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Old 05-18-2010, 12:45 PM   #1
Axl Van Sixx
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Default The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

Found this review of Iron Man 2 on the World Socialist Web Site, and I thought it raised some interesting issues about both the politics of the film and the larger state of modern American cinema. A few points:

First of all, I love superhero movies. Love 'em. Otherwise I wouldn't be a member of SHH. On that basis alone, I have to mostly disagree with the reviewer in terms of the film itself. Sure, the sequel wasn't as good as the first one, but it's still better than most popcorn blockbusters out there. Mickey Rourke may not look like a physicist, but he was fantastically entertaining, as was the film. Personally, I can't wait for the Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America movies. So rest assured, in regards to loving superhero flicks, you and I are on the same team.

HOWEVER, in terms of politics, it's hard to disagree with what the reviewer says, at least from my perspective. As a democratic (small-d, for any Americans on here) socialist, even as I was beside myself with anticipation for the second Iron Man movie, I was also very much aware of how much the basic concept of Tony Stark/Iron Man went against my own politics. What else but the superhero genre could make me so eager to see a movie where the hero is a billionaire weapons manufacturer?

I remember, in the first movie, the scene where Iron Man saves some civilians who are being held hostage by terrorists in Afghanistan using his precision-guided weapons system. Even at the time, what struck me was that this was a essentially a cartoon version of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where Iron Man - a proxy for the U.S. military, with its high-tech weaponry - is able to kill the Evil Terrorists while totally avoiding civilian casualties. Anybody even vaguely familiar with the multiple wedding parties bombed by NATO in Afghanistan, or the dozens of civilians killed by Predator drones in Pakistan for each "militant" killed, knows that America's wars in Central Asia are largely distinguished by the massive number of innocents caught in the crossfire. Before you accuse me of defending the Taliban, who are medieval in their brutality, I'm just pointing out facts here: when the most powerful, technologically-advanced war machine the world has ever seen sets its sights on one of the world's poorest, most underdeveloped "nations", it's a virtual certainty that large numbers of innocents are going to be killed.

Iron Man provides a fantasy version of the U.S. war effort. I know the whole concept of superheroes is fantasy, but given what's going on in the real world right now, this specific superhero helps us in the West feel good about what our militaries are doing on the other side of the world, presenting a sanitized, feel-good perspective. Hey, we're the good guys! Privatization leads to world peace! When the big drama in a blockbuster movie is who gets a fat defense contract, you know that the military-industrial complex has found a safe home in Corporate America.

The last thing I want to mention is the reviewer's comments on today's American filmmaking, and again, it's hard to disagree with him here. So many remakes, sequels, unimaginative romantic comedies and animated movies with celebrity voices...maybe I'm just maturing, but, superhero movies aside, I'm not as into these huge blockbusters anymore. Watching the previews before Iron Man 2 was painful. As I watched the trailers for claptrap like Prince of Persia, with its wannabe Pirates of the Carribbean vibe, or Shrek Forever After, which has no reason to exist other than the fact that the first three made a ton of money, I grew more and more cynical. Is it any surprise that we're now hearing about **** like a Stretch Armstrong movie, or film versions of board games like Battleship? This is some seriously lame stuff.

Anyway, I hope that the following article will stir discussion. I think it belongs on the Iron Man 2 board rather than in the Politics section, but if anybody wants to talk more directly about politics (because I love a spirited intellectual debate), I'll have to start checking out the latter board more often. The article, then:

LINK

Quote:
Iron Man 2 and the sad state of American filmmaking today

By Hiram Lee
18 May 2010



The state of American filmmaking at the moment is pretty appalling. In hardly a single recent Hollywood film do we find a hint of life as it is lived by millions of people in the United States and internationally, and certainly no hint of social opposition.


