Queer Coded: Captain America and the Falcon

All right, True Believers! Some of you may vehemently disagree with this…and a lot of you won’t, especially if you did some of the fandom digging I’ve done, and ESPECIALLY especially if you’ve watched Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. If you’ve seen that film and you came away with the thought, “Are Cap and Falcon about to go together?” Then we’re on the same wavelength. 

For the longest, I’d avoided Captain America movies. For what reason,  I don’t know. I could say it was a combination of the oversaturation of Marvel films in my  life due to my Marvel-obsessed brother, and that I just really don’t like Marvel movies. I’m sorry, but I’m not really in bed with them like that. I’m in bed with the Christopher Nolan Batman films because Batman is on my top three comic book character list (with, ironically enough, Marvel’s Storm and Nightcrawler),  but DC might be on my “no-watch” list also, since Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman are looking dicey. But enough about this inter-comics fight. Back to Captain America.

Anyways, after tons of nagging from my brother to watch Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, despite my not having seen the first Captain America, I watched it, expecting to hate it. Turns out, I really love it. Perhaps the only Marvel movies I can watch and actually enjoy are Captain America films. He really is what DC wishes Superman would become; a human being with flaws, but still with ultimate power. DC struggles with making Superman relatable because, unlike the Cap, Superman’s never really been a character written in a way to deal with the world’s problems. Cap deals with ish on a personal and macro basis all the doggone time, like the rest of do. So maybe I’m adding Cap to my list of all-time favorite characters.

I love the film for the characterization and how it deals with issues of loss and heartache and starting over. But I also loved the most interesting part of the film, which doesn’t include Nick Fury faking his death. The most interesting part was the burgeoning love story between Cap and the Falcon.

I’m kind of blowing the story between them out of proportion to be funny. But I’m not blowing it out of proportion by much. In fact, if there wasn’t the veil comic book movies have of being afraid of the possibility of non-straight superheroes, one could say the movie’s intention was to set up the Cap and Falcon’s friendship-turned-romance.

The movie itself doesn’t help erase the idea that Cap and Falcon are going to carve their initials with a heart around it in a tree somewhere. The film’s overarching storyline isn’t really finding out who the Winter Soldier is, as the film wants you to think. The real story is trying to find Cap a girlfriend. For some reason, Black Widow is obsessed with making a lovematch for Cap, when all Cap wants is to be left alone and mope in his feelings of loss and lonliness. I get that Cap (aka Steve Rogers) is depressed and being alone doesn’t help get rid of depression, but if he doesn’t want a date, he doesn’t want a date, Black Widow! Both of y’all have got to save people’s lives, not worry about who Cap is or isn’t dating!

To make this quicker, let me use bulleted points.

• Black Widow wants to hook Cap up with women she knows or women Cap has had contact with. If this were a rom-com, which it effectively is if the Winter Soldier wasn’t around, Black Widow would be the sullen best friend with a heart of gold who tries to keep her friend upbeat while forcing him to find someone to go out with.

• Cap and Falcon (right now, just known by his government name, Sam Wilson) have a “meet-cute” while running around the National Mall. A literal rom-com meet-cute. “On your left,” indeed. Of course, they hit it off, because that’s how rom-coms work.

• Cap meets Falcon at his job (he’s a VA counselor). Since I watched this film a year or two ago, I have since forgotten what they’re even talking about or why Cap even feels compelled to go meet up with Falcon. But the point is that he does feel compelled to go see him, a complete stranger (even if they did talk a couple of times after running), again. They get to know each other more and both learn about each other’s former lives (and personal losses) in military service. In rom-coms, this is a second meet-cute moment; they’re not meeting for the first time, but it’s a point that cements the relationship and foreshadows where it’s going.

• All throughout the film, Black Widow’s still doing her “What about her? You wanna date her?” shtick, all the while Steve is spending more time with Sam. If this were a rom-com, the other people Black Widow would want Steve to date would act as a foil to Steve’s real burgeoning relationship with Sam. It would only be until the end that Steve realizes the person he’s been looking for is Sam all along. This is a comic book movie, but it still follows the same formula. Everyone else Steve is linked to by Black Widow are people he doesn’t feel compelled to see in a personal light. It’s only Sam that gets through Steve’s emotional armor.

• Sam and Steve very quickly become joined at the hip and eventually, Black Widow quits trying to hook Cap up with someone (especially when Cap lets her down as easily as possible when it seems like even Widow herself is trying to come on to him).

• After Cap gets extensively injured by the Winter Soldier, the Falcon is the one who stays with him in the hospital for however long it takes him to wake up. If this were a rom-com, this would be the moment that Steve realizes his best friend is also the true love of his life, setting up the sequel for the impending hijinks-filled march toward the altar. If this were a conventional rom-com, that is.

