Winter Soldier Bucky

How about an unpopular fannish opinion for the MCU

Still feeling unusually chatty, so here, have an opinion. (Obvious disclaimer applies: this is just me, and there is nothing wrong with anyone feeling different about it. There are many people who love it for reasons equally valid to why I don't!)

It's a trope that appears in quite a bit of post-Winter Soldier fic ...

Namely, Bucky going on a Hydra-slaughtering, blowing-up-buildings, torturing-people-for-information round-the-world rampage.

I can see why people write it. Heck, if anyone is entitled to a bit of revenge at this point, it's him. I guess that where it breaks down for me, though, is ... lemme see if I can articulate this ...

The root of the problem for me is two things:

a) I feel like Bucky's early weeks and months after breaking Hydra's control are going to be very formative in the kind of person that post-WS Bucky becomes, and

b) I don't think that Bucky immediately after CA:TWS has enough emotional nuance and general in-depth comprehension of people's motivations to be able to distinguish between Hydra and people who merely happen to be in the vicinity of Hydra ... or even to understand (yet) why it matters.

So basically I guess that, while it's not that I find it impossible to imagine him doing this (it's definitely an in-character possibility, anyway), it seems like the most depressing of all possible outcomes to me. I can't really imagine this happening without a lot of collateral damage, and the idea of Bucky starting to come back to himself and realize that he's killed a bunch of people, innocent and otherwise, after being let off Hydra's leash is unspeakably awful. I already think he's going to have to struggle with believing himself a monster for the things he did on Hydra's orders, and the one mental "out" that he has, the one thing that could possibly stop him from descending into an unstoppable downward spiral of self-loathing, is that he didn't have any choice about it; he was literally forced into it. But if you take that and add the additional wrinkle that, once he did have a choice, what he chose to do was go ahead and kill a bunch of people anyway ...

... I just can't see this ending well AT ALL, I guess is what I'm saying. Either he never really comes back to himself because blood and killing is all he's ever known and still all he knows, or he does start to come back from the edge and realize that Other People Are People Too and then he's basically going to eat his own gun, or at the very least run from Steve FOREVER out of guilt and shame.

Not to mention that if Bucky does go on a multi-country killing spree, I really can't see Steve being given that much time to deal with it before someone else (Nick Fury most likely, maybe one of the other Avengers) is going to step in and take care of the problem for him.

I suppose the way that most people deal with it in fic is to have Bucky only kill bad people, but that seems too pat, too convenient .... and not that plausible. I guess where that breaks down for me (besides the fact that I still don't think it's healthy to have mass murder be his first formative experiences as a starting-to-be-independent human being) is that I really don't think he's capable of making those judgment calls accurately yet. (I mean, to the extent that anyone ever can; everyone struggles with separating the bad guys from the good guys, even Steve.) But ... I mean, even if you make the assumption that he's capable of making the call on a large-grained macroscopic level (Hydra scientists are evil --> My mission is to kill Hydra scientists only -- rather than, say, bombing an entire building just to get the one Hydra scientist inside) how well is he going to deal with things like, say, distinguishing between Hydra scientists who insist they aren't Hydra scientists, and regular people who insist they aren't Hydra scientists? Or relatives of Hydra scientists who happen to be living with them? Or Hydra janitors? Or people who have the misfortune of occupying the business above the secret Hydra base, who may or may not be aware of it ...?

On some level I guess this is a preferred-characterization thing, since I also react fairly negatively to meta of the "Bucky was always the Winter Soldier" variety, because no .... I mean, yes, he definitely always had darkness and the capacity to deal violence inside him, but I think it's pretty clear in TFA that he wouldn't have chosen that life if he hadn't been first of all drafted, and second of all feeling the moral imperative to protect Steve -- he goes to war out of a combination of necessity and personal responsibility, not because it's something that he likes or wants to do. And Bucky choosing a revenge quest post-TWS feels uncomfortably far across the "choosing to do it" line. .... in part because it's revenge on his own behalf, not to protect others or even in revenge for hurting someone else. (I mean, you could make the argument that what Steve does at the end of TFA is exactly this, a Hydra killing spree in revenge for Bucky's death, but somehow it feels different to me that Steve isn't doing it on his own behalf. Maybe that's just a hair-splitting distinction at heart, though ...)