We have entered extraordinarily tense and convulsive times that would seem to demand the most serious attention from film writers and directors, however that might find artistic expression. Where is the filmmakers’ response? Their anger, their ideas, even their interest? At a time when films—dramas or comedies—animated by the desire to get to the bottom of things are sorely needed, audiences instead by and large confront superficial, complacent, and light-minded works. The professional cynic, of course, will blame the viewers—as though they had any serious choice in the matter.


A glance at the current “USA Top 10” at the box office reveals the fare Hollywood is presently inflicting on a mass audience. There is, first of all, Iron Man 2, the latest comic book blockbuster, and a sequel. This is followed by yet another (and not a promising) version of Robin Hood, a few tepid romantic comedies that come and go indistinguishably, a computer-generated cartoon about dragons, remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Clash of the Titans, along with something called Furry Vengeance. By and large, these are dismal, unimaginative offerings for which no one should feel obliged to settle.


In regard to Iron Man 2, the emergence of so many comic book and superhero films following the events of 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq has been one of the least attractive phenomena in recent filmmaking. These works, in which super-powered police figures—and in the case of Iron Man, a highly militarized policeman—battle pure evil on a global scale, often carrying out the bloodiest acts of violence and vengeance, as fantasy-like as they are, no doubt speak to a real phenomenon: the extent to which a whole social grouping, including prominent and wealthy figures in the entertainment industry, has signed on to the “global war on terror” or the Obama version of that. That is to say, they identify with, more or less openly, or at least find no reason to object to America’s drive to dominate the globe. (It is not inappropriate, of course, that such stupid fantasies should be done in cartoonish style—it would be difficult to make them believable in more down-to-earth surroundings.)


Iron Man 2 is the second installment in a planned trilogy about the Marvel Comics superhero. In this episode, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the wealthy CEO of Stark Industries who also fights crime in a high-tech armored suit, has almost entirely rid the world of war. Now he faces a new foe: the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Subpoenaed to appear before the committee, Stark is told his Iron Man suit is a weapon and must be handed over to military authorities. No such weapon can be left in the hands of one person, he is warned.


In a scene worthy of free enterprise fanatic Ayn Rand, Stark defends himself, telling the committee that Iron Man is his own creation, cannot be considered as separate from himself, and that he will not relinquish it. As Stark storms out of the hearing in victory, he declares, “I have successfully privatized world peace!” We are meant to congratulate him.


There continues to be something genuinely repulsive about the Stark/Iron Man character. As the first film established, Stark is the billionaire CEO of a weapons manufacturing corporation who, as a militarized superhero, fought against “terrorists” in Afghanistan during his earlier adventures. Now, he is the subject of worldwide adulation, a fact that makes the egocentric playboy even more of a narcissist. The filmmakers clearly want us to admire or find amusing the recklessly self-centered exploits of the character, but one simply can’t go along with it.


While Stark struggles to keep his armored suit out of the hands of the government, he must also contend with a new super-nemesis. The son of a Russian physicist who claims his experimental breakthroughs were stolen by Stark Industries decades earlier, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a physicist like his father, constructs his own power suit and goes after Stark. Defeated by Iron Man in their first encounter, Ivan joins forces with one of Stark’s competitors in the weapons industry and creates an army of drones in preparation for their next battle.


In a film filled with markedly unbelievable moments, it is perhaps especially difficult to believe that Ivan Vanko is a physicist; the hulking, tattooed Rourke looks as though he could still be wearing his make-up from The Wrestler.

This is not the only feature of the film that is, unintentionally, absurd. One is treated to scenes in which Downey, clad in his Iron Man armor, snacks while seated in the giant donut atop Inglewood, California’s well-known Randy’s Donut shop, or becomes drunk at a party and dances wildly while shooting at bottles thrown into the air by party-goers with rockets contained in his armor; it is virtually impossible to take any of this seriously.


