From out of left field, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Anthony Mackie has managed to stir up some unexpected controversy while discussing the relationship between his character, Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes. Since the release of the Disney+ Marvel series, some fans have "shipped" the idea of Wilson and Barnes' so-called bromance being more romantically inclined, which is a theory that Mackie does not appear to support.
"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."
It seems that, in an attempt to be diplomatic, Anthony Mackie may have just managed to insult everyone. And he uses a term that the gay community finds offensive to explain his position, which pushes the controversy further.
It's difficult to know exactly what Mackie is trying to say, though it is perhaps worth pointing out that going to the bar with your fellow male friends is still definitely something you can do without assumptions or judgement. The Marvel actor is no doubt trying to make the point that male friends can have heartfelt, sensitive relationships without it being perceived as a gay relationship, and of course that's true, but was anyone saying it wasn't?
Mackie though clearly believes that the idea of shipping (an idea which is hardly anything new) Wilson and Barnes as a gay couple is not something fans should be doing and perceives this kind of interpretation as an exploitation. Notably, Mackie is also quick to state that being gay is "pure and beautiful". The actor's comments read a lot like the parody song Equal Rights by The Lonely Island...
Mackie went on to discuss the "masculine" elements of being a Marvel superhero, something which he had hoped to break down with the more sensitive elements of the friendship between The Falcon and the Winter Solider.
"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."
Putting aside the idea that flying around in a bird costume is quote, unquote "masculine", Mackie's comments have since sparked all manner of reactions on social media. Especially during Pride Month.
Ultimately, why does it matter what some fans want to interpret about the relationship between the two title characters? None of that changes what others believe about the friendship, including what Mackie seemingly thinks.
When responding to something similar back in 2016, Star Wars star Mark Hamill said of Luke Skywalker being gay; "...fans are writing and ask all these questions, 'I'm bullied in school... I'm afraid to come out'. They say to me, 'Could Luke be gay?' I'd say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer... If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves." Art (and yes, that includes Marvel movies) is surely whatever the viewer wants it to be.
Mackie made these comments in an interview with Variety.