I am a hardcore Steve and Peggy shipper. I love the two of them so much that any other pairing just doesn’t compare for me. And I loved the way they couched Steve’s feeling for her— he’d been waiting for “the right partner.” Not just anyone, but the right one. The old-fashioned way their relationship developed was so charming. And I admit, I have a weird soft spot for lovers who are never for anyone but each other. I get that most people don’t see things that way, but even if they must insist on the characters moving on with other relationships, Sharon Carter is absolutely the wrong character for this to happen with Steve.
I will give them credit. This was something I’d been dreading since Avengers, so the fact that they held out this long, four years and like three more movies, is something. They probably were probably actively trying not to rush it. But they clearly knew the implications of the whole deal were creepy. There’s a reason they did not draw attention to the fact that her name was Carter, or her relationship to Peggy at all, until CA:CW.
The storyline is a relic from a dated, significantly less mature time in the development of comic book storytelling, and though some would attribute solely to the lack of respect for female characters, I would say it’s mostly due to the resistance to change. Comics have a notorious history toward refusing to ever let things meaningfully or permanently grow and change. So, when Cap’s freezing was made part of his story, bringing him forward in time, they decided to make him latch on to the Sharon Carter character by making her resemble and in fact have a blood relation to an old love interest.
I understand the desire to maintain the spirit of what we loved in these stories in the comics. But for the cinematic universe, they’ve made such a strong effort to realize these stories for the screen that I really don’t think including that in the adaptation made sense. Adaptation between mediums requires translation, and retelling stories demands updating for the current time. And all the myriad ways the idea of that relationship doesn’t work demonstrates that it just doesn’t make sense to have been included.
First off, the two of them have no chemistry. Steve and Sharon have barely spent any time together and nothing of substance ever happened or was said between them. Nobody in the audience developed any emotional investment in their relationship. Plus we have basically no idea who Sharon is. Again, very little time has been spent with her, and the actress is so bland that no real personality has been created within what little character the writing has supplied. There’s no narrative reason for them to have a relationship, and no audience member who has any desire to see it. Added to the fact that it felt like an afterthought crammed into an already jam-packed film, what exactly were they hoping to accomplish? My only real thought is, with the increasing mainstreaming of slash fandom, that they were trying to remind the audience that he’s straight.
The execution of it felt awkward and gross, too. They basically get together OVER PEGGY’S COOLING CORPSE. Who in the world thought that was something they should write for Cap? I actually thought using her death as his propulsion to take his stance was a strong idea. But that awkward, chemistry-free lip lock occurred like TWO DAYS after they put Peggy in the ground, and I can't grasp who didn’t find that to be indecent and out of character.
And there’s just this creepiness to it. If they HAVE to have Cap get together with somebody new… she REALLY should not be any blood relation to Peggy. There’s just too many gross implications tied up in it. There’s the suggestion that he likes her, not for herself, but for who she reminds him of. There’s this very uncomfortable sense of replacement, like she’s an acceptable Peggy substitute. If I want to get all technical, I might say on Nussbaum’s Inventory of Objectification, it smacks of fungibility, when a person is treated as functionally interchangeable with another.
I have BEEN creeped on because of my resemblance to my mother in her youth. THAT NEVER COMES FROM ANYPLACE HEALTHY OR GOOD. Why would they want Steve to be in a relationship that has any hint of that?
And finally, there’s the issue of youth, where a once beloved and vibrant older woman is replaced by someone who’s supposed to be similar to her, except she’s still young and beautiful. Like that lack of youth and beauty makes the relationship impossible, because a man, especially a man as beautiful as that, couldn’t love someone who didn’t have those things.
If I’m being honest, there’s something about the whole situation that’s not just objectively gross, but that tweaks my issues personally. Probably my greatest fear is aging. I’m terrified of the physical ravages of growing older, becoming weak and useless and losing my looks. It’s so hard for a woman to be respected for so many reasons, but it’s particularly hard for women who are older or not good looking. While I do believe in my true inner qualities, I feel like often people don’t notice those qualities in me until after my looks have caught their attention. Not being pretty any more scares me.
Maybe I shouldn’t care what men think of me. But the idea of becoming ignored and tossed aside because I’m old and ugly freaks me out. I’m not sure why I feel that particular terror so acutely. I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of counter examples in my life and growing up, of men who stuck with the women they loved through the declines of time and mortality. It’s not like I worry about that with Bernie. But I am obsessed with it, not just with a romantic partner but with everyone, which drives pretty much all my neuroses.
My discomfort with this relationship stems from that. Beautiful men in particular are even scarier in that respect. Men don’t have to be beautiful, so the good-looking ones with their greater drawing power have it even more options with which to replace you when you’re no longer ideal. So there’s something very uncomfortable about watching a gorgeous man move on from his supposed one true love onto a pale replacement who just happens to still be young and beautiful.