Actress Scarlett Johansson also joins the cast in this segment of the Iron Man trilogy, appearing as a super-spy called Black Widow. She performs complex martial arts maneuvers in a skintight suit and is asked to do little else. Also coming aboard for this film is Don Cheadle, who plays Stark’s friend James Rhodes. Rhodes dons his own armored suit during the film to become the superhero known as War Machine (the name is revealing). Just what are Johansson, Cheadle and, for that matter, Downey, doing here? It would do everyone a lot of good if some of these actors would simply learn to say “No.”


As with most films of this kind, the special effects and action are center stage, while the dramatic scenes placed in between—only because they have to be—are forced, unconvincing and built around the most exhausted banalities. One’s eyes glaze over when forced to watch such material.


Unhappily, there are several more superhero films on the way. The entertainment press reports on films in the works starring such comic book favorites as “The Green Lantern,” “Thor,” “Captain America,” “Batman,” and “Spider-Man”—and the list goes on. We can hardly wait.

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Old 05-18-2010, 05:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

I really don't want to post in this thread, because we really don't need a political battle over here, in combination with everything else.

However, let me just say I take issue with the author using the word, terrorist in parenthesis, as if there are not terrorists in Afghanistan. The scene he's alluding to in the first movie, Iron Man helps the citizens of a town, who are likely all muslim, against the invaders who are depicted as terrorists. The town that's being attacked is the home town of Yinsen the scientist who helps him in captivity, who is also likely a muslim.

I don't particularly want to get into a political debate, but would you at least agree that there are terrorists in Afghanistan, and there are others who want freedom from these people, and just want peace? Now we can argue about what's the best way to do this, but my problem with the author is if he doesn't want to call people who financed radicals to go use civilian airplanes as weapons to kill more civilians, I've got a huge problem with that.

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

This exists? Really?

Okay...

I read the dude's review. I think if he suspects that Hollywood's vacant blockbusters are all that American filmmakers create, he is either subjectively oblivious or...well, oblivious.

And the superhero phenomenon of the last decade happened because of 9/11 and the War on Terror? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

There is a political undertone to IM, but like any popular mass consumption film it doesn't really take a stand.

Tony Stark in IM2 is a bit of an Ayn Rand hero in his own mind. But as the writer points out, he is an alcoholic who ends up abusing his WMD (wrecklessly shooting valuables while drunk at a party?) and the military does take it from him. The film doesn't really condemn Rhodey for taking the equipment. So, is it actually supporting the government co-opting private inventor's IP?

It doesn't. It is neutral because it is popcorn entertainment.

And what of his arc in the first one? He starts as a neocon who by the end of the film has quit making weapons and refuses to allow his armor to become the next nuclear arms race. So is it conservative (because Tony likely is)o r liberal ude to his change of heart? It's neither. Get over it. The only comic book movies with political considerations are V For Vendetta, Watchmen, 300 and arguably TDK.

The first two are very left as well.

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

The writer is an obvious tool. That's all I can provide for commentary.

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:37 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

Yeah the article's more absurd than it states the movie is. Like DACrowe said, it's neutral. It's just trying to tell the story of an interesting character, the story just happens to include politics as it's a big part of the character's life.

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

I don't think the first Iron Man was epsecially political. Yes, it may have had some America as saviour fantasy elements to it but I don't see the makers as being overly concerned with it.

The notion that the success of comic book heroes is partly down to 9/11 may hold some weight though, in the same way movie trends around the 2 world wars occured. Movies aren't made in a vacuum after all.

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Old 05-18-2010, 07:09 PM   #7
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This review reminds me of the guy who used to review movies for Box Office Mojo and used to apply Ayn Rand ideology to everything he saw.

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Old 05-18-2010, 07:12 PM   #8
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

Comic Books have always had Political undertones, why wouldn't their movies be the same....?

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Old 05-18-2010, 09:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
"We have entered extraordinarily tense and convulsive times that would seem to demand the most serious attention from film writers and directors, however that might find artistic expression. Where is the filmmakers’ response? Their anger, their ideas, even their interest? At a time when films—dramas or comedies—animated by the desire to get to the bottom of things are sorely needed, audiences instead by and large confront superficial, complacent, and light-minded works."
And this is a problem because....?

