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Steve Rogers at 100: Celebrating Captain America on Film

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Steve Rogers: A Hauntology: A History of Captain America on Screen, 1946-2011

by Morgan Leigh Davies, © 2012, Oxford University Press

Introduction

In the decades that have passed since his much-mythologized demise, historians and biographers have spent much time – and many books, magazine articles, and made-for-TV documentaries – trying to answer the question: who was Steven Grant Rogers? As with any historical figure, but particularly one who died before his time, the answers have been many and varied: the greatest of American soldiers (or perhaps of all soldiers since Achilles), the central figure of the European front in the Second World War, a tortured young man who should never have been sent there in the first place, just a humble kid from Brooklyn, a symbol of virile American masculinity, the most famous closeted gay man in American history – the list goes on.

The paucity of documentation left behind by Rogers in the wake of his untimely death shortly before V-E day has done little to clarify his image – a native of Brooklyn, he never moved out of the borough, and his most meaningful relationship, with childhood friend and later brother in arms James Buchanan Barnes, evades the public record entirely: the only letters the two men would have had occasion to send to each other, during the period when Barnes was in the military and Rogers had not yet enlisted, have not survived. All that remains of Rogers (and, indeed, of Barnes) are a modest collection of photographs from his time in training and later, on the front, where George Stevens recorded the only moving images of him that exist. His voice was never documented.

It would be fair, then, to say that Steve Rogers is a ghost haunting the American people – or, rather, haunting the twentieth century, for the question we should be asking ourselves is not who he is but rather what he means to us. The man Steve Rogers was has been lost forever to the ice of the Arctic Ocean and to the passage of time – and yet Captain America lingers in the American consciousness, a shadow of the greatest generation that hangs over our national psyche and that continues to chase us into the twenty-first century. We are not the nation we were when the likes of Steve Rogers walked the streets of Brooklyn – but wouldn’t we like to imagine ourselves as purely good as he seemed to have been? Wouldn’t we like to think that our war efforts, our foreign policy, our government were as “good” as they were in the pre-Nixon era? And so our fascination with – and glorification of – his ghost continues.

Starting almost immediately after the conclusion of the War, with Charles Vidor’s Captain America (1946), Hollywood became the site of America’s Captain America fervor, although notably, it was not until 1974’s Heartbreak on the Western Front – not accidentally, one might imagine, the same year that Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal – that what I shall refer to as the Captain America machine truly picked up speed. The Captain America machine has churned out pictures regularly since, and as I shall investigate in each chapter of this book, these films situate “Steve Rogers” not so much in the 1940s but instead in their own particular historical moments: we see the post-Vietnam conservatism of the Reagan era on full display in Captain America and the Red Skull (1982), the rise of the Moral Majority in The Song of Steven Rogers (1989), and the dominance of the Hollywood blockbuster taking shape in Sylvester Stallone’s nonsensical Jurassic Park rip-off Maximum Retribution (1995). These Captains America are romantic heroes, neo-con action stars, or, in the one memorable case, Jesus analogues. (Captain America has also been memoralized in adult film on numerous occasions, perhaps most notably by Dirk Diggler in the late 1970s; for more on this subject, see Chapter 4.)

The backlash against these films in the late nineties and early aughts came from both France and Hollywood, in the forms of Enfants de la patrie (1998) and Into the Valley of Death (2002), seen as the two most serious and worthy films in the genre by different types of film critics – the former was never released in the United States, while the latter won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Ron Livingston (Best Director and Best Actor went to another World War II film, The Pianist). Here we have what are essentially the fundamental oppositional points of view on Rogers by so-called “serious” students of history: the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg vision of the troubled but ultimately earnest American war hero, or Matthieu Kassovitz’s more cynical European vision of Rogers and his Howling Commandos as normal men pushed to the breaking point by the horrors of war. Enfants de la patrie, notably the only non-American film to take up Rogers as its subject matter, undermines the national Captain America project by de-heroizing him – and by explicitly casting his relationship with Barnes, often speculated to be erotic in nature, as intensely sexual.

And yet all of this is simply another form of twisting the narrative – for the self-serious historical projects of Spielberg and Kassovitz are also mere imaginings of what might have transpired, no more real in their way than 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, the Channing Tatum vehicle that grossed a whopping $176 million at the domestic box office. As long as Rogers remains at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean – and we cannot expect him to rise any time soon, for, despite what The Song of Steven Rogers might have us believe, the man was not the son of god – we will never know what he lived through, or what he thought about the War, or how he really felt about James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.

What, we might imagine, would he have thought about what has happened to his image in the time that has passed since his death? But this is an idle and an impossible question – for even those of us skeptical of the Captain America machine must necessarily create a fiction around the man behind the mask in order to answer it. And, it must be said: even if he did come back to life now, would it really matter? For his legend has forever been enshrined in the annals of history as the conscience of the modern nation, and consciences – like ghosts – like images projected on a screen – do not have bodies, even if they wear costumes, and even if we believe we can see their faces.

 

***

 

Modern American(ish) Cinema 101

“So, there’s something we may have kept from you,” Natasha says. “I know you’re not prone to self-Googling anyway, but we figured we might as well use Stark’s creepy, invasive firewalls for something.”

“What?” says Steve.

“It’s about your… public image,” she says delicately. From across the room, Bucky blinks owlishly.

“Is this about the trading cards?” Steve asks. “Because I already know about that. From Coulson. At length. I don’t need to hear anything else about the trading cards, ever.”

“No,” Natasha says, looking pained. “It’s, uh. There have been some… films. About you. Over the years. There’s going to be a festival screening all of them at Lincoln Center, and Stark’s filter has already blocked three-hundred and seventy-five emails asking for your comment. So. We thought. You should maybe know that they exist.”

“What,” Steve says.

“Where can we watch them,” Bucky says.

“Oh boy,” says Natasha.

 

***

 


1946: Captain America

Bucky Barnes is being beaten up by two larger men in a studio backlot that’s doing its best impression of a dingy back-alley somewhere in Brooklyn. “Hey,” he says, out of breath, his fists up in front of his face. “Why don’t you pick on... on...”

“Someone your own size!” Steve Rogers finishes the sentence for him, appearing as if out of nowhere. He picks up both of the taller guys by the backs of their collars and throws them out of the alley. There are some sound effects that indicate that they’ve probably landed on a garbage can and a pile of glass bottles. Steve stands at ease, which looks an awful lot like a normal guy standing to attention.

“Aw, Steve,” Bucky says, panting slightly, once the sound effects have stopped. “I had ‘em, you know I had ‘em.”

