. I was confused for a long time - thinking that the only real options were straight or lesbian. That I couldn’t consider a relationship with women because I’d been attracted to men in the past. Or that my eye for women came from a sense of artistic appreciation since I did appreciate drawing the human figure. Given the only depictions of bisexual people in most mass media at the time is (and unfortunately still is) characters like Oberyn or Jack Harkness that literally sleep with just about anything with a pulse and consent - that don’t stick to monogamous pairings…
Which is exactly why another reason Steve Rogers would be such a great representation of being able to be bisexual AND monogamous (or at least serial monogamy).
Tim: Sure. “Would be”. I agree. But it’s still just reading between the lines. Of course Cap dreamed of Bucky. He was his best friend. He lost him and that hurt him mentally. He could be lying to himself since the beginning.I know plenty of people who either changed their minds about their sexuality later in life or had been hiding their true emotions all along. It happens. And I wouldnt be upset if that’s what they did with Cap. My only argument was that until they actually do that it’s just wishful thinking. The smart thing to do would’ve been to do that change during the run of the Ultimates but unfortunately they made him a much more aggressive and bigoted Cap.
Me: But again, to call it “wishful thinking” actually borders on insulting - because queer people are forced to choke down and ENDLESS stream of heterosexual couples that have little to zero chemistry in virtually EVERY form of media out there - but since “straight” is the default setting in media, lots of queer characters have to be coded. Its a sign of the times - but not necessarily wishful thinking.
To read about the Steve/Bucky, Steve/Tony, or Steve/Falcon (three very homoerotic relationships Steve’s had in his comic run) as say that its “he’s straight and to think otherwise is reading between the lines” is a very straight-washed way of viewing media.
There’s no evidence that specifically points to Steve NOT being bisexual. Go ahead - name one. The point is, you can’t. Having sex with women doesn’t disprove it. I’ve never seen a single comic panel where he is obsessively forced to say “I’m not bisexual!” As I mentioned before, there have been villains in the past who try to use his machismo against him, virtually saying that the reason he’s all “manly man man” is to hide the reality from people - that deep down he’s queer.
Even if you subscribe to the “writer’s intention” idea (which in itself is debatable , there’s a whole theory in literature about what people INTERPRET the media as is just as valid, if not moreso, than the writer’s intention) then we don’t know for sure? Brubaker has hinted, though not explicitly stated, that he authored Cap with a queer bent. He certainly seemed excited about the slash fiction coming out after The Winter Soldier (which he was consulted on, and even appeared in one of the scene). But the point is, when Brubaker was writing comics he wouldn’t have been “allowed” to write Cap as queer, even if he wanted to. But he got damned close.
And, yes its an AU, but as I’ve mentioned, too, Planet Hulk has virtually canonized Stucky… so at least on one world out there they are together. And while AU’s are generally just that - alternate universes - the idea is generally accepted that they are generally the same “soul” - just put into different worlds/circumstances/etc.
Another (queer) Friend: Here’s the thing, too. Ultimately, this is a fictional character who regardless of if they kill him of or not, eventually, he’ll be back. Times change. Eventually, someone’s going to pull that trigger and explore that route that has been speculated on literally for decades. This is the most popular pairing in the MCU (above canon ships, and on a list that only has two gay pairings in the top ten):
This has been popular in comics, especially since retconning Bucky in the Brubaker run to be only a couple of years younger than cap.
They’ve at the very least canonized the fact that the most important relationship in Steve’s life has been Bucky.
This isn’t speculating the actual sexuality of a real person. I honestly believe it’s inevitable, just a matter of when or in what context.
Tim: Whoa now, nobody’s insulting you in a debate over a comic book character. Look elsewhere if you want to play the victim. I think you’re incorrect and have years of evidence not proving his sexuality but proving that it’s something that hasn’t been explored.
you also say I was a sexist because I don’t care about the remake of
Ghostbusters? Or a racist if I don’t like Obama? I’d hope not. Maybe I
just don’t like remakes because i prefer original material. Maybe I
don’t like someone’s political stance on issues.
If you don’t agree with the opinion of someone debating your claims that’s one thing. But don’t claim that I’m insulting you because I disagree with you.
didn’t say you were insulting me, I was just pointing out that its
dangerously close to being insulting to suggest that a
queer-interpretation of a fictional character is “wrong” and the
straight one is “right” when there’s really no definitive way to prove
his sexuality either way.
Saying that queer people are always just “reading between the lines” or that they have “wishful thinking” because they interpret something differently is the kind of stuff queer people have to deal with in media ALL the time. And its tiring.
Its tiring that ALL characters in media are assumed straight by default.
