On 9-1-1’s Buck, Eddie, and adult relationships

On 9-1-1’s Buck, Eddie, and adult relationships

Yay, Buck got his first gay kiss! He’s bisexual now!

I haven’t been religiously watching the show, but it is one of the few TV shows that I do watch. 911 has been a great show that keeps on giving — comedy, action, and the right amount of drama, not to mention the increasingly absurd situations that these first responders get into.

A more meta in-universe comment would recognize that, “hey, why are we always in so many outrageous life-or-death situations?”

A history of Buck and Eddie

It hasn’t surprised me that many viewers, myself included, have wanted Buck and Eddie to get together. There’s something special about their relationship as it’s depicted on screen — a fact that the showrunners seem to have noticed. “Buddie”, as the ship is called, is arguably one of the greatest things to come out from the show.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Buck’s actor, Oliver Stark, explained:

“One of the aspects of it that has really spoken to me is that these are two men in this, quote-unquote ‘macho field’ — or what you would expect to be that — and they’re both really open, sensitive, and vulnerable with each other.”

Oliver Stark, to Entertainment Weekly

And there were always signs, right from the show’s start, that Buck’s relationship with Eddie was special. Maybe it was fans reading more into the relationship than expected — maybe it was a herring dropped in by the show, one that turned out not to be so red after all.

“Wait, Buck’s gay?”

Buck is now canonically bisexual. I have mixed feelings about this — it reeks a little bit too much of shows trying to retcon characters into being LGBTQ+ when they realize that LGBTQ+ fans exist and want to pander to them.

LGBTQ+ representation in popular media being treated badly isn’t a new thing. The history of Sulu in Star Trek is perhaps the worst example of this: the rebooted films in 2016 suddenly showed Sulu with a husband and a daughter.

Supposedly a tribute to George Takei, who came out as gay in 2005, the approach smacked way too much as pandering — there was no storyline, no plot, and basically no justification.

It was just a throwaway moment that could only be understood as the producers wanted to be able to say “look, we support gay people!” As much as the producers might have thought that this was aligned with Roddenberry’s vision, it wasn’t — a future, more egalitarian and idealistic humanity wouldn’t have cared and it was wrong to have an entire scene for that moment.

As Takei himself has said, Star Trek would have done better to create a new character instead of making Sulu canonically gay.

Buck’s different, though

The evolution of Buck doesn’t feel entirely like that, though. It would be hard for any show to shake off the perception that they’ve developed a character from being straight to not-straight simply for the LGBTQ+ pandering — but this does feel more natural for Buck’s character development, and for the show as a whole.

Part of this might be because of how they introduced Tommy, Buck’s now-boyfriend (I think?), at the beginning of season 7.

It’s hard to bring in a new character at this point in a franchise, when all the current characters have been here for a while and have begun to fit together. Buck being jealous of Tommy and Eddie, to the point where he’d accidentally-on-purpose injure his best friend, was an impressive story writing moment. Not only does it demonstrate that grown, highly macho men can be childish idiots, but it also added a new element to Buck’s character that we haven’t seen before.

I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to have gone from “well, Buck’s jealous because Tommy is cool” to “Buck’s jealous because he fancies Tommy”, but it’s not unrealistic — just maybe not the way that we thought that jealousy would have developed.

And Oliver Stark is amazing

And I also think Oliver Stark’s incredible performances are part of why Buck’s evolving sexuality don’t seem so pandering.

Stark has already demonstrated his acting skill and his ability to pull off tough performances. The coma episode (“In Another Life”, season 6, episode 11) was pulled off wonderfully, and helped develop Buck’s character in a unique way. Watching him start from being a young, brash, child-ish character trying to find his spot in the world to realizing his own worth and his purpose in life has been incredibly satisfying.

I’m not going back for them. I’m going back for me.

Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark), “In Another Life” (9-1-1, season 6, episode 11)

I see Buck’s being bisexual as a continuation of that theme in the show — Buck coming to terms with himself, learning who he is and his place in the world, and realizing that maybe his instinct to “check out a guy’s ass” is more to him than he had previously realized.

Buck deserves to be himself, whatever that is, and the show should take him as far as the writers — and Oliver Stark — think there is to explore for the character.

And yet, Eddie and Buck should not get together

Two characters going through a journey of LGBTQ+ self-discovery at this point in the show’s storyline feels way too much like pandering. There’s something special about the relationship between Buck and Eddie, and that would be ruined if their relationship developed to romantic or sexual.

We’ve seen how Eddie has developed as a character, in part as his son, Christopher, continues to grow up, with that presenting its own challenges. Part of Eddie’s own growth has been learning to lean on other people, including Buck, when he needs it.

As satisfying as Buddie getting together would be, I don’t think it would be representative of what relationships between adult men looks like — nor would it be an example that I’d want to see on television.

I’d rather show that Buck and Eddie can be best buds without it turning into a romance or a fling.

Buckley’s canon event

At the same time, there’s nothing more canonical to an LGBTQ+ person’s experiences than having a one-way crush on someone who will never reciprocate. It’s a Canon Event and we cannot interfere.

Perhaps we should have Buck rapidly developing a crush on Eddie, realizing it’s not happening, and having to deal with the consequences of that crushing moment.

That’s the real gay stuff, right there.

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