“I hear ya, kid,” Steve says. He wipes his brow. It glistens attractively under the streetlamps.

 

*

 

“Steve!” the director cries, standing in the middle of a lavish movie set, which is full of fake Nazi paraphernalia and anonymous men dressed as soldiers. His glasses are askew, but his suit is perfect. A line of chorus girls in costumes made out of American flags stands behind him, their hips cocked, and wicked grins directed at Steve.

“I have to go,” Steve says, with resolve, his jaw jutting towards the sky. “I’ve done all that I can here – I’ve won the public. Now I need to win... the war. Our men need me, Stark.”

“But Steve!” One of the chorus girls cries. She runs towards him, and clutches his arm. “I don’t suppose I shall ever see you again!”

“Sure you’ll see me,” he says, and pushes a lock of hair out of her face. “I ain’t going anywhere for long, kiddo. Only where America needs me most. You’ll keep America safe for me while I’m gone, won’t you? And you’ll keep dancing?”

“Aw, Peggy always meets the nice guys,” another chorus girl cries out, and the girl next to her punches her on the arm.

 

*

 

Steve, Bucky, and an Englishman with a quizzical brow are crouched together on the roof of a train that is moving through a very unreal landscape. They each have a cigarette, and Bucky lights them. There is snow around them, although it isn’t snowing, and the roof doesn’t appear to be at all slippery.

“Well, pals,” Bucky says, with a slight wheeze. “Looks like this is it.”

Steve puts his cigarette in his mouth and grips both men on the shoulder.

“Righty-o,” the English soldier says, and blows a thin plume of smoke into the air. He holds his cigarette in an effete manner, between his middle finger and his ring finger. “Chin up, old bean. The hun won’t know what hit him.”

 

*

 

“He was the bravest man I ever knew,” Steve says, as he holds the small German man off the ground by his lapels. They are in a plane, and the pilot is slumped on the floor, his hat covering his face. There is nobody at the controls. “They were all brave. And they died so that I could stop you.”

“Zey died vor nuzzing,” the German man says, with a sneer, and a very shaky yet very pronounced attempt at a German accent.

The shot cuts to show the outside of the plane, which is nose-diving towards the sea. It rattles through the air.

The shot cuts back to the plane’s interior. Steve doesn’t seem to be having any trouble with keeping upright, despite the difficulty the plane is in.

“Oh yeah?” Steve says. “You’ll never make another bomb again!”

“Damn America, and damn freedom!” The man cries, his accent half-forgotten, and he spits at Steve. The saliva drips down Steve’s face. He throws the German man hard enough that he hits his head on the side of the plane, and he falls to the ground. There is no blood. He doesn’t move again.

Steve rushes to the plane’s controls, and flicks some switches and slides some sliders. He picks up the radio.

“Looks like I’m on a one-way trip to the bottom of the ocean,” he says, wearily, but with a slight smile full of acceptance and camaraderie.

“Steve!” the screen splits, and Peggy is at the other end of the radio, rather than anyone with any expertise at flying planes. “Steve, you can’t leave me now!” She’s wearing a showgirl outfit, and around her the other girls are getting changed and chewing gum. They are about to perform for the troops.

“Do me a favour, Peggy,” Steve says. “You’ll keep dancing for me, won’t ya?”

 

**

 

“I remember movies being better,” Bucky says.

“Well, at least you remember movies,” Steve says.

 

***

 


1974: Heartbreak on the Western Front

The camera does a slow pan over a field. Blue mountains loom in the distance, and the horizon is lined with fir trees. It’s meant to be Germany, but it looks an awful lot like Northern California. Birds chirp loudly, off-screen.

The camera comes to a stop as it lands on Captain America and Peggy Carter. Peggy’s makeup and feathered hair are perfect, but her face is tight.

The rugged yet boyishly handsome Captain America drops her hand, taking a step away from her. “Peggy,” he says gruffly, “tomorrow’s the final battle between our forces and the Red Skull.”

“I know,” she tells him. Tears well up in her eyes, but her voice is strong. “There’s something I need to tell you first.”

He turns his back to her, gazing off into the distance. “Don’t try to talk me out of it,” he says without emotion. “I have to do it. But... this may be the last time we see each other.”

“Don’t say that,” Peggy cries.

“Whatever you say, sweetheart, it won’t make a difference.”

“Steve,” Peggy whispers, “I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a father.”

Shocked, Captain America falls to his knees, his face a mask of anguish. He presses his face against her belly, which is covered by her high-waisted, bell-bottomed uniform trousers.

“I can’t lose you,” he says.

“You won’t,” she promises. She drags a hand through his shaggy blond hair. “We’ll always be together. No matter what.”

 

**

 

“Was I even in that one?” Bucky asks, grabbing the DVD case and scanning the back for clues.

“I don’t know,” Steve says. “I fell asleep.”

 

***

 


1982: Captain America and the Red Skull

A review by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

 

OK, so now that Steve Rogers is an actual living person who shows up on CNN every other day, I figured it was time to go back and write about one of the formative movies of my nerd education: Captain America and the Red Skull.

I’ve only seen three Cap movies (the original WWII propaganda one starring the real Steve Rogers, the super-awful Ben Affleck one, and this) and Red Skull is by far the most interesting, although perhaps not for the reasons its creators intended. It’s famous for being The Worst, but it’s one of those movies whose terribleness is enthralling because of why it’s so goddamn bad.

If you’re any kind of Captain America enthusiast, you’ll probably have heard of Star-Spangled Man: The Life and Times of America’s Most Unlikely Hero, which is THE definitive biography of Steve Rogers.

Star Spangled Man doesn’t have the patriotic fervour you see in most History Channel documentaries or whatever, and it only briefly touches on the famous mission where Cap freed 150 Allied soldiers from a HYDRA base. Instead, the book spends more time on Steve Rogers’ childhood and upbringing than on the year or so he spent leading the Howling Commandos in Nazi-occupied Europe. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to his political background as the child of Irish immigrants living in 1920s/30s Brooklyn. Star Spangled Man also delves deep into the importance of Steve’s relationship with his best friend Bucky Barnes, which indirectly wound up being a huge influence on the trash cinema nightmare that is Captain America and the Red Skull.

Steve and Bucky grew up in the same neighbourhood and became friends after Bucky defended Steve from some schoolyard bullies. This origin story is as immortal as Voldemort killing Harry Potter’s parents or Superman crash-landing in rural Kansas, but between then and Steve Rogers making his chemically-enhanced transformation into Captain America, the story tends to get a little muddy.

