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Fans Lash Out At Anthony Mackie After He Shuts Down MCU Romance

It's easy to become invested in films and shows starring charismatic characters and attractive actors — especially in properties like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Earth's mightiest heroes are put on a pretty high pedestal. Knowing that, it's unsurprising that audiences picture certain heroes (or villains) in a relationship together, even if the franchise doesn't take the relationship that far. After "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" debuted on Disney+, many Marvel fans expressed a desire to see Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) start up a romantic relationship after seeing them have such great chemistry on screen.

The MCU doesn't have much LGBTQIA+ representation among the ranks of its heroes, which is something audiences have been asking for from Marvel Studios for quite some time. Now, the discussion surrounding a romantic relationship between Sam and Bucky has reached "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" star Anthony Mackie. 

According to a report by Variety, Mackie "resists an interpretation that Sam and Bucky are sexually or romantically attracted to each other." Mackie is quoted as saying, "So many things are twisted and convoluted. There's so many things that people latch on to with their own devices to make themselves relevant and rational." 

Mackie went on to say, "The idea of two guys being friends and loving each other in 2021 is a problem because of the exploitation of homosexuality. It used to be guys can be friends, we can hang out, and it was cool." He later noted that the relationship Sam has with Bucky is the same one he had with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans): "Sam and Steve had a relationship where they admired, appreciated and loved each other. Bucky and Sam have a relationship where they learn how to accept, appreciate, and love each other. You'd call it a bromance, but it's literally just two guys who have each other's backs."

Not mad, just disappointed

The Variety piece quickly began making rounds on Twitter, where fans shared their thoughts. Many were upset over Anthony Mackie's comments, feeling let down and disappointed. Twitter user @JaclynAlgie wrote, "I find Anthony Mackie's reaction to a potential gay romance with his character in the MCU (which currently has zero representation for LGBT) to be pretty backwards and disheartening. Sorry we have to 'validate' ourselves with different ships, marvel hasn't given us one." User @theSNYDERVERSE noted that the timing of the interview isn't great considering it's currently Pride month: "Anthony Mackie waited until pride month to talk about how annoying it is for gay people with virtually no representation in the MCU to head cannon their faves as gay."

During the Variety interview, the star also said, "There's nothing more masculine than being a superhero and flying around and beating people up," which didn't impress some fans. Twitterer @theDarinMichael pointed out that this adds to general toxic masculinity, writing, "I don't think Anthony Mackie is homophobic but what he said was definitely implying that being gay would diminish his characters masculinity which is a homophobic dog whistle whether you like it or not."

A sensitive masculine figure

Although many were upset over the interview, plenty of other fans suggested taking the time to read the interview for what the actor was attempting to say: Sam and Bucky have a strong friendship, and they are both sensitive and masculine — two things that aren't mutually exclusive, despite what society teaches men about what it means to be manly. As Twitter user @CadenToMyHazel explained, "Anthony Mackie actually made a really good point about sensitivity in men being perceived incorrectly as a gay trait, and y'all intentionally misinterpreted the statement because... this is Twitter and we thrive off of negative attention, I guess."

There were also a number of tweets noting that Mackie's point was more about depicting "a sensitive masculine figure" in the MCU rather than the typically unemotional heroes audiences have seen countless times before.

User @EssenceofDrag noted that fans calling Mackie homophobic "must be bored," saying, "Y'all really calling Anthony Mackie homophobic for saying a character isn't gay y'all must be bored that he's not playing into your narratives."

Some tweets also suggested that perhaps Marvel Studios and Disney executives should be the ones tackling issues like representation rather than the actors playing these characters. As @ClonesDreamGirl put it, "Media needs to stop putting individual actors on the spot about representation issues, and start questioning the entities like Marvel, Disney, etc over their decisions to not fix their representation issues." 

Bucky and Sam's relationship likely won't change within the MCU any time soon, but for now, fans can still enjoy 'shipping their favorite characters together, re-imagining their favorite shows as the kind of stories they hope to see on screen.