“But Sam flirted with Black Widow! Cap’s supposed to be with Sharon Carter!” someone might say. Well, imaginary person, to you I say the women in this film are classic Hollywood wedges, which is another notch in the “Marvel can’t write women” tally. Without them, you know what this film would be? Sam and Steve meet-cute-ing it out. Also, Cap dating Sharon? Are they not going to make her Peggy’s niece or something? Are they not going to make it creepy? Because him trying to recapture the past with Sharon is creepy.

Still don’t believe anything I’m saying? Well, thankfully, I’m not the only one. Other movie reviewers, such as The A.V. Club’s Caroline Siede, who wrote:

Winter Soldier smartly avoids shoehorning in a romance between Steve and Natasha. Instead, it’s Anthony Mackie’s Falcon who fulfills the narrative beats of a Steve Rogers love interest. In contrast to Black Widow’s nuanced motivations, Falcon joins the climactic battle simply to be around Steve.

(Not for nothing, Siede’s article is not about the Falcon and Cap, but instead how pitiful Marvel is at promoting and writing for Black Widow as a legitimate part of the Avengers and the Marvel world at large. They’ve really got to up their game there, because they’re slipping. I’m looking at you, Kevin Feige.)

One might think, as I did, that this surprising overt allusion to a same-sex relationship is something that’s only in the movies or that it might have something to do with Anthony Mackie’s off-screen friendship with Chris Evans (which I’m sure has to exist on some level) translated into their characters somehow. But after taking a trip to Tumblr, where one can find some interesting stuff in between the fandom banter and Tumblr’s brand of annoyance, I found out that this homoerotic seed had been planted long before the films ever came out.

I love comics, despite not having read tons of them on a regular basis. I’ve come to the comic world from cartoons, like Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated Series and other titles. So I didn’t know that back in 1973, there was a particular panel of Captain America that alluded to something “left unsaid” between Cap and the Falcon. Take a look.

Falcon-Captain America-1973-Marvel

As posted on this Tumblr page, a fan wrote in responding positively to that panel with the hope that one day, stuff that’s best”left unsaid” because it’s two men could one day be said out loud.

Falcon-Captain America-1973-Marvel-reader-response

There’s also this gifset that was floating around featuring what the original poster stated were actual quotes from the comic books (unfortunately, I can’t find where it was originally posted at the moment). Some of the quotes are benign, but some, like “That man and I are joined at the soul” and “I’m not ready for this world without you being in it” are something to think about. “But anyone can say that to their best friend!” someone might be saying. You’re right, invisible person. But that doesn’t negate someone saying that to a best friend they are also in love with. It’s doesn’t have to be either/or, which gets into a gripe I have with how fandoms believe love works in general, but that’s a post for another day.

So I end this post with this: I know they aren’t going to make Cap fall into Falcon’s arms or vice versa in Captain America 3: Civil War. Rumor has it Cap might date Sharon. If that’s true, that’s icky, since, as I wrote above, Cap’s going to have to realize he can’t recapture the past through his first love’s relative. Sharon’s not Peggy.

But it’s also something expected for Marvel’s movie franchise, which hasn’t really reflected the racial, gender, or sexual diversity the comic books have worked hard to represent (even when they fail some fans with some things in this area). All of Marvel’s superheroes are deemed as straight so they can get maximum butts in seats, I’m sure. And also, Cap or Falcon never officially came out in the comic books, even though there’s apparently tons of evidence one could make when mounting a defense for a plausible romantic relationship. So since there’s the veil of movie straightness and no official coming-out moment, why should they be written in the movies as coming out as bi or pansexual? An exec would say it’s too risky and, since the movies don’t do sexual diversity, they’d view it as largely unnecessary.

If I was an exec, though,  I’d make them bi, just to 1) address other non-represented people in the fanbase and 2) because I don’t like following the status quo. But I’m not an exec, so we’ll just have to hope Kevin Feige gives us the best movies he can possibly conjure up.

All right, I think I’ve written enough about this. What do you think about Cap and Falcon’s undefined, soulmate-esque relationship? Give your opinions in the comments section below! Also, if you’ve got more to say, keep the conversation going on Facebook and Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “Queer Coded: Captain America and the Falcon”

  1. Great post.

    I did raise my eyebrows at the hospital scene. Sam sitting, for who knows how long, waiting for Steve to wake up and playing “their song” was really cute. And the scene where Cap seeks out a guy he only exchanged about ten words with in the park, at his job, so they could exchange some angst.

    I’m not a Steve/Sam shipper, though. I’m in the Steve/Bucky camp but that don’t mean I don’t love you. I can see why a person would do a Cap/Falcon ship.

    I never read any of the Captains books, as a kid. I only know him through reading The Avengers. In fact, there are a few bro-mances in Marvel. Tony/Bruce, for example, otherwise know as The Science Bros.

    Like

    1. I haven’t seen the first Captain America film, so I’ve never even had the chance to be into Bucky/Steve. But, I figure I need to actually give that film a try since Captain America is a fun character. I do have to say that from some of the pictures I’ve seen of Bucky in his army dress suit with the hat tilted to the side, he looks TOO SMOOTH. I love uniforms.

      Like

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