'It's Stars AND Stripes': Shipping Bisexual Characters in The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Curator's Note

If you type 'bisexual Steve Rogers' into YouTube or Tumblr, this is one of the many clips, gifs, and fan-art that you get. Sometimes these bisexual!Steve creations are mash-ups (like this one from stevesbuck) played for humorous value, while others are a reimagining of the source text for a fanfiction that takes place in an alternate universe scenario. These fandom productions are expressions of creativity--but this creativity and interpretation does not happen in a vacuum. This pull towards interpreting Steve as bisexual, and not as either gay or straight, marks a change in typical fandom shipping practices. As Monica Flegel and Jenny Roth note, just because fanfiction exists within a potentially subversive space of publishing-without-publishers doesn't mean that it's without cultural influence. In fact, most of the gay relationships they studied in fanfiction merely replicated heterosexual norms. Instead of the gay relationships being progressive, they were actually carbon copies of what came before it--only with two men, instead of a man and a woman. So what does a bisexual Steve Rogers really do, then? It breaks the narrative of One True Pairing--a common edict in fandom--and by doing so, deconstructs the overwhelming concept of one true idea of love and romance that Flegel and Roth criticize. Steve can be in love with both Bucky Barnes and Peggy Carter in Captain America, and he can express affection for both Sam Wilson and Agent 13 in The Winter Soldier, while still remaining "true" to himself. So often in gay narratives, there must be a disavowal of a character's past (straight) relationships in order to embrace their new beloved and the gay identity that goes with this. But a bisexual identity doesn't negate the past; it embraces it, along with the potential of the future. And this doesn't stop for Steve Rogers, either. Now that Peggy Carter has her own TV show, many fans have interpreted her as bisexual--embracing both her past relationship with Steve Rogers and her current interest in Angie Martinelli as something more. Agent Carter and its shipping fanbase proves that just like Steve, you can still love stars, stripes, and everything else in between. -- Please note: the bisexual community defines bisexuality as being attracted to two or more genders.

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