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The Politics of “Iron Man 3”: Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War; Anti-Capitalist and Pro-War

The Politics of "Iron Man 3": Pro-Capitalist and Anti-War; Anti-Capitalist and Pro-War

The summer’s first would-be superhero blockbuster opens Friday, and with it comes a familiar colliding mix of ideological positions being shoved down our collective throats. Without the strangely out of place clean energy advocacy that underlined “The Avengers,” billionaire Tony Stark is now back on his own, and according to early reports, he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the last movie. He’s not the only one.

According to an early rave review from Forbes’s Scott Mendelson, the new movie takes off from the last one some time after Stark barely survived a flight into deep space in order to dispose of a nuclear bomb.

With “Stark very much affected psychologically,” he writes, the superhero, of course, is eventually drawn into the fight. In the process, the film “explicitly condemns weapons manufacturers even more so than the first film,” writes Mendelson, “basically calling them out as the reason that the world is at war, rather than merely a symptom of global conflict.” But, of course, all bad guys are violently destroyed in glorious displays of special-effects-driven explosive payback.

Like other rich-man superhero films (“The Dark Knight”), “Iron Man 3” also suggests corporate power is both good (Stark) and evil (Guy Pearce’s suave arch-villain Aldrich Killian), just as Big Government is both helpful and corrupt. Along these lines, PolicyMic blogger Daniel Tenure writes Tony Stark is a hero that represents “American values more than any other in the past” in his uber-capitalist ambitions.

Tenure even suggests “Iron Man 2” was highly influenced by Ayn Rand in its politics, with its “celebration of American individualism and capitalism by showing not only the ineptitude of governments before the ingenious nature of private enterprise, but also the tendency of the state to initiate wars of aggression that are of no benefit to anyone but a few parasites in the political realm and their cronies.

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