But I feel like it's very important for Bucky, in the immediate post-TWS period, to be able to make a complete break with his past -- to be able to say "This is what you made me, but this is not all I am; I'm choosing something different". And later, when he's in a slightly healthier headspace and has a stronger sense of self, he can engage again with his own capacity to deal violence. But it really doesn't feel like the right option to me now. It feels to me that this is a road, once he starts down it, he's not going to be able to come back from.

I am open to other opinions, however! Lay it on me if you have counter-arguments for the above. Or if you just want to explain why the trope works for you. :)


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While the trope itself works for me in general, I'm with you that in this particular case it doesn't. For me it's because...hell, there's enough angst in canon why would you need to add to that? I mean I'm all about the h/c, angst etc, but actual canon has such a deep level of "omg this is HORRIBLE" for me that I'm quite ready to move on to the "c" part of h/c! It's already difficult enough to believe that Bucky can recover from what was done to him. The way the movie ends there's just this breath of hope that it might be possible. To push him right away into an even more awful situation breaks my suspension disbelief as far as human capacity to recover. Yes, an amazing author will push him even further and bring him back, but most of the time it's going to be difficult to believe.

This is kind of how I felt about some of the fic in Highlander universe. Given their ability to heal the authors could choose to do unspeakable things to the characters sort of without repercussions but.. at some point I hit my own personal limit for how much I think a human can recover from and still be "the same character I fell in love with". And since I don't want to read about someone else, that meant that I didn't want the characters to be changed by the events beyond all recognition...and that meant that I needed to be able to believe that this is recoverable. And similarly with this movie, what Bucky has been through is just ...out there in terms of bad. So I definitely feel the need to do a lot of recovery first before we even start talking about acting on revenge or any other angst-causing moves on his part.
Ha, yeah -- I think that basically nails it for me. Both aspects of it, actually: canon is awful enough that I just want to get past the awful and get to the recovery part, and it's also hard to believe you could pile on EVEN MORE awful and still have anything of Bucky left to recover. (This actually makes it kind of difficult writing any sort of h/c in the fandom that doesn't involve dealing with problems he's already got; doing anything else to him at this point just seems unreasonably malicious.)

I am pretty sure I've never fanned on a character whose life is such an unmitigated pile of absolute suck as Bucky's. In fact, it's difficult to imagine how anything worse is even POSSIBLE.

Highlander .... did tend to stretch one's creativity in terms of thinking of ways to push the characters' limits while still working within the canonical "can't be killed and heal almost instantly" boundaries. I can totally see what you mean and I think I remember some fic that had that effect on me, too, or at least took the characters to darker places than I was personally willing to go.

... and I think that's an aspect of it for me with post-WS fic, too, because I don't really want to go dark places with these characters. They've already been through so much. I don't want to watch them be drenched in any more blood; I want the blood-drenching to stop for a while so they can heal! So, on that level, it's not a problem with the actual fic tropes or plausibility thereof -- it's just a personal preference.

And yeah, like you said and for me too, there are situations in which this could totally work for me. It just doesn't really in this case.
Like you, I've gone pretty damn far as far as dark places are concerned with Bucky already in canon.

I can imagine some darkfic where Bucky is taken even further, which would be beautiful but I suspect we aren't talking about that scenario here :) And I'm not a huge fan of darkfic anyway.