In the original run of Captain America comics (which were published during Steve Rogers’ USO tour and time with the Howling Commandos), Bucky made his first appearance as a child sidekick, often riding around in Cap’s motorcycle sidecar. I assume this was so he’d be more appealing to kids, but it comes across as a little weird in the context of more recent speculation that the pair of them were lovers in real life. At the very least they had an unusually close relationship, possibly due to the many years they spent together as a family unit before Bucky marched off to war. In reality, Steve Rogers was only about a year older than Bucky Barnes, which made no difference to their childhood relationship since Steve was held back in school due to ill health.

The reason why I’m spending so much time talking about some history book from the 1970s is that originally, Captain America and the Red Skull was meant to be a direct (or at least direct-ish) adaptation of Star Spangled Man. Authors Miriam Feldt and A.E. Lassiter were signed on as consultants when the movie was first pitched in 1979, at the insistence of the original screenwriter Harvey Bushnell. I wish to god there was some way to read the screenplay they turned out, because I bet it was amazing.

Of course, the resulting movie was very much NOT amazing, but it did have the unintended effect of turning Captain America into a gay icon in the 1980s and ‘90s. Ironically, this was thanks to the incredibly conservative studio exec who bought Harvey Bushnell’s screenplay in the first place.

 


Unfortunately for Bushnell, a historically accurate and politically insightful Captain America movie was not really on the cards in 1980. For one thing, the first Indiana Jones movie was already in the works elsewhere, and Universal Studios decided that a wholesome 1940s hero like Steve Rogers would seem like a pussy compared to the unshaven and smirking Harrison Ford. Secondly, Captain America and the Red Skull’s producer, Lawrence Gilmore, was the kind of guy who thought Ronald Reagan was dangerously subversive. His vision for Captain America was an action hero who blew up foreigners, championed free-market capitalism, and (inexplicably) took time out during several fight scenes to make fun of the French characters’ accents – just a few of Gilmore’s bizarre suggestions that made it into the final, disastrous cut of the movie.

Somewhere between Harvey Bushnell’s screenplay being bought by Universal Studios in 1979 and the movie coming out in 1982, Captain America and the Red Skull mutated into a wildly violent, historically nonsensical, bizarrely right-wing paean to the good ol’ days when a man could end an argument with his girlfriend by slapping her across the face. (Yes, Gilmore is almost certainly responsible for that iconic .GIF of vintage Captain America backhanding a 1980s-permed Peggy Carter.)

Basically, if Lawrence Gilmore could’ve cast Sylvester Stallone as Cap back in the early ‘80s, he would’ve done.

On its own, this setup was already the perfect recipe for one of the many movies that gets ruined by the Hollywood production process. But the thing that makes Captain America and the Red Skull a true masterpiece of disastrous filmmaking is the fact that against all the odds, some of Bushnell’s original vision manages to shine through. Without a doubt, the most glorious example of this is the infamous homoerotic tension between Steve and Bucky – something that all subsequent Captain America movies tried to either avoid or emulate, always to rather dubious results.

Inspired by the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Universal Studios cast a bodybuilder in the role of Captain America, a previously unknown “actor” named Dirk Buckley (definitely a fake name) whose only other credits were for sports equipment commercials.

The reason why you’ve never heard of Dirk Buckley in any other context is because he acted in literally nothing else afterwards. Put simply, he was not an actor.

 


Bucky Barnes was played by a doe-eyed 19-year-old Matthew Broderick, four years before he made his big break in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His role was basically to provide comic relief, which worked out OK until it was time for his death scene, which unfortunately turned out to be the funniest performance in the entire movie.

You know how sometimes you’ll watch something from the 1980s and think, “Wow, they must’ve been doing a lot of coke when this movie got made”? Well, Captain America and the Red Skull is a textbook example of this phenomenon. Over the course of its 95-minute runtime it includes:

  • A relentless 1980s techno soundtrack that actually overlaps with the 1940s big band music during the Steve/Peggy dance scene.
  • Blatant racism including but not restricted to: 1) offensive portrayals of Chinese immigrants living in Steve and Bucky’s neighbourhood, 2) the blatant cowardice of all the French guys in the Howling Commandos, one of whom turns out to be a Nazi spy, 3) a mindblowingly embarrassing characterization of Gabe Jones as Bucky’s blaxploitation sidekick, and 4) a general antipathy towards anything that isn’t AMERICA, FUCK YEAH.
  • Action sequences where Captain America indiscriminately guns down everyone in front of him, regardless of whether they’re wearing a Nazi uniform or not.
  • A slow-motion shower scene where Steve “thinks” about Peggy while a slightly more “romantic” version of the 1980s techno soundtrack plays in the background.
  • Twelve counts of Captain America decapitating people with his shield, complete with gallons of fake blood.
  • A scene where Steve puts out his cigarette on a Swastika flag and the thing goes up in flames as if it’d been doused in gasoline.
  • Two separate workout montages, which doesn’t even make sense because Steve got his supersoldier strength from taking what basically amounts to experimental 1940s steroids.
  • A scene where skinny, pre-serum Steve Rogers gets beaten up in a Brooklyn alleyway... by communists.
  • Captain America pausing over the Red Skull’s corpse to deliver a stilted monologue about “the strong fist of justice.” The strong fist. Of justice.

Looking at this list, I’m disappointed that Lawrence Gilmore didn’t go all the way and make Steve Rogers punch Hitler in the face for realsies. Also, all this overblown violence and unexamined hyper-patriotism seems even weirder when coupled with the fact that Steve and Bucky are super, super gay in this movie. Like, super gay.

 


I don’t think anyone’s ever made a proper behind-the-scenes documentary about Captain America and the Red Skull, but if they did, I suspect it’d be a doozy. By the time the movie actually went into production Harvey Bushnell had officially been fired by the studio for complaining too much about Gilmore’s rewrites, and the original authors of Star Spangled Man were consultants in name only. The director was a guy who had only ever worked on TV and a handful of straight-to-video action movies before, and was clearly just trying to finish the job without getting fired like all the people who failed to tolerate Gilmore’s maniacal desire to imbue Captain America with the personality of Richard Nixon.

Still, Harvey Bushnell reputedly met with the entire cast in secret to discuss their roles, and persuaded the replacement screenwriters to let him work on edits of the new, Hollywoodized version of his screenplay.

Obviously he didn’t have much influence on curtailing such visionary scenes as the one where Cap drops a live grenade into a Nazi’s pants and then uses his shield as an umbrella against the gore explosion, but Bushnell did manage to retain one shining example of his original masterwork: the implication that Steve and Bucky are hella gay for each other.

I assume that Matthew Broderick had no idea what was going on here. If you look at his performance on its own, he appears to be playing Bucky with the same level of emotional attachment you’d expect from an action movie sidekick whose most important role is to die in the third act.

