In Defense of Tony Stark

Friday, March 6, 2015

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

I must admit that a post by Marissa Baker got me started thinking about bad boys vs. good guys, etc. So you can actually give her a kudos for inspiring me to delve a little deeper into the reasons why I like some bad boys compared to others. It all boils down to 4 qualifications that they exude, either a few of the qualifications or all of them: Power, Seduction, Wealth, Intellect. All the bad boys on my list have at least three of these qualifications, if not all of them.

I'm not talking about the dirt poor, rides a Harley, wears black leather, smokes and does drugs type of bad boy. Because for me, that type of dude is not attractive because he has literally no prospects and no desire to reform. Not even Marlon Brando in The Wild One or James Dean in Rebel without a Cause would ever convince me to date them or run away with them, because what would I be running to? A hovel with a potentially violent husband? No thanks.

So, prep yourself for my discussion on bad boys over the next week or so. And no list of bad boys would be complete without the inimitable Tony Stark in the lead.

Tony Stark: Egotistical Playboy

What does it mean to be intellectual? For one thing, it means you consider yourself smarter than everyone else, probably because you are. You see things that very few people ever see, and you imagine the possibilities of invention and creation and are capable of bringing those possibilities to glorious, glaring life.

Sound familiar? It should. Because there is almost literally no greater a**hole in cinema right now than Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man. Why is he such a jerk? Because his intellect, which is brilliant by the way, is paired with a disgustingly wealthy lifestyle resulting in undeniable power. Were Tony a poor professor or scientist begging for scraps, he wouldn't be considered a bad boy by my standards. But he is wealthy in conjunction with being brilliant, which means he can do whatever he wants, say whatever he wants, and when it comes down to it, quite literally get away with murder. Not even a court hearing affects his life in any big way.

The combination of intellect, power, and wealth is dangerous in that it can, and often does, result in men like Tony Stark. Raised to think of himself first, Tony leaps from girlfriend to girlfriend until somehow, by an improbable miracle, Pepper Potts is able to tame him. Maybe I should even say that he leaps from one night stand to one night stand. Because let's be honest here, he does. Sexual faithfulness does not occur to him, ever, not until he's with Pepper. But once he's with her, that's it, he's hooked, and suddenly his first priority is no longer himself, but her.

"Things are different now, I have to protect the one thing that I can't live without."

Now let's talk about the attitude, the unfortunate side-effect of Tony's wealth, intellect, and power where he word-vomits over everybody, reducing individuals to the size of dust mites. Even in Iron Man 3, when he's in a semi-stable relationship with Pepper, he still can't resist mouthing off to a fatherless little boy who's only trying to help him. Albeit some of my favorite scenes are between Tony and this kid because the munchkin gives as good as he gets. It's like they cloned Tony in that child. Still, was his behavior appropriate? No. Why did he do it? Because he is still a bad boy! I dare you to find me a moment when Captain America mouths off to a child.

So, you're asking what is attractive about this man? Technically, nothing should be attractive about Tony Stark, and yet, I find him fascinating. He is a complete and total genius with funding, and the idea of influencing such a man is appealing to a woman like me who wants to change the world, but doesn't have the resources to do so. Is he a jerk? Undeniably, yes, but he also has moments of sensitivity with Pepper that belies the egotist he so often reveals to the public.

Tony's first thought, for much of his life, is always "Me, first." What can I gain from this investment? Is this decision advantageous for me? His entire world revolves around himself, until that world is tilted upside down and he finds himself kidnapped by crazed terrorists, stuck in a cave, with a battery wired to his chest and almost no hope of escape. And guess what? He stops manufacturing weapons. He starts building Iron Man suits. He wants to save the world from evil and injustice. He falls in love and suddenly values another person, Pepper, more than his own safety. Not that I'd want to be thrown into the Iron Man suit, but hey, Tony saved Pepper's life before he gave a thought to his own in Iron Man 3. He's a showman and he always will be, but he stops being a playboy. The attitude will be an issue he has for the rest of his life, but at least now he's defined by more than just his attitude. He's capable of faithful love, of devotion to country, of looking outside himself for a span of time longer than two seconds. It helps that he has supportive individuals around him who teach him to have an outward focus.

Tony Stark is definitely a bad boy, but he's a bad boy with potential, a bad boy who, in his heart of hearts, wants to actually be one of the good guys. 

Out of all the bad boys on my list, he's probably the one who is, shockingly, the most redeemable.


  1. Tony Stark is a fascinating study in contrition and rebirth, isn't he? And in how much or little a person can change themselves. Good post!

    1. There are times when I think he could be a little more contrite in some areas so he has a long way to go in changing himself, which I don't think he'll ever do. But, against my will, I like him. It took watching the Iron Man movies 3 times before I came even close, and he's still such a jerk to Cap in Avengers which I HATE, but in other respects he's grown on me. I stil see him as a little bit of a vulnerable little boy who just needs acceptance, love, and some boundaries. :)

    2. This is exactly a conversation DKoren and I had a couple years ago. I was like, "Tony Stark is so horrible to Cap! I can never truly like him! He told Cap he was not useful! That's awful!" She was like, "But it's true. Cap wasn't useful with what they were doing." And I was all, "But you can't just say that! It's too mean!"

      And then I watched the Iron Man movies and grew to appreciate him, possibly love him a bit by the end of the third one.

      But I still maintain he was mean to Cap. ::Growls::

    3. Yes, he was mean to Cap, blaming him for not knowing something that he could not possibly know because he's missing 70 yeas of knowledge. And that ticked me off quite a bit. Of course, I also realize that Tony is seriously jealous of Cap, both because of who he is as Captain America, and the relationship he had with Howard that Tony never had. That type of non-communicative family dynamic makes me very sad. *sighs*


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!