Edited at 2014-06-23 05:23 pm (UTC)
No disagreement from me! I find those fics kind of disappointing. And yet I read them, sometimes mentally revising as I go: "Well, that's now how I would do that." For me, the most disappointing ones are ones where I think the story is going to be about Bucky's recovery, but recovery is partly or completely through killing the people who did this to him, or HYDRA people.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I really prefer my heroes to use killing as a very last resort. CA:TWS was a bit too bloody for me; I enjoyed much of it (loved parts, obviously), but an awful lot of people died, many at the hands of the heroes (or of our abused hero-who-needs-to-be-freed-from-mind-control). One of the things I like about Captain America is that his weapon is the shield: it can be used to kill, yes, but its main function is defensive. We reach a point in the movie where casualties really can't be minimized because either everybody on the helicarriers dies or millions of innocents die, but that doesn't mean we then have to hunt down and kill the people who have survived after that's over.

Your stories are really my favorite post TWS stories partly (largely?) because you're taking Bucky where I think he needs to go if he's ever to come out of just being the Winter Soldier. I completely agree that he needs to be able to do something that's not violence in order to come back from where he's been and figure out who he is now. Otherwise, he's just a weapon—maybe in the hands of the good guys, but still just a weapon.

Part of this comes out a larger personal stand: I'm against the death penalty. I'm largely anti-war. Why am I a fan of so many militaristic fictions?
"Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I really prefer my heroes to use killing as a very last resort."

It's a sad day that this isn't an obvious truth... it really bugs me when supposedly good guys torture or kill people without there being any moral or emotional implications. Like, who made you the judge, jury and executioner?
Awwww, thank you! :)

Yeah, I do read some fics like that (especially if it's a relatively minor part of the plot in a fic I'm otherwise enjoying) -- it's not instant backbutton material for me, although it tends to lose me if it's just a wallow in death and destruction. But yeah, I think it's partly my own headcanon thoughts on Bucky's recovery, and partly just that I don't want my heroes to be antihero types; it's the optimism and general good-people-trying-to-do-good vibe of the MCU that appeals to me most about it, and fic that has them going to extremely dark places doesn't really appeal to me. It's possible that my aversion to that kind of fic is simply a matter of personal taste. I really think Bucky needs something more life-affirming than a death spree if he's going to move on to becoming a fully realized person, though.
Yeaaaaah, those fic wouldn't be my cup of tea, either. Both because I don't care for my heroes to kill (it's something I struggle with with MCU anyway) and because, yeah, that sounds like the last thing Bucky needs...

It sounds like this is one of those fandoms that clearly defines the two different types of h/c fans - the whumpers who like the hurt and torture, watching a character be broken (or watching a character survive); and those who are more interested in the comfort/saving/recovery process. For me CATWS fandom's main appeal (were I reading for it) would be that the torture has already happened, so instead the fic can focus entirely on the healing (with the help of his friends!), which tends to be much more what I like to read. But I can see why whump-fans might be more into exploring Bucky's torture in depth and how he gets over it himself, including revenge...
I think that makes a lot of sense -- the divide between fans of the "comfort" part (which is me all over the place) and those who want the "hurt". And yeah, I prefer my heroes on the less morally gray end of things (well, usually; there are always exceptions and I should definitely never say never, but in general ...)
Preaching to the choir on this one, in my case at least.
I think that to put Bucky so far beyond redemption is to miss the point of his character on a massive scale. I cannot bear to read stories that make him into a mindless killer bent on
ly on destruction or revenge.
For me he will always be a character that chaonvinced he does not deserve it.ses his own redemption even while he seems c
Yes. Bucky's struggle for redemption -- his guilt and self-doubt and desire to do the right thing -- is such a fundamental part of who he is (and one of the main points it seems like a lot of the people writing him at Marvel recently seem to be missing ...). I guess that, even as damaged as he is in the MCU, I want to believe that when you scrape away all his top layers and get down to the fundamental core of him, what you get is not a hardened killer but instead the basic humanity that Hydra couldn't stamp out.
when you scrape away all his top layers and get down to the fundamental core of him, what you get is not a hardened killer but instead the basic humanity that Hydra couldn't stamp out.
I think this is very clearly evidenced by his reactions to Steve in the third act. There was still that basic kernel of who he was and when he said "i remember him" that was as good as solid proof of the fact, IMO.