I’m not even going to pretend this was a semi-original idea. I’m just going to own the fact that I read Clementine Fraser’s post, called Why I Fell For Captain America, and I got very excited when, at the end, she asked who our favourite hero is. I responded with a comment that was probably longer than is socially acceptable, and it still wasn’t enough. So here I am.
Hi, my name is Ashley, and I have an unhealthy obsession with Bucky Barnes.
My Pinterest board is flooded, I mean, FLOODED with fan art, stills from the “Bucky scenes,” interviews, fun facts from the comics, screen shots of tumblr posts where people have mirco-analyzed the crap out of Sebastian Stan’s facial expressions in the movies. I have a Bucky Pop-Figure, wallet, shirt, notebook, and the collection grows each day I feel like I can neglect the costs incurred with the responsibilities of being an adult, and buy those things which remind me of my hero instead.
But here’s the thing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is littered with ‘cool characters,’ right? They can fly, they can fight, they can move things with their mind, they can stop time, they can swing from the rooftops, they can phase through walls, they can summon lightning from the skies (but can any of them pull some passing guy off his motorcycle, turn it, take it, and take off, all without missing a beat? Just Bucky? Yeah, that’s what I thought).
Though Bucky is by far the coolest–with his metal arm, and the six thousand different weapons he can wield with deadly precision–that’s not the reason he’s my hero.
Arguably, Bucky has one of the most traumatic backstories. Don’t fight me on this, okay, I said ‘arguably’ and I said ‘one of.’ We can all agree he’s been through Hell and back again. He lost everything when he fell from that train in 1944. He lost his family, he lost his best friend, he lost any semblance of normal, he lost control, he lost himself. He became a weapon, and an object.
And yet, somehow, he’s managed to find his way back. We know he didn’t do it on his own, one Mr. Steve Rogers had a lot to do with that, as did the scientists in Wakanda, but let’s not ignore the fact that Bucky had to crawl through years of indoctrination and mind-control to find himself again. How much easier would it have been to forget? To let the memory-wipe take him back to the place where he could watch, but not control his own actions? Where he could submit his will and his resolve, and give up?
But he didn’t.
That’s the thing I love about Bucky. Just like Steve, he could “do this all day,” fighting to stay on his feet, fighting to keep the barest scrap of himself, even if it means struggling with the realization of what he’s done. Because, let’s be honest, being the Winter Soldier gives Bucky an out, whether he’d take it or not. The Winter Soldier’s loyalty is to Hydra, and there, he’s simply following orders. Bucky’s loyalty isn’t, and he can look back on all those orders he’s followed with shame and regret.
You see, saving himself comes at a cost. Being himself, comes at a cost. It comes with the cost of owning up to a checkered past, splashed with red, and dripping with guilt.
This is the thing, this is the kicker, this is what really gets me. Bucky would rather be himself than be absolved of responsibility for the things he’s done wrong. He’d rather do the hard thing, if it’s the right thing, than allow himself to be used.
It no secret that in Civil War, Bucky is a mess. He’s trying to piece his life together in a world he doesn’t understand, from a past he can’t quite access. He struggles with his fragile psyche, he struggles with his own helplessness to do what he knows is right, he struggles to feel like he’s worth the time and attention his friend puts into him. Hm. Relatable.
Despite all that, he doesn’t give up. It’s not that he wants to keep going, it’s not that he thinks he’s strong enough to keep going, it’s that he has no other choice. And how many times do we grind through the difficult things in life because we have no other choice? If Bucky can do it, with years of suffering, pain, and torment behind him–with literal voices of dissension that can send him on the wrong path–can’t we?
You see, this is what makes Bucky so admirable. Sure, he fights the bad guys (erm, well…mostly we’ve seen him fight the good guys), but he also fights himself. He fights the things he doesn’t like about himself, all the evil inside of himself, and slowly but surely, he wins. One memory at a time–in all their glory and shame–he reigns it back in.
And that’s what a hero does.