Pepper Potts Sucks! @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog. This is the second one that in some sense serves as a sequel to the first one.

I must admit that I’m a little out of my element. As I said in the prior Iron Man-related post, I don’t analyze these movies from the perspective of an expert in screenwriting. I focus on themes that are important to me. This post eventually strays into an analysis of moviemaking and human relationships, so I have far more questions than I have answers, and my affirmative claims are often mere speculation. My primary question is: What purpose to the larger story did Pepper’s naivete and/or stubbornness serve?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

In other words, there are several incidents throughout the MCU where Pepper makes the same mistake that many people make in the real world. She tries to interfere with a strong person doing what’s necessary because she doesn’t understand what strength of character is, or at least why it’s important. As shown in Shazam!, attitude is often far more important than actual ability, which is why even in the non-caveman, modern world, strength is an important feature. While Pepper is a hard worker, intelligent, and portrayed as strong in other ways, that’s not a realistic portrayal. She’s simply serving a plot, so the script has her acting both strong and weak at different points.

While we all have our strengths and weaknesses, this paradox is far more profound than that. She doesn’t get a simple reality that, again, I’ve seen a lot in the real world: Telling Tony not to act because it places him at risk is counterproductive. If he doesn’t act, the bad guys will win, and Tony will die anyway (along with many other people). This is absolutely maddening, and it happens during Paltrow’s entire tenure in the MCU. At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony temporarily gives up being Iron Man for her. Fortunately, real world economics prevail, and the screenwriters quickly send Tony back into the fray to save half the universe. But the point is that, if you’re weak, that’s fine, but don’t stand in the way of the strong. They have a job to do, and it’s generally saving your ass.

How Did the Relationship Work?

Sorry, but my writing gets a little choppy here because I’m suddenly shifting gears.

I’m light years from my area of expertise, but perhaps Stark latched onto a person with such a silly outlook because her motivation was seemingly unconditional love, and that’s what he was searching for. According to Captain America: Civil War, he lost that relationship for a while, but as soon as he could, he grabbed her and didn’t let go. As I speculated in the prior Iron Man-related post, that’s probably because Tony’s lack of a family was haunting him (as it often haunts me). Or maybe it’s far simpler: Opposites attract. Because it’s just a movie, they were able to write the script anyway they wanted, so the resulting relationship with Pepper worked even if it wouldn’t in the real world, which wouldn’t be so generous. (For the record, Civil War screenwriter Stephen McFeely stated that her presence would have calmed Tony, but he needed to remain dark and angry in order for the events to play out as they did.) Tony never got “fixed’ by anything we saw on screen; the script just pushed him in that direction leaving the details to our imagination (other than the unwitting therapy session with Bruce Banner in Iron Man 3). Figuring out why is merely speculation. As complex as some of these MCU characters are relative to other movie characters, they’re still not real. They’re just two-dimensional characters driven more by dramatic forces than by real, psychological or logical ones.

It appears that Pepper’s behavior always served to advance the plot. She could hold Tony back or push him forward as needed, but she usually held him back. When she did so, her thought processes were wildly illogical, and that grated on me.

I don’t want to hate Pepper Potts, but I do. There. I said it.

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Dysfunctional to Functional Family: Tony Stark, Obadiah Stane, Spiderman, and Morgan Stark @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @TheJeffBridges @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU #Spiderman

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog, this being the first one.

My posts aren’t about getting clicks. If no one read any of my posts, I wouldn’t really care. Writing them is more about catharsis than fame. Moreover, I’m no film student, psychologist, or sociologist, so I can’t break down the science of movie-making or human behavior. Instead, these posts are about analyzing the themes used within the movies due to my personal connection to their messages (accordingly, YMMV). As a result, my favorite posts have been about Nebula’s Redemption, my comparison of Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, and others dealing with a particular theme. That theme is realizing and accepting that your idealized vision of family is complete nonsense, breaking away from those abusive relationships, and appreciating the family you didn’t realize was in front of you the whole time (though for me personally, the third has been elusive). Not everyone has these experiences, but it’s a recurring theme in superhero movies. I never considered that the first Iron Man movie implicitly raised issues related to this theme.

