It’s not possible to analyze the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Captain America and not bring up the names of Peggy Carter and Bucky Barnes. Both of these characters were constant in Steve Rogers’ life, even when they weren’t physically present. He most definitely loved both Peggy and Bucky, with the latter considered to be in a romantic sense as well for many fans.
While Peggy was his actual love interest, Steve’s love for Bucky was such that they can be considered each other’s true loves, even if it’s seen in a platonic context. Then again, Steve and Peggy’s relationship can’t be understated, meaning there are valid reasons to consider both characters under this notion.
Updated on August 4th, 2022 by Colin McCormick: The release of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier furthered the story of Bucky Barnes in the MCU, and Peggy Carter found herself in an even more elevated role herself in the animated What If…? series, and then again in live-action in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Even without Steve Rogers, these characters have proven themselves to still be hugely compelling, but it seems that fans will always be reminded of the original Captain America when thinking about either in the MCU.
They Were Still There For Each Other After Time Tore Them Apart
Despite the eventual happy ending, the romance between Steve and Peggy was quite tragic at times. When Steve sacrificed himself to take down the Hydra plane, Peggy thought she lost him. But it is shown that she never forgot him, keeping him in her mind for all those years.
While Steve survived the plane crash, when he awoke he discovered that time had stolen his chance at a happy life with Peggy. Yet he also keeps a torch burning for her, visiting her as she dies of old age and never letting go of the idea that they could have been together.
She Admired Him Before He Was A Super Soldier
It is clear that Peggy is impressed with the physical transformation Steve goes through when he becomes a super soldier. However, it is also clear that her admiration for him started back when he was just a skinny young man with a good heart.
Bucky obviously knew Steve long before he was Captain America as well, but Peggy perhaps sees Steve in ways that not even Bucky does. She recognizes his bravery and his noble spirit that would make for a good hero even without the muscles. This is something that is explored effectively in the What If? series when Peggy becomes Captain America yet still loves Steve.
She Was His Vision Of A Perfect Life
At least in the eyes of Steve Rogers, partially due to expectations of their era, having a family and life with Peggy is what he wanted. In fact, whenever the idea of a happy life came up, Steve’s thoughts went straight to Peggy, no matter when or where.
This was shown in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Steve was under Scarlet Witch’s influence and saw himself returning from the war to Peggy. At the end of the film, he told Tony that the idea of having a family went away when he fell into the ice and was separated from Peggy. Of course, he did realize this vision in Avengers: Endgame by returning to Peggy.
He Gave Up His Life In The Future For Her
While there are some aspects of their relationship that don’t make sense due to Steve’s knowledge of the future, the two were ultimately able to have a happy ending. This was possible when Steve decided to give up his life in the future and remain in the past.
By this point, he was the leader of the Avengers, got his friends back from the Snap, and regained favor from the public. However, Steve chose to bid goodbye to Bucky in order to return to Peggy as being with her was worth all of that to him.
She Was On His Mind When He Thought He Was About To Die
At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve believed his time had come as he decided to crash the plane and sacrifice himself. He placed a picture of Peggy nearby for her to be the last thing he saw while communicating with her on the radio.
What he thought was his last conversation involved contemplating what a dance with Peggy would be like, as he wanted to have the image of them being together as his final thought. Moreover, Peggy was also his first thought when he woke up in the future.
He Thought Of Her Even After Her Death
What’s interesting to realize is that Peggy was largely a memory for Steve in the MCU, as their only full storyline played out in Captain America: The First Avenger. For the most part, Steve kept thinking about her as the person he wanted to be with the most.
While Bucky’s absence did cross his mind, it didn’t dominate it the way Peggy’s did. Even if Avengers: Endgame showed that past Steve could be stopped by the mention of Bucky, Peggy remained on his mind for years after she had passed away.
He Ended Up Spending Most Of His Life With Her
Some fans of Agent Carter feel Peggy was better suited to Daniel Sousa than Steve. Regardless, the Steve Rogers of the MCU actually spent almost his whole life with Peggy. Though it is not canon in the Captain America comics, it is clear Steve and Peggy were meant to be.
After having been in the future for eleven years, he traveled back to the past to be with Peggy — which lasted for several decades. In effect, Steve was with Peggy for so long that his time with Bucky pales in comparison, with Steve claiming this time was “beautiful” when he encountered Sam as an old man.
They Both Know What It Is Like To Be A Man Out Of Time
While Steve has many good friends with who he has been through a lot together with, like saving the world, he still is a bit of an outsider. As someone who was from the 1940s and suddenly woke up in the 21st century, he has always felt displaced.
The only other character who understands what he has gone through is Bucky. Both of Bucky and Steve men of the 1940s are living in a time where they do not belong. Whenever they are together, they seem more at ease as they finally have someone who connects them to the life they knew before.
Their History Together Saved Bucky
Though there are many tragic backstories in the MCU, Bucky may have the most painful of them all. He is haunted by his time as the Winter Soldier and is controlled by Hydra for much of his life. it is likely he would have remained that way were it not for his friendship with Steve.
As Steve and Bucky face off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky is prepared to fulfill his mission of killing Steve. But it is Steve’s determination of reminding Bucky who he is and the history they share together than allows him to break free of the brainwashing.
He Went To Any Lengths To Save Him
The detailed backstory of Bucky’s time as a brainwashed assassin needs to be answered in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, although he was first rescued by Steve during Captain America: The First Avenger. That was just the beginning, as Steve saved Bucky many times throughout the MCU.
After going into the heart of danger to rescue Bucky in the first film, he decided to die with him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier until Bucky saved his life. He also nearly died at the hands of Iron Man while defending Bucky. It’s a testament to how much he loved Bucky that he was willing to die each and every time for him.
Their Connection Was From Their Youths
All of Steve’s youth had Bucky’s presence involved. They were legitimately lifelong friends. Peggy only met him for a short time while Bucky was there with Steve through all his struggles.
This is why Steve loved Bucky so much, as he claimed, “When I had no one, I had Bucky,” which was shown when Bucky was there for Steve after the death of his parents. The fact that they still reminisced and valued their childhoods even when they were technically a over hundred years old speaks volumes of Bucky’s influence on Steve in youth.
Nobody Took The Place Bucky Had For Him
Some might argue that Sharon Carter replaced Peggy as Steve’s love interest, as she did in the comics. The place Bucky had in his heart remained only for him, as nobody came close to the level that Steve placed Bucky in.
While he did have a number of close friendships with the likes of Tony Stark, Sam Wilson, and Natasha Romanoff, they still didn’t qualify for the title of the best friend quite the way that Bucky did for Steve. As far as this connection goes, Bucky was irreplaceable.
He Tore Apart His Other Friendships And Became A Fugitive For Him
The lengths that Steve went for Bucky can’t be understated, with this being the biggest of all. Even though he had no proof of Bucky’s innocence at first, Steve was adamant that he wasn’t responsible for the bombing in Captain America: Civil War, and refused to side with Iron Man.
Steve chose Bucky’s friendship which turned his friendly rivalry with Iron Man more serious and tore the Avengers apart. More than that, Steve defied the governments of the world and became a war criminal, all due to his love and devotion to Bucky.
He Shaped His Outlooks In Life After Bucky
Steve’s story has been told and the characterization he had was all possible due to him shaping his outlook after Bucky. Steve aspired to be strong, confident, and a good man as Bucky was during their youths, which motivated him to become a soldier.
The person that embodied the Captain America spirit comes down to Bucky. Upon Bucky’s initial “death,” Peggy used Steve’s love for Bucky as a way to help him move on by reminding him that the respect he had for Bucky needed to be valued for his sacrifice.
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