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Thinking about the Marvel Avengers series of movies, it occurs to me how remarkable it would be, in light of their history, if Steve Rogers and Tony Stark could stand each other. Consider this difference in their upbringing:

Steve "Captain America" Rogers is a trailing-edge "GI Generation" American. He grew up during the Hoover administration, during the triple-disaster of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and the rise of global fascism, and Herbert Hoover and his conservative pro-business pro-wealthy supporters insisted that there was nothing that the federal government could or should do about it, we were just going to have to accept our suffering and hope that things get better. And it was liberal anti-business anti-wealthy FDR who was the first politician of his lifetime to stand up and say that there was something the government could do to save kids like Steve Rogers, the New Deal, and he did those things, and the economy turned around.

The movie incarnation of Tony "Iron Man" Stark is a Gen-Xer. He grew up during the Carter administration, during the triple disaster that was the post-Vietnam military crisis and the OPEC economic crisis (and the resulting stagflation) and rising Soviet adventurism, and Jimmy Carter and his (supposedly) liberal anti-business anti-wealthy supporters insisted that there wasn't anything the federal government could or should do about it, that we were just going to have to accept our suffering and hope that things get better. And it was Ronald Reagan and his conservative pro-business pro-wealthy supporters who said that there was something the government could do to rescue the future for kids like Tony Stark, Morning in America, and he did those things, and the economy turned around.

For Steve Rogers' generation, Herbert Hoover discredited the Republicans, and conservatives in general, for decades; Herbert Hoover was the symbol of surrender, of flaunted impotence, of can't-do-ism, of accepting your suffering. For Tony Stark's generation, Jimmy Carter discredited the Democrats, and liberals in general, for decades; Jimmy Carter was the symbol of surrender, of flaunted impotence, of can't-do-ism, of accepting your suffering.

No matter who was writing the Marvel Avengers movie series, once the decision was made to set the story in the modern age but to keep Captain America as a World War II veteran techno-magically brought into the modern day, there have to come several points where Tony Stark flaunts his wealth, flaunts his big-business credentials, where he mocks government solutions and boasts of the primacy of wealthy industrialists. Any any time he says that in front of Steve Rogers, Steve Rogers has got to hear that and think: guys like you left me to die. But as soon as Steve Rogers speaks up against greedy businessmen, or stands up for the government, Tony Stark has got to hear that and think: guys like you left me to rot.

Maybe there are things out there that are enough worse than conservatives that Steve Rogers can, if he has to, join forces with Tony Stark for as long as it takes to fight them. Maybe there are things out there that are enough worse than liberals that Tony Stark can, if he has to, join forces with Steve Rogers for as long as it takes to fight them. Maybe. And maybe if it happened often enough and for long enough, they could develop a grudging respect for each other. But Tony Stark is always going to remind Steve Rogers of Herbert Hoover, and Steve Rogers is always going to remind Tony Stark of Jimmy Carter, so they are never, ever, ever going to like each other.

Comments

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jonathankorman
May. 9th, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
Nicely said.

Marvel really missed an opportunity to tell this story in the “Civil War” arc.

And it fits nicely with a bit of headcanon that I have taken on: having been a premature antifascist, volunteering for the US Army before we entered the war, Steve Rogers must have been a red diaper baby.
bradhicks
May. 9th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I like that.
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radiumhead
May. 9th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
Also Tony Stark's a dick, and Steve isnt. Theres that, too.
kukla_tko42
May. 9th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
An ENTITLED dick, at that.
:D
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kukla_tko42
May. 9th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
Add to this the fact that Tony's dad was a friend of Steve's, and spent a significant fortune searching for him. Tony gets to be all, "YOU'RE the guy my dad was obsessed with? Meh."

You know, they did have to throw some pretty big problems at the two of them to make them work together, but did it well. The arguments are fun, too. Oddly, they never went where you describe (overtly) but I'm sure it was part of each actor's "motivation."

The part I liked best was the fact that of anyone in the group, Tony Stark went out of his way to get along with Bruce Banner. Not to keep him from becoming "the other guy", (In fact, he would occasionally gleefully prod him to see what would happen) but because he actually *liked* Banner's work and seemed to be delighted to have someone other than Jarvis to have a real conversation with.

