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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

verses
Oct. 3rd, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
This doesn't really hold up, because they are shown to start to get along at the end of the film (and to break bread after the credits). Evans and RDJ have spoken about their relationship as being conflicted – that is, good AND bad. Moreover, Cap is clearly drawn from 616 Cap, and 616 Cap has been shown many times to be incapable of blanket prejudice toward any group of people. He opposes Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Fascists, Nazis, and many other individuals for their actions. He's not loyal to anyone, he's loyal to an ideal. Yes, Tony's wealth and excess bother him, but they bothered him in the comics too (see Steve's "pampered punk" comment at the height of the Civil War), where Tony has a shrine devoted to Cap and cries over his body, and Steve wordlessly embraces him. They managed to forge a friendship despite Tony being a rich asshole in many ways.

What I really don't get is where you're getting the evidence for these political beliefs. There's nothing in the films to suggest that either of them hold prejudices against either political party. Tony is hated by Congress in its entirety. Steve never condemns any politicians. Just because you think it would be a rational for a person to hold those prejudices doesn't mean they hold them. FDR gave Steve his shield in the comics, but that didn't stop him from becoming close friends with a billionaire. The issues arise with Tony and Steve's respective behavior, Not because they see each other as symbols of old presidents/regimes.. For most of their comic history, they got along. When they didn't, it was a clash of Tony's cynicism versus Steve's idealism – not any cynicism on Steve's part because of the Great Depression, as you suggest. I've read every issue of Captain America and not once has he dismissed someone for being a Democrat, a Republican, or anything else. He routinely works with rich people. You forget that capitalism is a huge part of America, and that Cap is all about freedom. Cap is NOT bitter. Tony is involved in numerous charities and fights to protect the world. That's what matters to Cap – not when Tony was born, or who was president. And if you think Tony gives a fuck about politicians, any political party, or any political issue, unless it benefits him directly, you need to rewatch the films.

I think you'll be very disappointed when The Avengers 2 comes out and they're on friendlier terms. They've just met, it was never going to be instant. By Joss's attribution, their current dispute was his alternative to Civil War. And after Civil War, in the comics, they went back to being friends. Come Avengers 2, there will be head-butting because Tony is stubborn, but also camaraderie. There was no contempt in their smiles at the end of The Avengers. It's called a truce. And, in the comics, of which Joss is a die-hard fan, from truces always comes friendship.

Edited at 2012-10-03 08:23 am (UTC)