However, Dirk Buckley, the actor playing Steve Rogers, was gay IRL (although obviously not out to his employers, otherwise he’d never have gotten hired in the first place) and was hip to Bushnell’s original plan to include homoerotic subtext between Bucky and Steve. Along with a handful of desperate stabs at historical accuracy (for example, skinny Steve smoking “asthma cigarettes” in the earlier scenes), Bushnell’s main impact on the final movie was to school Dirk Buckley into playing Steve Rogers as if he was head over heels in love with Bucky Barnes.

The end result is a jarring mixture of cheesy 1980s blockbuster movie stupidity, and the occasional scene where Dirk Buckley stretches his limited acting abilities to portray a one-sided romance between himself and the appealingly twinky Matthew Broderick.

This, combined with the multitude of inadvertently homoerotic action movie cliches (pointless shower scenes, at least ten manly friendship hugs between Cap and the Howling Commandos, shots where the camera pans lovingly over Captain America’s rippling abs, etc), resulted in a film that feels as if it could degenerate into actual gay porn at any moment.

Wikipedia tells me that Captain America and the Red Skull made an awe-inspiring $38,000 at the box office, which was terrible even in 1982. The actress playing Peggy Carter (a singularly thankless task) went on to star in a handful of soap operas, Harvey Bushnell spent the next decade licking his wounds before settling into a successful career writing for HBO, and Dirk Buckley died in the early ‘90s, leaving behind a small but dedicated fanbase of “so-bad-it’s-good” B-movie aficionados, one of whom helpfully scanned in Buckley’s 1987 Village Voice interview so I could write this blog post.

Rewatching Captain America and the Red Skull in the light of Steve Rogers’ real-world resurrection, I find myself wondering if he’s ever watched any of “his” movies, and if he’d even understand how something like Red Skull could come into being.

I like to imagine that Steve Rogers is a pretty forward-thinking guy – he fought alongside women and led an integrated unit during the War, after all – and would get a kick out of an unemployed gay bodybuilder using Captain America’s warped public image to rebel against a dictatorial Hollywood studio exec. Captain America and the Red Skull is definitely funny to watch, but I hope that the real Steve Rogers would be more offended by the portrayal of himself as a trigger-happy racist asshole, than the subtext of him eyeing up a 19-year-old Matthew Broderick in the communal showers. Either way, I hope one of his friends sits him down and makes him watch one of the other Captain America films that are actually good, because they do exist.

But personally, I’d rather just rewatch Captain America and the Red Skull for the fifth time, and marvel at the fact that Hollywood somehow managed to churn out a movie that combines a phallic flagpole-climbing sequence, Agent Peggy Carter wearing a 1980s prom dress to a USO ball, and a scene where the Red Skull reveals that his personal guard is made up of honest-to god Japanese ninjas.

 

**

 

“I – I just – look at the way he’s looking at him!” Steve splutters as Bucky crunches his popcorn loudly. “He’s – he looks like he’s sixteen! Is that even legal!”

“You’re very predictable,” Natasha says.

“What?” Steve says.

“Nothing,” Natasha replies. “Just something I read on the internet.”

 

***

 


1989: The Song Of Steven Rogers

EXT. TRAIN. AUSTRIA.

“Bucky, no!” Steve shouts, as the train rattles on, and the last Nazi raises his gun with a shaking hand. Bucky turns and looks at him, just as one improbable ray of light shines down from the heavens upon his equally improbably angelic face.

“I got to, buddy,” he says. “You’re more important than I am. Someday you’ll understand.”

Steve’s screams echo through the mountains as Bucky hurtles over the edge, Nazi in tow, falling to his doom below. A choral hymn plays. A dove flies out from nowhere and into the sky. Steve weeps one perfect, flattering, manly tear.

“Bucky,” he whispers, and covers his face.

 

*

 

INT. BOMBED OUT CHURCH. AUSTRIA.

Tomorrow, the day will come. Tomorrow, Steve Rogers and his men – his brave men, his loyal, men, his eleven men exactly now that his dearest friend has perished into the vast abyss – will infiltrate HYDRA’s innermost sanctum. It is a necessary task for the good of all mankind, and if there is one thing Steve Rogers knows, it is this: he is unlikely to make it out alive.

I just wish I knew what to do, he thinks, in overwrought voiceover. I wish I had more confidence in myself. I wish I wasn’t full of such doubt. I know how important this mission is – for Peggy, for Phillips, for all the folks back home, but I want to live. How could I be so selfish? How could I want so much for myself?

He looks to the sky through the bombed out church (which looks suspiciously like a rotted-out old building from somewhere in the north of England), his face illuminated by light streaming through a strangely still-intact stained glass window (depicting, naturally, Jesus on the cross).

“I just wish I knew what to do,” he sighs.

“Well that ain’t so hard, now is it,” Bucky says, and Steve freezes. Could it – could it be?

Bucky is there in front of him, translucent, in the terrible special effects of the period. “Aww, come on, Steve,” he says. “You know as well as I do that your life’s only as important as what you make of it. And you was always the better man of the two of us.”

“No, Bucky,” Steve says, eyes shining with tears. “I don’t think that was true at all.”

“Remember what I said, about you understanding all this someday?” Bucky asks. “Well, maybe you do now. Maybe you will. It ain’t always easy, pal. But you gotta do what you gotta do. I believe in you, old friend. And I’ll be waiting for you on the other side. There’s some other folks waiting for you, too. I think you’ll be glad to see them.”

Steve sheds two manly tears this time. They are just as beautiful and flattering as the last one.

A heavenly chorus plays. As he stands up, rays of light shine down and cast a shadow behind him that looks, unsurprisingly, like a cross.

“No looking back,” he says, and strides (manfully) forward.

 

**

 

“Were we Catholic?” Bucky asks. “I don’t remember us being Catholic.”

“Mel Gibson?” Steve shouts, and throws the laptop across the room.

 

**

 

“No More Songs for the Star-Spangled Man: Christian-Themed Captain America Musical Closes on Broadway After Only Thirteen Performances”

In a perhaps unsurprising twist of fate, the recent Broadway adaptation of Ron Howard’s 1989 film The Song Of Steven Rogers has announced that it will close after only thirteen performances. “We stand behind our vision of The Song Of Steven Rogers,” says producer Marion Ozick, “but it seems that it just did not resonate with the today’s audiences.”