The masses go to the movies to get away from the stress of current events, and have done so since Shirley Temple became a star during the Great Depression.

I saw Iron Man 2 a few days after someone tried to blow up a car just a few blocks from where I work (and Times Square was evacuated again the day I saw the movie). It may not have been a 'message' movie, but I needed that break from reality for two hours.

Judging from his descriptions of the top 10, I highly doubt he's actually seen anything on that list. If he's looking for more serious movie, he should look somewhere other than the summer movie list.

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Old 05-18-2010, 10:27 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Originally Posted by Tony Stark View Post
I really don't want to post in this thread, because we really don't need a political battle over here, in combination with everything else.

However, let me just say I take issue with the author using the word, terrorist in parenthesis, as if there are not terrorists in Afghanistan. The scene he's alluding to in the first movie, Iron Man helps the citizens of a town, who are likely all muslim, against the invaders who are depicted as terrorists. The town that's being attacked is the home town of Yinsen the scientist who helps him in captivity, who is also likely a muslim.

I don't particularly want to get into a political debate, but would you at least agree that there are terrorists in Afghanistan, and there are others who want freedom from these people, and just want peace? Now we can argue about what's the best way to do this, but my problem with the author is if he doesn't want to call people who financed radicals to go use civilian airplanes as weapons to kill more civilians, I've got a huge problem with that.
I get what you're trying to say, but personally, I think "terrorist" is something of a loaded word. Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer who writes extensively about civil liberties issues at Salon (and who is one of my favourite political commentators), explains it far better than I can in his post "Terrorism: the most meaningless and manipulated word." That article examines how the Obama administration and the media immediately agreed, after Joe Stack flew a plane into an IRS building, that this was NOT an act of terrorism. The relevant part:

Quote:
All of this underscores, yet again, that Terrorism is simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon. The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity. It has really come to mean: "a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies." That's why all of this confusion and doubt arose yesterday over whether a person who perpetrated a classic act of Terrorism should, in fact, be called a Terrorist: he's not a Muslim and isn't acting on behalf of standard Muslim grievances against the U.S. or Israel, and thus does not fit the "definition." One might concede that perhaps there's some technical sense in which term might apply to Stack, but as Fox News emphasized: it's not "terrorism in the larger sense that most of us are used to . . . terrorism in that capital T way." We all know who commits terrorism in "that capital T way," and it's not people named Joseph Stack.


Contrast the collective hesitance to call Stack a Terrorist with the extremely dubious circumstances under which that term is reflexively applied to Muslims. If a Muslim attacks a military base preparing to deploy soldiers to a war zone, that person is a Terrorist. If an American Muslim argues that violence against the U.S. (particularly when aimed at military targets) is justified due to American violence aimed at the Muslim world, that person is a Terrorist who deserves assassination. And if the U.S. military invades a Muslim country, Muslims who live in the invaded and occupied country and who fight back against the invading American army -- by attacking nothing but military targets -- are also Terrorists. Indeed, large numbers of detainees at Guantanamo were accused of being Terrorists for nothing more than attacking members of an invading foreign army in their country, including 14-year-old Mohamed Jawad, who spent many years in Guantanamo, accused (almost certainly falsely) of throwing a grenade at two American troops in Afghanistan who were part of an invading force in that country. Obviously, plots targeting civilians for death -- the 9/11 attacks and attempts to blow up civilian aircraft -- are pure terrorism, but a huge portion of the acts committed by Muslims that receive that label are not.