Its tiring that the only way queer characters GET represented in media most of the time is through coding, especially in media marketed towards a younger audience, like comics.
What I’m just trying to point out is that - its open to interpretation. You don’t have to agree. But you can’t claim to be “right” and the queers are “wrong” when it really IS a matter of how you consume the media.
Tim: Never said that I was right and all queers were wrong but this is like getting into a conversation with a religious person about the existence of God. Lack of evidence doesn’t mean you get to just put what you want there to fill the gap. I stated earlier that I’d be perfectly fine with what they do with him.
Unfortunately the evidence of him already exhibiting the tendencies to this point is utterly nonexistent. Like the example of him living in a gay area of a city. I live in a predominantly bigoted and racist area of my state but that doesn’t make me the same. It’s not evidence.
I agree and have many times stated that there is a real lack of variety in media in general. We’re making strides, though maybe not quickly enough. When DC changed Alan Scott I felt that it was a publicity stunt and just tossing something out there to appease people, but they did it and it ended up being well constructed. They proved they weren’t ready to make that leap however when they wouldn’t allow Batgirl to marry her girlfriend.
I want more variety. I want people to have a hero that represents something about them that they can identify with. But I want it to be done properly and not by taking things out of context to try to force it to happen.
In the end I have a treasure trove of information about the character, bordering on obsession. At this point I could write a book on the character so I thought I could lend some of this to the conversation.
Me: But this is where we essentially disagree. I could write a book on the character, too. I AM obsessed with Captain America and frankly, I think you’re wrong to say that there’s no evidence in the existing canon.
There are PANELS and PANELS and PANELS of him saying/doing things that can be interpreted as homoerotic. With Bucky, and Tony, and with Falcon.
You read them as straight/platonic. Okay, fine.
But others read them differently - again Steve Rogers has been a mini little gay icon in comics for DECADES.
But you can’t just say “There’s no evidence!” There IS evidence. There are tons of interactions with him and Bucky, or him and Tony, that can be read with homoerotic overtones.
What do we know for sure? He’s slept with women. Presumably even fallen in love with women. That doesn’t mean he’s not queer. He could be deeply in the closet, or (in my opinion, more likely) he could be bisexual.
You don’t stop being bisexual because you’ve never been with, or are not currently with, someone of the same gender. For example, I have a friend who identifies as as bisexual man, but he’s never so much as even dated a guy. It doesn’t mean he isn’t bisexual.
So again, just because they haven’t explored any sexual relationships with men doesn’t mean that his feelings for Bucky are strictly platonic. You and I can read the same panel and you get “mentor/mentee” vibes. I read the same panel and get “he’s his emotional center”.
Cap hardly EVER (I’d like to say NEVER, but being as I haven’t recoded EVERY instance in every comic when he’s talking about Bucky) refers to Bucky as anything other than his partner or his friend. He doesn’t tend to say things like “He’s like a son to me” or “I love him like a brother” like you see a lot, for example, with Batman and Robin.
Again, that’s not evidence that he feels anything more than platonic. But its also not evidence that he isn’t.
That’s the point I’m trying to make. You keep saying “Its just not there,” and my point is, “Yes, it is.” Your “straight” reading/interpretation of the character isn’t any more valid than my queer reading/interpretation of the character.
Another (CisHetMale) Friend: Devil’s advocate: you can’t prove a negative, so you might as well say
there’s zero evidence that I’M not bisexual as well. And plenty
of evidence that I am (appreciate male forms, have said repeatedly that
Chris hemsworth is hot, have pulled the hair of men or hit them for
their (and my) enjoyment, etc). So nobody can accurately say he’s not
bisexual. I just don’t think he is because “reasons”, and those reasons
might be because I’m looking at him from an outdated perspective and
because I’m oblivious to the signs. Meh.
Like I said. Cap fights for all Americans. Gay, straight, male, female, and bisexual and everything in between.
….in that vein, I would like to see how he reacts to being hit on by a transgender person sometime. Just to see. It would be very interesting, no matter what he does.
Me: No, you can’t prove a negative. But you, as a real person and not a fictional character, can self-identify as
straight. Captain America has never so concretely defined his
sexuality. Also, we're talking about fictional characters,
too, whose mental workings are being interpreted by the reader, and
depending on your theory on literature; that’s more the “true”
interpretation than what the author “intended.”
But that’s kind of the point. You can read Cap as queer, or you can read him as straight. One is not a “better” or “more canon” interpretation than the other.
So there you have it? Am I reading too much into it? Am I just dead wrong, or is really THAT hard for people to just sit back and LISTEN to what marginalized people (in this case, a queer woman) have to say?