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I was watching Captain America: Civil War and it occurred to me that Bucky still has a red star on his metal arm.

Shouldn't this symbol be a painful reminder to him of things that he has done in the past? Why has he not painted over it or scraped it off? I heard that in the comics he had painted over it at some point. Is there any reason that he hasn't in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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    I would think that the star is the least of many painful reminders of his past. What is the point of removing the star if you still have the metal arm that means the same thing? – J Doe May 10 '16 at 18:56
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    What's wrong with having a reminder of what you did in the past? Perhaps it's his point of strength to never return there. – Möoz May 10 '16 at 21:17
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    Personally I'd paint over it because I wouldn't want to carry around a symbol representing a dark time in my past that might lead people to believe that I'm on the wrong side. But that's just me. I'm curious to know if Bucky had a specific reason or if this is just one of those things that hasn't changed because the filmmakers didn't feel like spending time to address it. – Tophandour May 10 '16 at 21:22
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    @Omegacron - The star was probably purposely put there by HYDRA to make him appear as a Soviet operative. That's, like, their entire M.O. during that era, be the puppet masters behind more public organizations. – vynsane Aug 16 '18 at 18:19
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    He can't see it from where he's standing. – Liesmith Aug 16 '18 at 23:38
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The concept of the Red Star on Bucky's arm doesn't exactly have any kind of significant "backstory"... other than that he is the "Winter Soldier", suggesting himself as a Russian operative. This is similar to why Deadpool wears red ("So the bad guys don't see me bleed") or why Batman dresses as a bat ("I must become what I fear"). It's merely a symbol of what his character is, so removing it would pretty much just make him "That dude with the metal arm" (and in my opinion, "Winter Soldier" has a better ring to it).

As for any in-universe reason as to why he doesn't remove it, without any input from the writers, there's very little we can use. That said, there are a few things we can use to ascertain some form of reasoning.

  1. Bucky's state of mind. Bucky has been brainwashed, and as we saw in the movies, how easily it was for him to fall back in line. With a state of mind as fragile as his own, he would need something to focus on, in order to keep himself grounded when his mind starts to slip. You might say the arm itself would act as that anchor, but when you've lived for 60+ years with such an appendage, you'd be hard put imagining what it would be like without it. The star, on the other hand, could work as that anchor.

  2. It is a reminder. Once free of his mind control, Bucky regrets what he did while under mind control. He knows it wasn't his will that made him do it, but now that he has control of himself, he wants to change what the star stands for. It's like a scar - a bad reminder that you can take a lesson from, and make sure you make a better choice.

The only other option is a little less exciting - the star is painted on with special paint, staining the metal itself. Removing it would likely require filing or even the use of acid, and doing that could compromise the whole arm... which nobody wants.

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