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. :)

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
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.