A perhaps doomed enterprise from the get-go, the stage adaptation of The Song Of Steven Rogers has been a source of bafflement to industry insiders and the public alike ever since the announcement of its residence at the Belasco Theatre last October. Billed not as an adaptation but rather as a “musical interpretation” of the heavily Christian-themed film, the project has always been a head-scratcher, and early concerns were proven correct when reviews savaged the “unlistenable music,” “incomprehensible directing choices,” and “acting so stiff it’s surprising the people on stage haven’t been carved out of blocks of wood.”

Captain America enthusiasts disappointed by the play’s early cancellation – or, indeed, offended by its mere existence – will simply have to wait another year to get their fix, by way of Sylvester Stallone’s Maximum Retribution, set to premiere next July.

 

***

 


1995: Maximum Retribution

“These tracks look like... dinosaur prints.”

“Thaaaat’s impowsibble, Bucky,” says Captain America, clutching his comically large submachine gun. “Weh’re aftah Naaazis, not dinosawrs.”

Bucky blinks, very slowly, as though he cannot quite get used to the studio lighting. “But Cap! The Nazis have captured Howard Stark! Maybe –”

“Ah’m goin’ in! Are ya with me?”

Bucky squares his already very square jaw. “Always, Cap. You know that. I’ll always be here. Dinosaurs or no dinosaurs.”

They run in slow motion towards the endless horizon, in very heroic lighting. Suddenly, Bucky stops in his tracks, as the camera tracks lovingly across his strangely symmetrical face. “My god,” he says, “That’s –”

“Ah Teeerex!” Captain America opens fire on the CGI dinosaur menacing them. It roars, and attacks, swiping at them with its inaccurately large foreclaws.

Captain America’s automatic weapon still has not run out of bullets. He grimaces, still firing, until the dinosaur goes down like a ton of bricks, raining dirt all around our heroes. “That’ll teeeeech ya to mess with Cap’n Amurka,” he says, lighting a cigar from nowhere.

“Cap. This dinosaur has... robot parts.” Bucky scratches his still-perfect hair. “What do you think it... means?”

“I can explain,” says Howard Stark, appearing from a hole in the ground. “The Nazis wanted to me to build their superweapons. But I knew you’d come find me.” He grins. “You guys are late.”

Captain America spits tobacco. “Well ya bettah get us outta this mess’a yers,” he says. “I’m outta ammo.”

Bucky accidentally stares at the camera.

 

*

 

“So if we deploy the pulse, all the... dinosaurs... will die?”

“They’re not alive,” Howard Stark says. We get the impression that he has said this many times, and Bucky has entirely failed to catch on. “They’re robots.”

“Iye say we nuke ehm,” says Captain America, chewing his now-unlit cigar. “It’s the ohnly way to be sure.”

Howard sighs dramatically. “Well, I should have trusted you last time. Not trusting you is definitely what got me kidnapped.” He rubs his eyes dramatically, taking off his glasses, which are never seen again. “I’m not going to argue this time.”

“Damn right,” Captain America says grimly. “Whaddya say? I heeeah these Nazis have a silo. You been inside?”

“I’ll show you the way back in,” Howard says, unbuttoning his shirt for no reason. It is also never seen again. “Hey Bucky, hand me that gun.”

“You... got it,” Bucky says, ineptly tossing the prop at Howard. We cut to a shot of him catching what is obviously not the same weapon.

Captain America puffs his chest heroically, a slightly-bemused yet determined set to his jaw, cigar clenched tight in his teeth. “Let’s get busy,” he says, tying a bandana around his blonde wig.

Howard, now shirtless, locks and loads.

“Till the end of the line!” Bucky says. He has obviously just remembered his cue.

 

*

 

“We gotta blow it! Blow it allll!” Captain America yells at Bucky and Howard, squinting into the smoke as the Nazis lie in a pile at his feet, riddled with indiscriminate bullet holes. “It’s the ohnly way to be shoo-ah!”

“Steve!” Bucky casts around for the next word. “No!”

“He’s right!” Howard yells, over the blare of inexplicable sirens.

“Noooo!” Bucky continues to yell as Howard and Captain America exchange a meaningful look.

“You take care’a mah gurl, Howahd!” Captain America yells, before pelting back into the darkness of the bunker.

Howard and Bucky listen to the sound of machine gun fire for a second, before Howard drags Bucky away. “He did it for America!” Howard yells, “and for us!”

“His sacrifice... was so meaningful,” Bucky says, in a heroic attempt at conveying emotion. “I’ll never for...get him.”

They gun down the last robot dinosaur as they escape their doom.

 

**

 

“Tony,” Steve says. “I think you like this movie too much.”

 

***

 


1998: Enfants de la patrie (Children of the Fatherland)

“Not much like the Paris I’ve seen in films,” Bucky says, in perfect French, albeit with a strong New Jersey accent.

The woman he’s talking to makes a face and counts out cartridges for his rifle.

Outside, the noise of shouting. Inside, the noise of lots of people talking over each other, in rapid French.

Bucky looks over at Steve, who’s talking to the woman in charge of their first mission in Paris. Steve’s got a helmet under his arm, and one of the arms of his uniform is scratched with dirt and blood. He looks tired, but he stands straight. He feels Bucky’s gaze, and looks over. Bucky quickly looks away.

The scene fades to black on a shot of Bucky unjamming another man’s gun.

 

*

 

Sight & Sound cover article, April 2008: “Ten Years Later: A Reappraisal,” by Charlotte Geater

 

So controversial upon its first release that it couldn’t find a US distributor, Enfants de la patrie has come to be seen as a groundbreaking piece of historical filmmaking, especially notable for its unapologetic representation of queer desire between two men who happen to be soldiers during wartimer. It’s the kind of radical filmmaking that you still wouldn’t find in the US today – at least, not with any amount of studio money behind it.

That it managed to find a studio in France willing to stump up a fairly major amount of cash means that in its action sequences, there’s an authenticity and brutal refusal to look away that many films made away from Hollywood simply can’t afford. Savings were made with the cast – almost entirely non-professionals, most of whom never acted in anything on this scale again – and yet, of the films made about Steve Rogers and his time as Captain America, this is surely the finest. Although the accents are sometimes shaky, the acting is often astonishingly good, and the benefit of the use of actors who are not famous is that it often becomes easy to forget that you are not watching the real people – that this is not, in fact, a documentary.

It’s strange that it took a French director and a mostly-French cast and crew (the actors playing Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes – Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan – were both Americans who learned enough French for the film to pass, and both of whom went back to the stage after this film found no release in their home country) to tell this story, but then again – it is also very unsurprising. The unglamorous missions undertaken by the characters in this film – many of which seem very dubious, ethically, to modern civilian audiences – are apparently depicted accurately enough that it was rumoured that they launched an internal inquiry in one of the US intelligence services, until it emerged that much of the script was based on unpublished memoirs from a group of members of la Résistance.

