In recent years, Marvel Studios has made a commitment to making its projects more diverse, both in front of and behind the camera. What was once a franchise that didn't have any people of color in starring roles and was reluctant to even make toys based on its few female characters now has produced the likes of Black Panther , Captain Marvel , WandaVision , and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier .
Still, despite the increase in diversity, one marginalized group that still doesn't have much if any meaningful representation in the MCU is the LGBTQA+ community. Beyond a cameo of Joe Russo as an unnamed gay character in Avengers: Endgame and a cut scene confirming Valkyrie's bisexuality in Thor: Ragnarok , the franchise doesn't have any on-screen representation in this regard.
That hasn't stopped fans from noticing some potential clues that point to certain characters breaking these boundaries in the MCU, including Bucky Barnes, who some have speculated to be gay or bisexual for a long time.
AN UNANSWERED QUESTION
Malcom Spellman, head writer on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier , was recently interviewed by NME ‘s Amon Warmann . The topic of Bucky possibly being "bisexual or queer" was brought up by Warmann, who asked Spellman if the long-standing fan speculation would be "definitively answered" at some point during the series.
"I wanted to ask about this, because there has been some chatter in the MCU [fandom] for the last few years about whether Bucky is bisexual or queer, and he had that line in the first episode about tiger pictures, which are primarily, I think, found on men's [dating] profiles. So is that question going to be definitively answered [in the show], or what was the purpose of that line?"
Spellman laughed in response and said "I'm not diving down rabbit holes, but just keep watching."
A QUESTION OF SEXUALITY
Bucky's sexuality has been a topic of discussion amongst MCU fans ever since some sensed romantic chemistry between him and Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier . While some have dismissed it as people making things up, there are actually a few aspects of Marvel canon that may give credence to the theory.
The MCU version of Bucky has character elements of two different characters from Marvel Comics. The most obvious of the two is his namesake. The comic version of Bucky Barnes starts as a young sidekick to Steve Rogers who later is thought to have been killed in World War II, only to be uncovered as the Winter Soldier decades down the line. The other is Arnie Roth, Rogers' best friend in his days before becoming Captain America, who is later revealed to be gay.
Still, the MCU doesn't provide anything that could really be considered "evidence" until The Falcon and the Winter Soldier . Warmann mentioned the tiger picture quote from "New World Order" as a possible hint that some dating profiles he was looking at may have been for men, and "The Star-Spangled Man" features a scene with Bucky and Sam Wilson being put through exercises used in "couples therapy."
HINTING OR TEASING?
Spellman's comment doesn't exactly shut the door on the idea of Bucky being a member of the LGBTQA+ community, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier definitely hasn't been afraid to "go there" with potentially controversial topics. However, this kind of non-answer is common in interviews with cast and crew whenever the idea of a character potentially not being straight comes up.
Part of a practice known as "queerbaiting," the refusal to confirm or deny a character's sexuality is often a case of studios wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They want the discussions on the subject to continue so the show or movie in question gets more online engagement but don't want to risk offending the viewership demographics that are not supportive of the LGBTQA+ community.
This is also why the sort of "nods" to the community are included in media even if the creators have no intention of following through with official representation.
Marvel Comics already has a bunch of LGBTQA+ characters (some of whom have iterations in the MCU but with no mention of their sexuality) and Marvel Studios has confirmed that open and canonically-acknowledged characters in the community will be part of the MCU very soon . However, if Bucky Barnes doesn't turn out to be one of them, it seems like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 's creative team is teasing the audience about the idea at this point, especially since the speculation has been going on for a while now.