Anthony Mackie shoulders a pretty substantial burden in the MCU going forward. He’s embodying Sam Wilson/Falcon, who finally got his day in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Solder season finale. The show really made the MCU earn Sam’s position as a Black man holding Captain America’s shield, and it was no easy feat for Sam to show that the government wanted to put almost anyone else (who was white) in the position, but it worked out in the end. The show deftly handled the issue of systemic racism in America. As far as some of the other issues go, well, that did not go as smoothly.
[Deep breath.] In a nutshell, it’s safe to say that the writers of the show went for a buddy-comedy vibe but also paid lip service to fan fiction by suggesting, ever so playfully, that Sam and Bucky Barnes could be a romantic item. This was heavily implied in places, with the two formally being made to endure couple’s therapy while bickering as if they were truly married. And when they fell off a train, the writers had them rolling around in a field together. And then the writers went and made Bucky sweet on Sam’s sister, rather than Sam, and it would be understandable if some fans felt that the rug had been yanked out from underneath them.
So, that’s why it’s difficult to process what Mackie said (during a Variety podcast) on the subject of Sam and Bucky’s relationship. Variety tweeted out a partial quote with Mackie stating, “It used to be guys can be friends, we can hang out, and it was cool.” He added, “You can’t do that anymore, because something as pure and beautiful as homosexuality has been exploited by people who are trying to rationalize themselves.”
"It used to be guys can be friends, we can hang out, and it was cool…You can't do that anymore, because something as pure and beautiful as homosexuality has been exploited by people who are trying to rationalize themselves,” the #Marvel star says. https://t.co/nLLKDXuZLl pic.twitter.com/fZjHfIlizD
— Variety (@Variety) June 17, 2021
This didn’t make much sense, and this led to people wondering what on earth Mackie was saying. Was this like the Sirius XM interview where Mackie admitted to being confused about Easter eggs and kind-of suggesting that he’d really rather just focus on the script and not worry too much about the outside noise? Stick with me here for some more digging, but first, here’s how the Variety tweet led to a lot of “huh?” reactions.
— audrey (@audz_2) June 17, 2021
— jackie! (@lcvurs) June 17, 2021
However, the Variety tweet left out some context from the full quote in the podcast transcript itself. Here’s more of what Mackie said:
“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. 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. You would always meet your friends at the bar, you know. You can’t do that anymore, because something as pure and beautiful as homosexuality has been exploited by people who are trying to rationalize themselves. So something that’s always been very important to me is showing a sensitive masculine figure. There’s nothing more masculine than being a superhero and flying around and beating people up. But there’s nothing more sensitive than having emotional conversations and a kindred spirit friendship with someone that you care about and love.”
That’s a little bit clearer, but also not the best look. It’s not apparent whether Mackie’s suddenly realized that abundant fan fiction exists (in which people write their dream-scenarios, including Sam and Bucky being a couple), and perhaps he’s not realizing that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier seemed to already realize this and chose to send out signals toward the fans who churn out this fiction. Disney+ played with it, sort of as a nod to fans, to show that they’re listening. Yet some fans felt too teased, which is understandable. It’s one thing when people genuinely read into things too much, like with the whole Mephisto business when the hints weren’t really there, but yeah, The Falcon and the Winter Solder did heavily suggest romantic vibes between the lead heroes.
Ultimately, though, the LGBTQ+ community is seeking representation in stories, and it’s fair for them to wonder what on earth Anthony Mackie is saying.