Ever since Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier was introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for many fans the emotional bond the character shared with Steve Rogers was evidence enough that Bucky was bisexual. But then Steve traveled back in time to be with Peggy and essentially ended that possibility. Then came The Falcon and The Winter Soldier which has been criticized for its underlying gay subtext when it comes to Bucky but series director Kari Skogland has established that viewers shouldn’t read much into it.
From the initial episodes of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the Disney+ series has been blamed for its strong queerbaiting vibes. In the very first episode of the series, we saw Sebastian Stan’s Bucky go on a date with a waitress who works at a sushi bar. When she inquiries about his dating life, Bucky shares that he has tried his hand at the “whole online dating thing.” But ditched it when he came across a lot of crazy things, including “tiger photos” while he was looking at many dating profiles. This was seen as a very obvious nod to Bucky being a bisexual as tiger photos were mostly used by men on dating apps.
But in a recent interview with Variety, Skogland denied that the scene was implying any such thing about Sebastian Stan’s character. According to her, it was just added to show how Bucky is, at times, confused by all the new things he is experiencing. Just like Steve, he too is a man removed from his time, is 106-years-old, and thus is obviously baffled when it comes to using modern technology.
Skogland admitted that while she is aware of fan reactions to Bucky’s “tiger” moment when she and Sebastian Stan were shooting the scene that was not what they had in mind. In fact, what they wanted to convey was Bucky’s inability to fit in anywhere.
But this was not the only moment in the series that has been criticized as an initial interaction between Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson has also been pointed out for having an unnecessary gay subtext. In the scene, Bucky and Sam, who are not exactly on friendly terms despite being best friends with Steve Rogers, the former’s therapist make the duo take “couples therapy” together wherein they engage in intimacy exercises like looking into each other’s eyes while sitting very close to each other with their knees interlocked to “figure out what kind of life they’re trying to build together”.
Given Disney’s history of queerbaiting, many fans were understandably upset but Skogland has assured that the only thing the scene meant to represent was friendship and “just affection.” It did not mean that Sebastian Stan or Anthony Mackie’s characters are bisexual. She stressed that Bucky and Sam love each other as friends and just because they are men, they shouldn’t have restrictions on how they express their care and affection for one another. So, in her words “there’s no defined sexuality to any of it.”
Going by the note The Falcon and The Winter Soldier ends on- Bucky and Sam as very good friends- and Skogland’s assertion that Sebastian Stan’s character was never meant to be gay, it is now confirmed that Marvel Studios is definitely not aiming for turning the Winter Soldier into its first LGBTQ lead character.