While Steve Rogers and his comrades are shown to be good men in increasingly difficult situations, they are not super-heroes in the way that they are usually represented on film (see: 1982’s Captain America and the Red Skull for comparison, although it’s one of the worst-reviewed films of all time for good reason). They take on covert missions, at times they use methods that border on torture, and they are often desperately unhappy. They fight side-by-side with women (Peggy Carter, a member of the English Intelligence services, plays a prominent role in the command – but there are women amongst the resistance fighters, too), and their unit of elite soldiers is desegregated, ahead of the rest of the US army. This is not a film that is afraid to shy away from history. Nor is it not afraid to speak the real truth that power would rather suppress. Steve Rogers is not a lone, macho hero – he is the opposite. He is a true comrade.

The emotional climax of the film comes after Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers’s best friend, sometime-lover, and brother in arms, has been thrown from a train into a ravine far below. Rogers sits in a bombed-out pub somewhere in London, and drinks it dry, even though he cannot, of course, get drunk. It is then that he announces that he will destroy the entire wing of the German command that he and his unit were fighting when Bucky died – it is only then. His eyes are wet. He is not fighting out of righteousness, but out of anger, love, vengeance, helplessness. Of course, I was being disingenuous when I suggested that the reason that the film never saw an American release was down to its script containing unsavoury scenes of covert warfare – this was always the real problem. American audiences, or so the distribution companies think, would be much more willing to watch a film in which Captain America behaves less than righteously in war than a film in which he is shown to be romantically involved with another man.

There is, yes, a sex scene between the two men, and after Bucky falls to his death we see a flashback to them, much younger, at home in Brooklyn, kissing while they patch each other up after a fight from which Bucky only just managed to rescue Steve. What is radical is that this film, made in 1998, treats this as it treats everything. There is no judgement, just understanding, and tenderness. It allows Steve Rogers, and all of the men and women around him, to be human. The characters love, they fuck, they smoke, they cry, and they fight dirty. By all reliable accounts, this is accurate. Anybody who’s read any of the memoirs of the men they fought with in Europe can be in no doubts as to the true nature of their relationship – and why should they be? Love is as important in war as it is anywhere – more important, maybe, as it keeps us from losing hope, from losing our humanity.

It is Bucky who comforts Steve and strokes his hair when he is distraught about the next mission they face, as he feels that he can’t bring himself to fight against a group of soldiers who have been turned into monsters without free will. This film would not be as powerful as it is without this moment. It is through these close, loving scenes that we see internal conflicts externalised. The beautiful dark lighting of these scenes – many of them taking place inside tents lit with a single lantern – contrasts wonderfully with the light and colour that characterise the action sequences, which are shot clinically, expansively, in landscapes varied and open. These images say everything about the relationship which could not be said on film, before or since. But all was said here.

It’s been ten years since Enfants de la patrie debuted on the European festival circuit, and soon had its only public showings in the US cancelled because of a string of protests against the cinemas where it was due to be shown. In the intervening years, it’s been hard to get hold of the film – there was never an official VHS, or DVD, and the bootleg copies were of an early cut that left out about ten minutes of the fighting, with very bad subtitling throughout. It’s surfaced with a big screening every few years, but this is not enough – this film is an important document, as well as a great work of art, and it needs to be readily available.

I’m pleased to announce that after some long negotiations, the BFI is now issuing this important film on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time. To celebrate, the BFI is holding a season where we will be showing all of the films that have been made about Captain America to date. There will be regular screenings of Enfants de la patrie, and we will also be hosting a gala screening with an introduction by the film’s director (Mattieu Kassovitz) and a Q&A afterwards. Do plan your visit today, and pre-order your copy of the film – it is a vital piece of the 20th century that we can’t afford to lose.

 

**

 

“This is making me very uncomfortable,” says Steve.

“Leave it on,” says Bucky, a vein throbbing in his forehead.

“Uh,” says Sam, wondering how this was the movie night he wound up attending. “I’m going to... go to the bathroom.”

No,” they both shout. He stays put.

 

***

 


2002: Into the Valley of Death

“War is hell, Bucky,” Steve said. There was a sad light in his eyes.

They were camped out in the Ardennes, waiting: they were always waiting, it seemed, in this war; even them, even the Howling Commandos: for that was war. That was the bitch of it all. The rain was falling on them – not too heavily, but not too lightly, either. It was the perfect kind of rain. Picturesque. Or it would have been, except that war was hell.

“When I came over here, all I wanted to do was do what was right,” Bucky said. “But now – now I don’t know anymore. I been out here for a long time, Steve. I seen some things even you wouldn’t believe.”

“But that’s war, Buck,” Steve said, and the sad light in his eyes had transformed into something purer, more inspirational, almost as if you could see America in them, the pure heart of America, what you always hoped America would be, even if it didn’t always live up to your expectations. “It’s hell but you push through it all. You push through it and you try to survive because you know that what you’re doing is right. That it’s for the good of everybody. The French, the Dutch, the Brits – hell, even the Germans. Even the Germans, Bucky. Even though they don’t seem to bleed when we shoot them, which I always thought was kinda funny. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. We came in here because every man deserves the right to be free, Buck. Every man. That’s what America is. That’s what this bastard took from all these people. And if we can do something to give it back to them – if we can do anything, even if it means laying down our lives – well, we’ve got to do it, don’t we, we’ve got to do it. It’s the American way.”

Bucky’s eyes welled up with tears. “Sometimes I don’t know how I got stuck with you, Rogers,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t rightly know. I think you’re gonna get yourself killed one day, with all of that. But by god, I’m gonna be right there with you. If it’s the last thing I do, Steve. If it’s the last thing I do.”

“I’m proud to have you with me, James Buchanan Barnes,” Steve said, and the light in his eyes, the light of America, and of American history recreated with love and care and extremely precise historical accuracy and the scent of future Oscars waiting somewhere down the line, was still shining.

 

*

 

They were walking. That was the second worst part of war, after the waiting. The walking. Sometimes they got to drive, in vans, but mostly they walked – even Captain America.

“Why don’t you just commission yourself a motorcycle or something?” Bucky asked, looking at Steve with the slightly bitter but also slightly aroused expression that he had practiced to perfection not so very long before on the acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers. “Not like they wouldn’t give it to you.”

“I’m no different from the rest of the men,” Steve said. “I can’t be different from them, Bucky. They won’t respect me otherwise. And we’re all in this together. The hell of it. The misery. We all have the same wet socks.”

“I’ll show you wet socks,” Bucky said.

