ok i promised myself up and down i wouldn’t make posts like this anymore for my own mental health but i’ve been seeing a lot of, uh, takes in regards to the potential of sarah and bucky dating and a lot of confusion to why these takes are racist, insulting and hurtful, especially to black people. and for me? well, i won't lie, it's personal.
what non-black people need to understand is that positive portrayals of interracial romantic relationships between dark-skinned black women (yes, dark skinned) and non-black men are extremely uncommon in media. for example, can you think about any recent fictional portrayals of relationships of this kind? maybe rick and michonne from the walking dead? or abbie and ichabod from sleepy hollow? great, because those are the only two that i can think of off the top of my head.
okay, now how many of those relationships ended happily?
as a next point, why do i highlight ‘dark-skinned’? because of colorism. you’ve probably seen that word thrown around a lot more in the past year. colorism is the discrimination within ethnic groups between those with lighter colored skin (and more eurocentric features and hair texture, i’m folding in featurism and texturism for ease) and those with darker skin.
the way this plays out in visual media is that it’s much more common to see lighter skinned black women in roles than darker skinned black women. when i was growing up, this was evident in both white-produced AND black-produced media. that’s so raven. sister sister. my wife and kids. the proud family, even. and to make it worse, it wasn’t uncommon for dark skinned black women in shows like these to be portrayed as unattractive, uncultured, or straight up bullies.
this isn’t me saying that we shouldn’t see light skinned or biracial black women in media. i want to emphasize that their life experiences and the pressures they have are different from mine. but i know that, because of colorism, i grew up thinking that the absence of Eurocentric features and a non Eurocentric body meant i was not beautiful and not worthy to be seen. and these truths can coexist. this is not an uncommon wound of colorism.
i say all this to say that for bucky barnes, a white man, to flirt with sarah wilson, a dark skinned black woman, is not the same as ‘just another het ship’. it is positive representation in its own right.
now, i’ve been in fandom for years. i’ve encountered this before. and i’ve encountered this enough to know that truthfully, these kind of ships make people truly uncomfortable and sometimes these people do a bad job of hiding it. what reason, i can’t say. if you ask me, i suspect part of the discomfort comes non-black people realizing they can’t project onto the black person in the ship in the same way they’re used to. i could be wrong. but i’ve been around enough to see a lot of pretzeling and back bending to discredit these sorts of relationships that don’t seem to come up for similar pairings if that same black woman was now white. and i’m seeing it again here, so i wanted to break down the most common takes i’ve either seen or i suspect i’ll see soon and break them down to explain why exactly you’ve been getting irritated replies and why they’re hurtful.
“bucky’s flirting with sarah to make sam jealous.” without thinking about it, this is actually a funny trope. sibling rivalry and all that. and you’re right, bucky doesn’t have to be attracted to sarah, and maybe you ship sambucky instead. but what if he can still find her attractive? this take subtly discredits the idea that bucky could find sarah attractive in her own right - there has to be some ulterior motive in order to explain it, yeah?
“bucky repeated sarah’s name like that because sarah was steve’s mom’s name.” we do know bucky knows steve’s mom’s name! but again, this feels like a lot of reaching to again, rework bucky’s potential attraction to sarah in a different context so it’s not actually genuine. in this case, he doesn’t like her, she just makes him think of his dead best friend’s mom, right?
“sarah’s so strong and badass, she doesn’t need a man! she deserves better.” okay. what does ‘deserving better’ actually mean? why can’t a potentially fulfilling relationship for sarah, a hardworking widow with two children, be deserving better? this also plays into the Strong Black Woman myth, in which black women are just So Strong and Self Sufficient and Powerful they don’t need anything! not even social aid! or protection! or love! or mental health support! let me be clear, this trope is not fun for us, it’s not a positive, it’s a burden that allows society to justify not protecting black women.
“this seems kind of forced/crowbarred in to me.” maybe, but also, in the episode, they really just said 'hi' to one another. now if sam had caught them making out on the boat two seconds after they met, that would have raised my eyebrows, but they just said 'hi'. some people are interpreting that as flirtatious - i'm one of them. but again, using words like 'crowbar' and 'force' or 'shove' make it seem like bucky's attraction to sarah is irrational.
now, here’s what i’m not saying. i’m not threatening you to ship bucky and sarah Or Else. you don't have to. i do. i think it’s fun! but that’s my choice. you don’t have to make that choice. you could be shipping someone else with either sarah or bucky and you don't want something to get in the way of that, i get it. i'm also not saying that sarah needs bucky's validation to be considered beautiful, far from it. what i’m saying is it’s worth it to evaluate the ways that implicit racism is affecting and influencing your responses to interracial relationships with black people, and especially black women in the media. because even if you might not see it, there are those of us who can. why can't the prospect of a white man flirting with a dark skinned black women be taken at face value? maybe sit with that.
sources for further reading
the roots of colorism, or skin tone discrimination
the walking dead's new power couple: 'richonne' and fandom racism
fanlore breakdown of 'what shipping richonne taught me about racism'
black women and the thin line between strong and angry
post on black womanhood and feminism
what is featurism?
black hair and mental health: a tale of texturism
fandom and the intersection of feminism and race
"weak black women" by robin thede (for giggles)
the take's 'the strong black woman, explained' (yet to watch but the take hasn't failed me yet)
"Sambucky would be great representation because they'd not only be in a gay relationship but also in an interracial relationship" and "Sarah Wilson is good representation so far and would hopefully continue to be if she starts to date Bucky which would also lead to an interracial relationship" are two statements that can and should coexist.
Excuse me?? TFATWS writers broke an entire Bucky/Sarah love story!?! 👀👀 WHOLE DAMN LOVE STORY!! Sir, we're going to need you to show the whole Bucky/Sarah story in the next Cap movie.
For me, episode 6 always felt like some time had past since the events in NY. Originally the series was 8 episodes, so I believe the 2 episodes would have shown Bucky going to Louisiana in-between working thru his book while Sam was away doing Cap things, and Bucky & Sarah's relationship developed. It would explain why Bucky and the boys are closer and so playful with each other. This is just my take on how it may have played out. But, it just makes you wonder what is in the BuckySarah cut footage. 👀
*This is just the section where he talks about Bucky/Sarah. The full interview with Malcom Spellman about writing TFATWS series can be seen on the Writers Guild Foundation youtube channel.
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes taking the boys to the barber shop for the first time while sarah's doing deliveries
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes falling asleep on the couch and aj commissioning him at 2:37 in the morning him to 'go all winter soldier' on the monster hiding in his dresser drawer
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes spending the last few minutes before his and sam's flight from thailand to get the boys candy, as promised
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes nagging the boys to wear their sunscreen because black people get skin cancer too, you hear me-
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes carrying cass, who's about as tall as him at 15, off to bed after he falls asleep doing his homework
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes swallowing back tears the first time aj cries my stepdad's here! when he picks him up from school
james buchanan "i don't know how to do this" barnes folding the boys in his arms after coming home from a particularly hard mission, breathing in the scent of their cocoa butter lotion and pomade and axe body spray, and pressing a kiss to each of their foreheads
Concept - season 2 has Sarah and Bucky in an established relationship. He goes with Sam on an easy mission and the villain is prattling on and Bucky interrupts his speech with, “Oh please. My ten year old had better world domination plans then you do.”
Wait, y’all were questioning if Bucky was actually flirting with Sarah when after she literally told him her name he repeated it to himself like that was the most beautiful thing he’s ever heard? Yea y’all are delusional 😔