Warning: spoilers for Captain America: Civil War ahead
If there’s one thing we can always count on the Internet for, it’s the fact that any given topic will drive a rift between people with minimal room for nuance. One of the Web's most recent controversies involves the coining of the hashtag #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, with many Marvel fans lobbying for Steve Rogers to represent the LGBT community. Passions have flared on both sides of the argument, and I’m here today to provide my two cents and say one thing: giving Captain America a boyfriend could make a great deal of sense at this stage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Before I take this topic any further, I need to emphasize the fact that I’m not actively campaigning for Marvel Studios to make the cinematic version of Steve Rogers gay. In fact, if Marvel decided to introduce a gay character, I’m not sure Cap would even have a place on my list of potential candidates. Having said that, my sole intention with this piece is to explain the fact that a gay Captain America is far more reasonable than some corners of the Internet would lead you to believe.
Prior to the events of Captain America: Civil War, changing Cap’s sexual identity would have made no sense. However, the final moments of the film allow Steve (Chris Evans) to take center stage, and his letter to Tony Stark places emphasis on a deeply personal confession for the star-spangled Avenger. Steve reveals to his former teammate that he’s always felt like an outsider, never quite fitting in anywhere – even in environments like the Army, where his peers lauded him as a bona fide hero. Sure, this monologue tells us that he’s ditching his Captain America persona, but it also feels like it bears a poignant moment of self-reflection. For Steve Rogers to feel more comfortable in his own skin and embrace his LGBT status after the events of Civil War would most certainly read as a natural progression, and one that's firmly rooted in his character. Stripped away of his superheroics and powers, it's not that far off from the commonplace It Gets Better videos that one can find all over YouTube.
This makes more sense than any other current member of The Avengers roster. We’re not saying he has to fall for Bucky – although several corners of Tumblr would disagree – but for him to come out would 100% fit with his growing acceptance of himself as a man. Sure, he’s had romantic entanglements with women in the MCU before – particularly two members of the Carter family – but seemingly all coming-out stories involve similar tales of exploration, experimentation, and confusion. Why should Cap be any different?
There’s another, broader reason why Marvel Studios should consider making this change: the MCU – and most action franchises for that matter – doesn’t really feature any notable gay characters, and that's something even the Russos have endeavored to change. There’s a long, passionate argument to be had about whether or not diversity for diversity’s sake is a good thing, but the fact remains that a random sampling of Americans would likely reveal more gay members of the audience than there are characters in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. All forms of diversity have become proven box office assets in recent years, particularly overseas, so Marvel’s decision to do this could be viewed as an entirely pragmatic one.
As I’ve already mentioned: I don’t necessarily think Cap represents the best MCU character to make this sort of transition. Other characters exist whose sexual identities are far blanker slates. Characters like Lady Sif, Loki, or even T’Challa have had little to no romantic entanglements through the course of the MCU, and as such Marvel could far more easily make that creative decision with far less backlash. However, the studio still should strongly consider this course of action for Captain America himself, because it's a decision that they could firmly integrate into the history and events of this long-running franchise.
If Captain America really does represent the red, white, and blue, then he cannot always represent the mindset of the Greatest Generation. America has changed in the years since WWII, and a change of this nature to Steve Rogers could effectively personify how far America has come in the years since his first publication. We need this now, more than ever.