“That’s not your line,” Steven Spielberg said.

“I have spent so much time pretending to be a fucked-up soldier for you,” Ron Livingston said. “Fucking let me have the socks.”

“Um,” Matt Damon said.

 

*

 

“We all have the same wet socks,” Steve said.

“Yeah, but that don’t mean anything,” Bucky said. “We all know you’re different. Everybody knows you’re different.”

“Do you?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know anymore,” Bucky said. “Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I’m not sure.”

Steve gazed out at the fields of Europe through which they were walking (and walking, and walking), his face carefully, beautifully dirty, his helmet perched ever just so upon his head. “I never felt any different inside,” he said. “It’s just other people looking at me different now. It’s hard to explain it, Bucky. It’s hard to know what to do, or say, or how to know who’s taking you seriously because you’re you, or just because you’re wearing that outfit, those stars and stripes. But there’s a war on, Bucky. There’s a real war, and people are dying, and it’s our job to save them. It’s my job, and it’s your job, and so – yeah, I am the same as you. We’re all the same. We just have to keep fighting. We just have to keep going.”

 

*

 

“How the fuck do I keep getting myself in these situations,” Ron Livingston said to himself. “He’s fucking Jesus, I swear to fucking god. Again. Again.”

“We’re still filming,” Steven Spielberg told him.

 

**

 

“That’s supposed to be the historically accurate one,” Steve says.

“But they got everything wrong,” Bucky says, baffled.

“Yeah,” Steve says. “I never talked that much.”

Bucky gives him a look.

“I meant more about the socks,” he says. “Also, HYDRA.”

 

***

 


2011: Captain America: The First Avenger

“Captain America in the house,” Captain America announces as he strolls into the SHIELD briefing room, which is a small, dark bunker filled with computer screens and high-tech equipment, even though it’s 1944. He lowers his aviator sunglasses at the nearest woman and smirks at her. “Hi, Peggy. How’s my best girl doin’?”

Peggy Carter rolls her eyes. Her short curls bounce around her face. “Save it, Steve. I told you, I’m not interested.”

But as she leaves, her heels loudly clicking on the floor, she gives him an appreciative glance. He is a handsome man, after all. Captain America turns slightly to watch her exit the room.

“Rogers, can we please get back to to the mission?” the general drawls, and the Captain looks back to the computer screen taking up the entirety of the wall.

Mission: Stop the Red Skull, it reads.

 

*

 

Horns blare as a white Oldsmobile 98 swerves out of the way to miss Captain America, who’s taking down a Red Skull agent in the middle of the road. The White House is visible in the distance. The Captain doesn’t look up as the car hits a lamppost and air bags deploy; he’s only thinking of eliminating the threat in front of him.

Captain America punches the agent dead in the face, and he sags. Chest heaving, the Captain drops his lifeless body to the ground. He’s bleeding attractively from the corner of his lip, and his hair is mussed.

The driver’s door of the car flies open, and a young-looking dark-haired man climbs out of the car. His brow is furrowed in anger.

“Look, I don’t know who the fuck you think you are –”

“I’m Captain America,” the Captain interrupts, straightening up to his full height.

The young(ish) man’s eyes widen. “The Captain America?” he asks, voice cracking. “No way.”

“What, the uniform isn’t a dead giveaway?” The Captain gestures to his blue and white costume. “Come on.”

“What the fuck? Is that a dead body? Did you fucking kill someone?”

“Captain America,” Rogers repeats.

Suddenly, the young/old man shoves Captain America to the side, yelling, “Watch out.”

Gunfire strikes where he had just been standing. Captain America turns and throws his shield in the direction of the shooter; it hits one, and the gun bounces out his hands, but there’s another assailant behind him. Without his shield, the Captain’s a dead man.

But the younger man dives and picks up the gun. He takes out the Red Skull agent without hesitation.

“Oh my god,” the man who’s supposed to be in his late teens says. The gun clatters to the street when he drops it. “Did you see that? Did I do that?”

“That was awesome,” Captain America exclains. “High five!”

The young-looking man slaps his palm against the Captain’s. “Uh, sure.”

Captain America picks his shield up off the ground. Despite having just taken off the head of a Red Skull agent, there’s no blood on it.

“Come on, kid,” says Captain America. He hooks the shield onto his back. “You coming or what?”

“My name’s not ‘kid.’” He flicks his dark hair out of his eyes. “It’s Bucky Barnes.”

 

*

 

“Heil Hydra,” the enemy agent shouts.

“Heil this, motherfucker,” says Captain America, shooting off a rocket.

Red Skull headquarters explodes in a ball of flames.

 

*

 

Young Bucky is dying. Captain America kneels beside him.

“It was an honour serving with you, Captain,” Bucky whispers. Blood bubbles up between his lips. There’s no other visible sign that he’s been lethally injured; his very-unmilitary military jacket is ripped, and there’s a smudge of dirt on one high cheekbone. From this angle, it’s obvious that his hairline is receding.

“Thanks, man,” the Captain whispers. There are tears in his eyes, and he sniffles handsomely. “Thank you for saving my life. I’ll never forget you.”

Bucky’s eyes slip shut. Seconds later, Captain America climbs to his feet.

“Oh, Steve,” Peggy says right before she launches herself into his big, strong arms. “Poor Bucky.”

 

*

 

As Captain America’s plane crashes into the ocean, Katy Perry sings an acoustic rendition of Firework.

 

**

 

“What,” says Bucky, “the fuck.”

***

 


2014: Twinks, Justice, and the American Way

“Hey, Stark sent us a video.” Steve isn’t quite sure why he’s said that out loud, because it pretty much guarantees what will happen next. “It’s called... ‘the masterpiece’?”

“Open it,” Bucky says, crowding in over his shoulder. “He said he’d been looking for something, maybe this is it.”

Steve wishes it was easier to say no to him, sometimes. Now though, his own curiosity is definitely winning out over any trepidation he has about opening any gifts from Tony Stark. He downloads the file.

 

**

 

Enter AN ACTOR WITH A MOUSTACHE who looks NOTHING LIKE STEVE into a BADLY MOCKED-UP COMMAND TENT containing A TWINK who looks KIND OF LIKE BUCKY if he is wearing TOO MUCH LIP GLOSS and TIGHTS, and and A BLONDE VERSION OF PEGGY CARTER in a LOW CUT UNIFORM.

PORN STEVE
Man, I sure am tired. The men have fought well. I need to clean my weapon.

PORN BUCKY
That can wait, Cap. You should rest. For more battle.

[TERRIBLE EIGHTIES PORN MUSIC BEGINS TO PLAY]

PORN PEGGY
I can help you with that, Captain.