In sum: a Muslim who attacks military targets, including in war zones or even in their own countries that have been invaded by a foreign army, are Terrorists. A non-Muslim who flies an airplane into a government building in pursuit of a political agenda is not, or at least is not a Real Terrorist with a capital T -- not the kind who should be tortured and thrown in a cage with no charges and assassinated with no due process. Nor are Christians who stand outside abortion clinics and murder doctors and clinic workers. Nor are acts undertaken by us or our favored allies designed to kill large numbers of civilians or which will recklessly cause such deaths as a means of terrorizing the population into desired behavioral change -- the Glorious Shock and Awe campaign and the pummeling of Gaza. Except as a means for demonizing Muslims, the word is used so inconsistently and manipulatively that it is impoverished of any discernible meaning.
In 2004, UN Security Council Resolution 1566 defined terrorist acts as "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature."

Given that definition, would you agree that it's possible for a state government to commit acts of terrorism? Unfortunately, outside of lectures by Noam Chomsky, the term "state terrorism" is rarely found in mainstream discussion. Because of that, we get things like the US and Israel insisting that for the peace process to continue, Palestinians must first "renounce violence". But nobody asks America and Israel to "renounce violence"; it's repeated over and over that Israel has the right to self-defence. In that case, if a foreign army invades and occupies your land, and countless civilians - your friends, family, neighbours - are blown away as "collateral damage", can you justify the use of violence as "self-defence"?

I don't deny that many acts of the Taliban count as terrorism. I've read some truly horrific stories, on how they bomb markets or throw acid in the faces of girls trying to attend school. As I said, that's barbarism, pure and simple. But we shouldn't forget that, at the end of the day, NATO troops are the foreigners in someone else's land, and in a fiercely independent people, there will be resistance to that - especially since the puppet Karzai government is no better than the Taliban in terms of women's rights or anything like that.

Also, it's been said a million times, but "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Don't forget, the same people that the U.S. is fighting now were financially supported by the American government in the 80s, when the mujahadeen were fighting the Soviets. Reagan constantly praised the mujahadeen as "freedom fighters", and they were presented as such in movies like Rambo III. In the end, the world is much more complex than the simplistic neocon view of "good vs. evil", where "evil" countries are implictly defined as those that defy American corporate interests.

Kel and DACrowe, of your different perspectives on political undertones in superhero movies, I have to admit my perspective is closer to Kel's. There have always been political messages in comic books, going back to the very first Superman stories in which Supes played the role of a superpowered New Dealer, fighting crooked businessmen and politicians, drawing attention to poor safety conditions in mines, etc. I loved Watchmen and The Dark Knight for their political elements. The latter is especially interesting because it reflects so many aspects of post-9/11 America: The Joker is essentially portrayed as a terrorist, while Batman's increasing use of brutal force and surveillance of Gotham's citizens reflects the steady erosion of civil liberties begun with the Patriot Act.

danoyse, you're probably right, and I did think about the comparison to the 1930s, where popular culture was largely cheerful escapist entertainment. What actually depresses me is the difference between the 1930s and now. People back then may have liked escape when it came to their entertainment, but they were active as hell when it came to standing up for their rights. America had a much more active labor movement back then - people were out on the streets, there were general strikes, etc. It really put the fear of God into the political and business elite, who were forced to adopt FDR's popular New Deal reforms as a means of quelling popular revolt.

Nowadays, things are much worse, because the only people who are out on the streets protesting are the teabaggers (at least, they're the ones the media chooses to highlight). I hate to say it, but the American Left has been floundering for a long time. In the past 30 years since Reagan began an assault on the working class, the Left has learned to be helpless, and the chief reason is because it continues to shackle itself to the Democratic Party, a centre-right corporatist party that plays the "good cop" to the Republican Party's far-right "bad cop". But both parties serve the same narrow corporate interests.

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Old 05-19-2010, 02:42 AM   #11
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Originally Posted by Kel View Post
Comic Books have always had Political undertones, why wouldn't their movies be the same....?
Because the studios that make those movies don't like controversy. If something is too political it is going to piss off one side or the other. So, for the studio's bottom line, how about another chase sequence or fight scene instead?

