Sunday, June 5, 2016

Is Captain America Gay or Just From Another Time?

[I wrote this post in complete innocence, not realizing that the gender preference of Captain America was a real issue heating up social media from here to Russia and beyond.  Apparently there is some discussion about whether Captain America and Bucky Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier) might not have a thing for each other.]

In America, it is very important to know about the sex lives of our celebrities both on the screen and off. Who does what to whom and how many times is central to our feelings about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be. Some might think that childish, but I prefer to think that it is merely adolescent, and most adolescents have a healthy interest in sex, don't you agree?

I have recently watched all 12 (well maybe 14) of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to my astonishment, I have come across circumstantial evidence that Steve Rogers, Captain America, may not be the all-American boy so many right-thinking Americans think he is. True, the evidence is circumstantial but I also think it is compelling.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), in one of the brief respites between action sequences, Captain America is in a pickup truck driving in New Jersey with his new partner in crime, the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff aka Scarlet Johannson. Ms. Johannson is wearing her regulation spandex-latex-polyethylene jumpsuit required for femme fatales in comicbook narrative.

They have a discussion about relationships, and I quote:

BW: Allright, I have a question for you. But you do not have to answer.
BW: But if you dont answer it is sortof answering though.
CA: What?
BW: Am I your first kiss since 1945?
CA: That bad, huh.
BW: I didn't say that.
CA: Well it kindof sounds like thats what you said.
BW: No I didnt, I just wondered how much practice you had?
CA: You don't need practice.
BW: Everybody needs practice.
CA: It was not my first kiss since 1945. I am 95, I am not dead.
BW: Nobody special then?
CA: Ha. Believe it or not it is kindof hard to find someone with shared life experience.
BW: Oh that is all right, you just make something up.
CA: What, like you?
BW: Truth is a matter of circumstances, not all things <indecipherable> all the time. Neither am I.
CA: Its a tough way to live.
BW: Its a good way not to die though.
CA: You know, its kindof hard to trust someone when you dont know who that someone really is.
BW: Yeah. Who do you want me to be?
CA: How about a friend?
BW: (laughs)

Is this really believable? You mean that for the first time in the history of the world, not to mention the cinema, we have a reversal of roles where it is the guy telling the gal that they should be friends? As if that is not enough, we have the unmarried, healthy, all-American boy telling Scarlet Johannson to get out of bed (figuratively speaking). True, she might not be the innocent all-American girl that a nice boy like Steve Rogers would want to marry and bring home to mother, if mother had not been dead for 70 or so years, but even so, everyone needs practice.

This gets at the fundamental dialectic so well reviewed in When Harry Met Sally (1989).  Is it possible for a heterosexual man and woman to be "friends", that is, without one of them desiring sex?  The answer in that movie and in most examples we have from life is an unambiguous "no".

No one, not even Captain America, would push Scarlet Johannson away. Maybe he is very shy? Not a chance, no way. Sorry. Unless, of course... Well you see where this is going. Even Natasha Romanoff would have to wonder what kind of man refuse her generous offer.

Is Captain America gay?

In this case, probably not. What we probably have here is a man who came of age in roughly 1944 being somewhat intimidated by the overt sexuality of the definitely non-chaste, modern Black Widow.  An excellent reminder of how hard it is to really understand the past. Things were different then.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) on IMDB

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