By Ed Perry
Everyone hates the 'one percent'. Most people do anyway. After all, the only people who tend to like one-percenters are other one-percenters and, well, there aren't very many of them. This poses something of a conundrum regarding the Iron Man franchise. We go to the cinema in droves to watch these movies. Movies about Tony Stark, an alcoholic, multi-billionaire 'philanthropist' who likes nothing better than blowing shit up whilst listening to AC/DC. What a complex and compassionate character.
He's not the only moneyed superhero to grace our screens of late - let's not forget the titular hero of the vastly overrated Dark Knight franchise. Yes, I know that everything Christopher Nolan touches turns into gold and fanboy semen stains, but let's take a moment here to actually explore the character of Bruce Wayne. He's a privileged kid that spends his trillion dollar inheritance on weaponising himself in order to... beat up poor people. They're thieves and murderers and whatnot, but it's not like Bruce Wayne is doing anything to solve the problems in society that cause crime to begin with. He could have used his considerable wealth to go into politics and clean up Gotham legitimately. Instead, he chooses to become a criminal himself. Just a richer one.
All the Dark Knight franchise really teaches us is 'don't break the law kids, or the rich will come and get all jujitsu up in your face. They'll fuck you up'. Hell, even Heath Ledger's iconic Joker, the ultimate Dark Knight villain, is perceived as totes insane, basically because he doesn't give a shit about money. Killing and maiming people we take in our stride; we see villains do this all the time. But burning a huge pile of money? Now that's fucking crazy.
With Iron Man, we are faced with tediously similar problems. Tony Stark has this supposed moment of clarity when he realises the weapons that his company make are only propagating war, not defending America. So what does he do? Use his enormous wealth, intelligence and influence to take a stand against the international arms trade? No. He turns himself into a weapon wrapped in an American flag and flies around damaging public property.
Ultimately, we must like these characters, because we identify with them on some level. Tony Stark is not completely alien to us, nor is Bruce Wayne. They both to an extent reject their position in society, and try to use their wealth for 'good'. Whatever that means. And it feels nice to have your faith in capitalism reaffirmed for a couple of hours. You come out of an Iron Man movie all fuzzy inside, thinking that maybe our world isn't such a bad one after all.
Perhaps democracy and capitalism really are the best options out of a bad bunch. Then you realise that Iron Man 3 was a Hollywood production, and of course Hollywood wants you to feel that way. The cycle of crippling self doubt begins anew, and you go back again and again, desperate for another sweet fix of affirmation from the bright lights and the catchy music.
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