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Dear Marvel, Please Let Your Men Hug Each Other

Chris Evans as Captain America, Sebastian Stan as Bucky in Avengers: Infinity War (image: Marvel Entertainment)

The latest Infinity War TV spot dropped over the weekend, offering new footage and dialogue, and featuring the awesome Wakandan battle chant (I got chills). It also contained a scene that many fans have been keen to see: the reunion of Steve Rogers with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, who is in the best shape we’ve seen him since Brooklyn in the 1940s.

With the help of Shuri’s brilliance and her tech, Bucky appears to be mostly his old self again, bright-eyed and snarky (and rocking some pretty fabulous hair). When we last saw him in Civil War, he was weighed down by the terrible deeds he’d been brainwashed to perform as the Winter Soldier, and he said that he didn’t trust his own mind. But it’s a restored Bucky who meets up with Steve in Wakanda, and this is what we saw:

Steve [pats Bucky’s arm briefly]: How you been, Buck?

Bucky: Not bad, for the end of the world.

It’s a great exchange, and if Infinity War can provide moments of comedy and levity like this in the height of crisis, I think that bodes well for the movie as a whole—we don’t want it to be all death and destruction. Clever one-liners amidst the gloom are going to be crucial to enjoying this film.

But in a corner of the MCU fandom, happiness at seeing these Brooklyn boys reunited against all odds felt tempered by the fact that we didn’t get to see Steve and Bucky actually hug, but the possibility exists in this scene. (A set visit description says that they hug at this moment, but it also contains different dialogue, so it’s unclear exactly how it goes in the final cut.) These two didn’t hug in Civil War, though I believe there was a shoulder-grip at one point. And while there’s a degree of contact in that push-pat thing that Steve does above, there’s a distance that felt like a chasm to many fans.

It’s important for them—for all of us—to see men allowed the kind of easy physical affection that women get to perform onscreen with their friends without a second thought.

So much hunger for a simple hug made me ask myself when a Marvel movie had last let two men hug each other onscreen. They seem to be going a bit out of their way to avoid it lately.

They started off pretty strong, with Steve and Bucky circa World War II, in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)—but that was seven years ago.

The context of this hug is that Bucky’s going off to war—that’s as good a time as ever to hug your best friend goodbye. It seems to me that a replica of this hug in Infinity War will be appropriate and a nice call-back to their roots. Steve and Bucky had a history, pre-Civil War, of being affectionate with one another in a fashion that we don’t often get to see depicted in onscreen male friendships.

The Russos seemed to understand this when they made Winter Soldier. Not only is the final fight between Cap and the Winter Soldier an intimately brutal, bare-knuckle throwdown, but the flashback scene demonstrated the level of comfort and trust they had once shared.

Civil War did give us a bit of a nod to that shoulder move, but Steve and Bucky don’t get very many moments together despite the whole movie hinging on Steve’s rebellion stemming from his refusal to abandon his friend.

No hugs. And some fans are now afraid that the Infinity War exchange above is going to be the closest Steve and Bucky get to an acknowledgment of how deep their friendship goes. What seems like a small gesture means a lot to people—and this is indicative of how rare the sight of two men hugging is in a superhero film.

In Thor: Ragnarok, an ongoing gag is that Loki is often up to no good and projecting his illusion form, which objects can pass through. At the end of the movie, after Loki has helped fight against Hela and assisted in the Asgardians’ escape (though maybe doomed them because he stole the Tesseract), he goes to visit his brother on board ship.

They have a nice exchange where Thor says that maybe Loki isn’t all bad, Loki agrees, and then Thor, thinking that this Loki is another illusion and that the real Loki is long gone, says, “If you were here, I might even give you a hug.” He throws an object at Loki, expecting it to pass through him, but Loki catches it and says, “I’m here.” Thor smiles, but the scene changes—no hug.

Would it really have been so hard to let these two have a physically affectionate moment after years of betrayal and losing both of their parents and their homeland? Needless to say, the sheer amount of fanart that has depicted the missing hug shows how much it means to fans to see this kind of affirmation—so much so that they’re going to draw and write about it themselves if the movies won’t give us the catharsis.

With so much at stake in Infinity War, this should be a movie primed for hugs and other exchanges of affection. I want to see Tony Stark embracing Rhodey Rhodes. I want to see Tony welcome Bruce Banner back to Earth with a snuggle for his science bro. I want to see Tony actually hug his mentee, Peter Parker, who is like 16 years old and is likely going to see a lot of bad things in this go-round. I want to see Steve Rogers hugging his other best friend, Sam Wilson—perhaps he thinks he’s saying goodbye forever. I want to see Steve hug Natasha and Wanda—because men can also hug their female friends without it being romantic. I want to see someone give Thor a damn hug since everyone he knows is probably dead now.

The great thing is that this cast is incredibly physically affectionate with each other in public after so many years spent working together. Marvel—and many other studios—need to let their characters catch up.

I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to see Steve and Tony bury the hatchet like this?

(images: Marvel Studios)

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