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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was one of the most heavily-anticipated Marvel/Disney projects of 2021.

Focusing on the titular characters, the series wasn’t just about the aftermath of the Blip, but the personal struggles between its titular characters. Some fans, however, wanted more in their relationship. After many people shipped Bucky and Sam, Anthony Mackie felt that they were crossing lines that didn’t need crossing. 

Friendship in ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie | Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images

ScreenRant notes how Sam and Bucky represent two different eras of Steve Rogers’s life. With Rogers out of the picture on-screen, Bucky and Sam were forced to grapple not only with an America without its Captain but their own lives without a friend. Yes, Rogers still exists in the MCU, but he’s now an older man who cannot bear the burden he has held since World War II. 

Initially, Sam and Bucky appear to be headed down separate paths. Despite receiving the iconic shield from Rogers himself, Sam donates it to the Smithsonian and turns down his new job as Captain America. On the other side of things, Bucky is still grappling with the crimes he committed while being brainwashed as The Winter Soldier. 

As two secondary Avengers who miss the man behind their success, they grow closer. Just how close, however, is up to interpretation. As the real world implodes around them and they learn about their importance to the overall world, a new bond grows between Sam and Bucky.

Shipping ‘The Falcon’ with ‘The Winter Soldier

A page on Urban Dictionary explains that shipping is nothing new. Chances are if two people have shared a space, held a similar job, or merely exist on the same plane of existence. A fan has probably shipped them with someone else. People have been shipping their favorite fictional characters for longer than the term has been around. From the classic Moonlighting debacle to strange fan fiction featuring cartoon characters, celebrities, book characters, and film heroes, Shipping is part of fandom offline and off of it. 

With Sam and Bucky, Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s on-screen chemistry automatically made them targets. The two approaches to flawed but ultimately heroic figures who struggled to connect to the outside world made them a ship that was waiting to sail. From Reddit to Twitter and beyond, people shipped Sam and Bucky enough intensity that the actors started chiming in. 

When Mackie responded, however, some wondered if he was taking it a little bit too seriously. 

Anthony Mackie sinks the ship


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Mackie doesn’t see Bucky and Sam as romantic lovers. Instead, he sees them as two men whose love, while romantic, is predicated on their masculine bond as soldiers.

“Sam and Steve had a relationship where they admired, appreciated, and loved each other,” Mackie told Variety. “Bucky and Sam have a relationship where they learn how to accept, appreciate and love each other. You’d call it a bromance, but it’s literally just two guys who have each other’s backs.”

This alone wasn’t cause for controversy, but as the Hurt Locker actor went on, his answer left some confused. 

“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,” he said. 

Mackie is entitled to his opinion, and until the series shows him in a romantic partnership, anything is free game. However, many saw Mackie’s response as a thinly veiled attempt to separate himself from an LGBTQ-friendly storyline. Yes, he offered his support and didn’t bad-mouth the community. However, by dismissing any possibility of romantic love, he’s defaulting to societal norms between straight love and that between the LGBTQ community.