Modern heroic myths: Iron Man

Many people, I hear talk of a decline in standards; where was the day where men were men; bravery was more prevalent, and people really gave a damn!. Usually people like that often follow with the comment “we really need to have another war” .

Now being a grownup (unfortunately), one is now able to reflect as a distinct period in the past from which one is wholly apart from, those cultural artefacts of the past. I was thinking about Iron Man. It’s simply untrue that inspiration and symbolism cannot be found (I was meaning to write a similar piece on Transformers as well…). So, let’s think about Iron Man.

I came across the series, and a little bit of the comic book during the early 90s. It was a pretty bog standard cartoon (season 1), with cheap jokes, modern day references rather than the timeless physical [ycomedy acts of past cartoons; one would laugh at something like “he mentioned Jurassic Park! [and that’s recent!]”, which hugely contrasted to the ageless and timeless things like the early Warner Brothers cartoons; which had a universal appeal to all ages (which was why one couldn’t, ironically, relate to it). Iron Man was fairly two-dimensional; illustrious billionaire Tony Stark designs a brilliant set of armoured suits and fights politically incorrect Chinese villain Mandarin. Given it being a 90’s cartoon, purposely fitting minority characters was sort of the thing; also, promoting female equality (in some kind of way by having female villains and heroes).

What I particularly liked about the first season of Iron Man is its failure to relate. This sets the scene for the second series; which is much more jaded. In this series, Stark loses his team, his friends, and further isolates himself from the team. Stark grows out his hair, and an important plot device is his heart problem, which he doesn’t disclose to anyone. The closest pal that Stark has is HOMER; a computer who has little to compare with a human, except a capacity to understand (in a very basic way).

Stark is hated by his friends, but in the way that they are disappointed at how he has lost trust in them and lost the need to communicate to them. Stark lives more and more in his own inner world of technology and self-resent; fuelled, despite his apparent selfishness, by his sense of justice and resolve to defeat the enemy. It is this sense of righteousness which permutes into bitterness that ultimately ruins those things in his life that really matter; his best friends and his general health. We find a gradual, then significant decline in the character; like how one sees in insomnia; obsessive motivation to the task at hand, everything else coming second to the real task. This is a bleak image of the hero, one who wins, but has nothing to celebrate from it. One who loses much for the gain of saving many. That’s surely something contemporamous for a more recent age.

Michael

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