Banner, on the other hand, was doing a fantastic job of tolerating Stark.
radiumhead
May. 9th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
I got the impression Banner kinda liked Stark, but Stark made him nervous. Im sure he liked having someone around who knew his work.
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tzaddi_93
May. 9th, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
On top of all of that, I picked up a distinctive "nerds vs. jocks" vibe between them (especially when Stark pulls Banner into the arguments.)
radiumhead
May. 9th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thats good, i didnt think of that
wolodymyr
May. 9th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for this!
dd_b
May. 9th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
It sounds good; but I don't find the people holding those positions that I meet in real life particularly match the age ranges for that to be the explanation.
radiumhead
May. 9th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
Well Caps been frozen since the end of ww2.
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harmfulguy
May. 9th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
This has got to be one of the biggest differences in the eternal Marvel vs. DC debate. The tension between Stark and Rogers makes a lot more sense than the level of mutual admiration generally shown between, say, Superman and Batman. Many of the biggest conflicts in the Marvel universe (such as Civil War and the current AvX event) are between heroes with different ideas of what's right. If anything, the heroes of the DC universe probably get along a bit too well.
radiumhead
May. 9th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
The justice league vs avengers comic did a good job of showing the differences.
nebris
May. 9th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
All that matters in the end....
livejournal
May. 9th, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
A Handful of [Mostly Avengers-Related] Links
User rubynye referenced to your post from A Handful of [Mostly Avengers-Related] Links saying: [...] on why Captain America and Iron Man have different worldviews [...]
livejournal
May. 9th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Not fic but commentary
User brokenallbroken referenced to your post from Not fic but commentary saying: [...] Which I find to be true and accurate. Of course Steve and Tony will never get along [...]
livejournal
May. 10th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
No title
User cantarina1 referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] but not in good taste.) Meta! It Would be Remarkable if Steve Rogers and Tony Stark Did Get Along [...]
subnumine
May. 10th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
This review argues that what happened (outside the fiction) is that two talented actors refused to settle for the boredom of a world-wrecker movie. (I doubt the reviewer has ever heard of Edmond Hamilton, but that's what he means.)

On the wider issue: I saw no reason to give up on the Democrats after Carter - and it was about then that my father registered as a Democrat. I do see a reason for the Democrats to stop nominating the rightmost qualified Democrat for President; and maybe they'll stop doing it one of these days.
bradhicks
May. 12th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
As liberal as I am, I still argue that Reagan's first term saved the country from disaster. Carter was, arguably, one of the three or four smartest guys to ever hold the office of President of the United States, but he ran the second dumbest presidency of any of them, for two reasons.

One, which he shares with the current office holder, is that he has completely unjustifiable confidence in what the intelligence community tells him about foreign affairs. Carter, like Obama, mostly only cared about and studied domestic issues; knowing he was over his head on foreign affairs, he trusted the CIA ... at a time when the CIA was screwing up so badly all over the world that they created almost every evil we face today. Carter could have done everything else right and he'd still go down in my book as the 2nd worst President in American history just for the "island of stability" speech that single-handedly created Hizbollah.

The other was the one that killed him, and the Democrats, with the American people for thirty years, and that was that when times were bad, instead of telling us, "things are bad, but if we do this and that and the other together, our children will be better off," he kept giving speeches saying, "things are bad, and they're going to stay bad, get used to it." Yes, American post-WW2 colonialism was never going to be as profitable post-OPEC as it was pre-OPEC, never going to be as profitable once Japan and Germany rebuilt their factories as it was when we had the only surviving factories in the world. But, seriously, how could a guy who spent his Navy years as a nuclear reactor technician have so little faith in science and technology that he couldn't even imagine an America that would some day get over the oil shock, how could he have so little faith in science and technology that he couldn't even imagine an American recovery?

Winston Churchill promised nothing but blood, toil, tears, and sweat ... until victory. Jimmy Carter promised malaise and decline forever and ever, amen, "the new normal," the Revolution Of Lowered Expectations, get used to it. He was Herbert Hoover with a donkey pin on his lapel. He was wrecking the country, and he did wreck the party.
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(Anonymous)
May. 13th, 2012 04:36 pm (UTC)
Can't agree with any praise of Ronald Reagan
While it may be true that many Americans derived hope from Reagan's "Morning again in America" hokum, what's undeniable is that his administration was the first in modern times to exploit a painful truth about American politics: that there is no political cost to stealing from the future. Government spending is popular, so the thinking goes, and so is reducing taxation; we can make lots of political hay by doing both and pushing the consequences (debt) into the future for our descendants to deal with.

And it's my generation which will be the one left without a chair when the music stops. I certainly don't hold the liberals blameless in this (spend-and-borrow seems to have permanently defeated the tax-and-spend paradigm), but it was Reagan's crew who got there first and created the blueprint for disaster which will end the so-called American Empire once and for all.
livejournal
May. 16th, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
No content, only news - 7-15 May 02012
User silveradept referenced to your post from No content, only news - 7-15 May 02012 saying: [...] movie-Avengers verse, it takes very large problems to get Steve Rogers and Tony Stark to get along [...]
jlbarnett
May. 27th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Looking at his character pre-becoming Iron Man I'm not sure Stark was shaped enough by politics to be exactly as you describe him. The combination of already there wealth, natural born intelligence and a naturally extroverted arrogant persona probably insulated him.

Basically what I'm saying is he'd have an attitude of "Yeah, he was useful towards me, but I didn't NEED him."
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( 52 comments — Leave a comment )