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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

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.