Father Figure

Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) father died, and then Tony disappeared for a while. This isn’t surprising considering how self-absorbed he is, but when he returned to Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) must have served as a father-figure for him. Before I go forward, I want to mention . . .

Tony didn’t show as much respect for Obadiah as you would want to see from your own child, but Tony didn’t ever show much respect for any authority figure, so it’s still fair to assume Obadiah acted as an adoptive father to him. That is, Obadiah wasn’t merely a coworker, boss, or even family friend. Assuming that, it must have been absolutely devastating for Tony when he realized Obadiah had called for his removal from the company, and even worse, his death. That betrayal would hold back Tony’s growth, which became a slow burn throughout the Infinity War saga. It helps make Tony’s grief over Black Widow’s death as believable as that of any other character despite his never overtly expressing that grief or deep feelings for her. It wasn’t until the first Avengers that Tony showed a willingness to “lay down on a wire” for his allies, but his ego made sure that no one would forget that. Somehow, it was still about him . . . until he started to understand fatherhood in Captain America: Civil War.

Peter Parker and Morgan Stark

In Civil War, Tony latched onto Peter Parker/Spiderman. At first, he was looking for a little more firepower to take down Team Cap ®©TM℗SM, but by Infinity War it was clear he had a genuine emotional attachment to Peter.

By Avengers: Endgame, he was devastated because he “lost the kid,” but he got a second chance in that film. Tony’s life became about Pepper and their daughter, Morgan. He was reluctant to restore the Vanished because doing so threatened what he had finally found after a lifetime of searching, even if it meant giving up on his filial figure, Peter.

Tony’s progression from self-absorbed brat to the guy who’d “make the sacrifice play” was 22 movies long probably because of Obadiah more than anything else we saw, but Tony made it there, and that wound up saving half the universe.

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No Small Parts: Miriam in Captain America: Civil War @AlfreWoodard @RobertDowneyJr @ChrisEvans #MCU #CaptainAmerica #IronMan #NoSmallParts

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Unlike the other MCU films, the overarching storyline in Captain America: Civil War wasn’t the Avengers finding a way to come together, but rather the Avengers being torn apart. Behind the scenes, the Sokovia Accords were being written, and Secretary Ross was getting ready to confront the Avengers, but for the disassembly of the Avengers to occur, it had to come from within. The two factions were led by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve needed no outside help to make his stand; it’s what he does. Likewise, Tony is prone towards sacrificing liberty in favor of security, but in prior films, he insisted on being the one in control of that security. Something had to push him over the edge to where he’d be willing to surrender that control to the government that he so routinely dismissed.

Enter Miriam, played by acting veteran Alfre Woodard.

Jump to 0:55 for the scene in question.

Miriam tells the story of her son, Charlie Spencer, who had the city of Novi Grad, Sokovia dropped on him during the events of Age of Ultron. She blamed the Avengers for his death and laid a huge guilt trip on Tony Stark in that scene.

One of my pet peeves about superhero movies is the after saving the world, the unappreciative human race vilifies the heroes because of the collateral damage that occurs, ignoring that, in some cases, without the heroes the entire human race would be killed. That’s certainly a theme in Civil War, and it’s annoying as hell, but in Civil War those arguments were no more than a means to advance a more reasonable position. The United Nations truthfully understood that what the Avengers were doing was right, and that the consequences of those actions were often not the Avengers’ fault. They simply wanted international oversight to minimize those consequences.

But logic isn’t always the best motivator. Even the most stoic among us are emotional creatures. You can’t blame the Avengers for feeling bad about what happened. If a criminal held a gun to a loved-one’s head, and you felt you had to kill the criminal in order to save that person’s life, the world wouldn’t blame you, but you might still find it difficult to deal with having killed another human being. Maybe you could have disarmed the criminal, and if so overpowered him. Tony was facing the same emotional dilemma, and to make matters worse was the creator of the threat, Ultron. Even more, maybe Tony could have zigged when he zagged and saved some more lives.

Miriam appealed to that emotion, and in less than 2 minutes of screen time, set in motion the civil war between the Avengers.

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