We are just three episodes into the new Disney+ series, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and the queerbaiting vibes are already pretty strong. Fans have observed that an unspoken gay subtext exists in the interactions between Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson, which has been teased more than once in the show. But TV series and Disney, in particular, have a long history of teasing that their characters are queer, only to go in a completely different direction later, and fans are not happy that the production house is repeating history with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
What has triggered people to air their displeasure with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on social media is a recent scene between Sam and Bucky, who are not exactly friends after Steve Rogers is gone. After the new Captain America, John Walker, gets Bucky out of jail, his therapist takes both him and Sam into “couples therapy” together. The duo is forced to engage in intimacy exercises like looking into each other’s eyes while being in a sitting position where they are sitting very close with their knees interlocked to “figure out what kind of life they’re trying to build together”.
Fans are now understandably upset over the blatantly obvious queerbaiting in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, especially when Disney has done similar things in the past.
This is not the first time that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has dropped hints that its characters are queer. In the first episode, we saw Bucky go on a date with a waitress who enquires about his dating life. He admits that he has tried the “whole online dating thing” but got a lot crazy when he came across “tiger photos” while looking at many dating profiles.
Tiger photos used to be pretty popular on dating apps and were majorly seen in men’s profiles. This very obvious nod that Bucky is bisexual got the LGBT+ fans very excited about Disney introducing a lead queer character. But when Malcolm Spellman, the showrunner and lead writer of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, was grilled about the same during an interview with NME and was questioned whether Bucky’s sexuality reveal is going to be a potential plotline in coming episodes, his answer was vague.
“I’m not diving down rabbit holes, but just keep watching,” Spellman replied.
Bucky has never come out as a queer character but Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have often labelled him as one and even shipped him with Steve Rogers because of the especially close relationship they shared. But that ship sailed with Steve bidding farewell to the shield in Avengers: Endgame.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is not the first time that Disney has been accused of relegating to queerbaiting. The Rise of Skywalker’s historic gay kiss, perhaps the first in Disney’s history, was a barely-there scene between two minor characters and was not at all central to the scene it was in, something that the production house has been criticized for.
Most recently, before the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Tessa Thompson had announced that her Valkyrie was looking for “her queen,” but the very scene that made her bisexuality explicit was removed from the theatrical cut of the film. Whether or not Disney is aiming for a similar fate with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is something that only the upcoming episodes will tell.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+.