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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

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.
jonathankorman
May. 9th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
There have been some really terrific commentaries about Stark and Banner.

Both geniuses, top of their field. Both suffered an accident that physically changed them, forever, and not in a wholesome Spider-Man kind of way. Both try to do what they can to help others despite their own issues; Banner heals people, Tony works on developing clean energy. And both struggle, in their own way, with duality; Tony and Iron Man, Bruce and the Hulk. Two identities, one body. Only difference is Iron Man’s bad side is Tony.

I mentioned somewhere that Tony sees a bit of himself in Banner because they both have a monster inside them that they can’t control, a creature that springs fully formed from the id, the base impulses and the nasty stuff at the back of the mind. Bruce’s is a giant green rage monster. Tony’s trashed a party in Iron Man 2. Banner has a control over his that Tony hasn’t quite achieved yet; don’t think I didn’t notice Tony pouring himself a whiskey when confronting Loki. Tony is envious, fascinated, and most of all, impressed by Bruce’s control.

So he doesn’t walk on eggshells around Bruce like the others, because that’s not what Bruce needs. Tony sees Bruce’s restraint, sees the quiet, brilliant man making self-deprecating jokes in the corner of the room, sees the way people look at him like he’s going to snap any second, and thinks “nope” ....
kip_w
May. 11th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
My take on the Hulk has long been that by having the outright Jekyll/Hyde transformation, he has literalized the metaphor of the secret identity and really dramatized how fragmented people with double identities can be.
dewline
Oct. 30th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah. That works even better, now that it's explained.