PORN STEVE
Thanks Agent Carter.

He RIPS OFF HIS SPANGLY UNIFORM revealing a VERY HAIRY CHEST and PERIOD-INACCURATE TATTOOS.

PORN STEVE
My weapon is pretty dirty from all that fighting. Those Germans are so hard for me. To deal with.

PORN BUCKY
I know something else that’s hard for you.

He RIPS OFF HIS LYCRA ‘UNIFORM.’

PORN BUCKY
I’ve been so hard for you.

PORN PEGGY
Oh Cap, whatever shall we do?

PORN STEVE
In America, everyone is equal.

PORN STEVE then SURGES FORWARD and KISSES THEM BOTH, getting A LITTLE HANDSY.

PORN STEVE
Bucky! Oh, that’s where my gun oil went.

PORN BUCKY
I think you need to unite us, Cap

PORN STEVE
For America!

PORN STEVE then THEATRICALLY BENDS PORN BUCKY over the PERFECTLY PLACED MAP TABLE.

PORN PEGGY grabs him by the LARGE BICEPS and KISSES HIM DEEPLY with PORN BUCKY BETWEEN THEM.

PORN PEGGY
Plant your flag in us, Captain America!

PORN STEVE
Bucky, I never knew! Your ass is so tight and perfect. Oh yeah.

PORN BUCKY
I’m with you Captain!

PORN PEGGY
The Nazis will never defeat our Allied Power!

SHE IS NOW MYSTERIOUSLY NAKED AND COMING AT PORN STEVE FROM BEHIND.

[MUSIC INTENSIFIES]

 

**

 

Steve recoils. The laptop doesn't survive being slammed shut, but he is willing to consider it an acceptable loss in the face of this – this completely –

“What the hell was that?” Bucky is looking at him with a slightly betrayed intensity.

Steve swallows, trying very hard not to yell. Bucky is really very close, pressing in along his side. “That was extremely – that was offensive.” Steve is outraged. “At least the French movie was – I mean – Peggy would never –

“I was never that small. You were the small one.” He pauses, squinting. “I’m angry.” Bucky looks at the (deceased) laptop as though he’s about to rip it to shreds. “I need to know who’s responsible.”

Steve grits his teeth. This is the third laptop this month he’s wrecked. Stark is a dead man.

Suddenly, they both pause.

“They can’t be – showing that – at the –” Bucky starts, looking as though he might actually pass out, and Steve dives for the phone.

 

*

 

“Well, I have good news,” he says, twenty minutes later, having lived through ten minutes of Tony Stark laughing hysterically in his ear while he tried not to snap his own cell phone in two. “They’re, uh. Definitely not showing that. At the – festival. Thing. That was just, um, Tony’s… gift to us. His words, not mine.”

Bucky looks at him.

“He says he’s going to buy me a new laptop,” Steve says weakly, looking at the wreck of the machine on the floor. “He told me that the expense was worth it.”

“I dislike that man,” Bucky says decisively. “The next time you make me talk to him I’m going to say something unpleasant about his father.”

“Please don’t,” Steve says. “Besides, you liked Howard, so quit it.”

“I don’t remember Howard,” Bucky clarifies, mulish, “but according to Maximum Retribution we were pals, yeah.”

“Dinosaurs,” Steve says faintly. “I – dinosaurs. I died fighting dinosaurs.”

“Why does anybody want to watch any of them?” Bucky says, baffled. “They were – they were so bad, Steve.”

“They were so awful,” Steve says. “Well, I mean – the one with Matt Damon was all right, I suppose, if you pretend it wasn’t about us –”

“Half of it was you monologuing about America,” Bucky says, side-eyeing him.

“Yes, well, better that than – than – well!” Steve huffs, going red at the ears. “All of that – we didn’t ever have sex, Bucky. That wasn’t what we – I don’t know why anybody would ever have thought that!”

Bucky blinks at him, once, slow. “I liked that one,” he says. “That was the only one that was good.”

“I,” Steve starts, jerked out of his (incoherent) monologuing. “What?”

“It was good,” Bucky says. “I liked it. It was artistic.”

“Um. I guess it was better than the one where I dropped a grenade down a guy’s pants,” Steve says, and swallows. “But half of it was – was those guys – was us having sex! Not that there’s anything – wrong – with that – but! Us! Doing! Sex things! ”

“Yes,” Bucky says, narrowing his eyes. “I noticed.”

Steve is lost for words.

“Otherwise it was pretty accurate,” he continues. “As far as I can tell.”

“I – yes, I suppose it was,” Steve says, remembering the war, and the muck, and the feeling of slamming his shield down against somebody’s skull and watching the life slip out of his eyes. “I didn’t really like watching it. It wasn’t – well.” He pauses. “Mostly because of the sex, though. Which we were not having. At any point. In any of those places.”

“Yeah,” Bucky says, “that would have been way more fun than what we were actually doing, wouldn’t it?”

Steve chokes on nothing.

 

***



Steve Rogers at 100: Celebrating Captain America on Film at FSLC

“Oh Captain, My Captain!: Captain America and Mysterious Beau Attend Opening of Film Society of Lincoln Center Festival”

Steve Rogers – otherwise known as Captain America – attended the opening night of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s film festival in his honor last night with a new mystery man on his arm. Looking sharp in a custom Ferragamo tux, Rogers only graced the press line briefly before becoming distracted by his date, who seemed distressed by the photographers, and ducked behind the backdrop after only a few minutes of glaring at the cameras. Rogers quickly followed, and the pair were not seen again until festival programmer Richard Peña introduced Rogers at the beginning of the screening of the 1946 movie Captain America. Rogers seemed bashful but game, while one of our sources spotted his date slouching in his seat in the front row.

Nobody has yet been able to identify the mystery man, who, at contrast to always-stylish Rogers, was looking decidedly out of place, and perhaps in need of a good wash, shave, and haircut. Still, the couple seemed to be in good spirits – when eyes could be laid on them – and one very famous partygoer who wishes to remain anonymous described them as “acting like schoolgirls in love, it’s sickening, I’m disgusted – quote me on that, please, but don’t tell them it was me who told you, I’ll never hear the end of it.” Rogers and his unnamed date were not available for comment.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the mystery man – who wore gloves the entire evening – bears a striking resemblance to Rogers’ deceased comrade James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, with whom Rogers is speculated to have had, in the parlance of the day, relations. Could this be a confirmation that the old roommates were more than just friends? Some might say that finding a twenty-first century replacement for a long-dead flame is a little creepy – but we think it’s more than a little bit romantic. Let the fanfiction writing commence.