AFter some thinking, I would say the murkiness of the Bush years with the War on Terror, Patriot Act, Iraq and the elephant in the room (9/11) may have contributed to the popularity of superhero films in the 2000s. It is actually a fair point the more I mull over it. However, that does not mean they condemned or glamorized the US's action. They were escapism in the world of simplicity just as musicals softened the Depression and westerns and more fantastical horror films simplified good and evil during WWII (and film noir conversely explored the nuance and murkiness of it after the war).

I'm rambling now. But I still do not think Iron Man, Spidey, etc. are that political. Bryan Singer's X-Men films do hint towards equal rights for homosexuality, but that is hardly at the heart of his films. NOlan in TDK intriguingly took a model superhero and used it to explore the darkest and grayest areas of societal morality in conflict with the needs of security and defense of the state. Albeit, I find that to be more social and philosophical than political in its presentation.

Again, the only superhero films that have really made a political stance were V For Vendetta, Watchmen and 300. The first two were very liberal and bordered on nihilist in their views, but V was def. reworked as the Wachowskis' rebuke of the Bush era. While 300 was a very faithful rendering of Miller's novel, which was a glorification of western civilization and parable for how Frank views the Iraq War and our relationship with the Middle East in general.

But those were all R-rated niche films. We may confer Tony is a Republican or once a neocon, but just as Pepper Potts apparently watches MSNBC and Fox News regularly, the film will never betray which way he (or it) really leans when happy meals are involved.

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Old 05-19-2010, 02:42 AM   #12
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Originally Posted by Kel View Post
Comic Books have always had Political undertones, why wouldn't their movies be the same....?
Because the studios that make those movies don't like controversy. If something is too political it is going to piss off one side or the other. So, for the studio's bottom line, how about another chase sequence or fight scene instead?

AFter some thinking, I would say the murkiness of the Bush years with the War on Terror, Patriot Act, Iraq and the elephant in the room (9/11) may have contributed to the popularity of superhero films in the 2000s. It is actually a fair point the more I mull over it. However, that does not mean they condemned or glamorized the US's action. They were escapism in the world of simplicity just as musicals softened the Depression and westerns and more fantastical horror films simplified good and evil during WWII (and film noir conversely explored the nuance and murkiness of it after the war).

I'm rambling now. But I still do not think Iron Man, Spidey, etc. are that political. Bryan Singer's X-Men films do hint towards equal rights for homosexuality, but that is hardly at the heart of his films. NOlan in TDK intriguingly took a model superhero and used it to explore the darkest and grayest areas of societal morality in conflict with the needs of security and defense of the state. Albeit, I find that to be more social and philosophical than political in its presentation.

Again, the only superhero films that have really made a political stance were V For Vendetta, Watchmen and 300. The first two were very liberal and bordered on nihilist in their views, but V was def. reworked as the Wachowskis' rebuke of the Bush era. While 300 was a very faithful rendering of Miller's novel, which was a glorification of western civilization and parable for how Frank views the Iraq War and our relationship with the Middle East in general.

But those were all R-rated niche films. We may confer Tony is a Republican or once a neocon, but just as Pepper Potts apparently watches MSNBC and Fox News regularly, the film will never betray which way he (or it) really leans when happy meals are involved.

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Old 05-19-2010, 06:06 AM   #13
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Originally Posted by DACrowe
Again, the only superhero films that have really made a political stance were V For Vendetta, Watchmen and 300. The first two were very liberal and bordered on nihilist in their views, but V was def. reworked as the Wachowskis' rebuke of the Bush era. While 300 was a very faithful rendering of Miller's novel, which was a glorification of western civilization and parable for how Frank views the Iraq War and our relationship with the Middle East in general.
No wonder I hate Frank Miller

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Old 05-19-2010, 08:45 AM   #14
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

Am I the only one that laughed when a thread about politics in Iron Man pops up and the first responder is Tony Stark!?

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Old 05-19-2010, 12:43 PM   #15
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

Are you the same guy who said The Dark Knight won the election for Barack Obama and was the Woodstock of our generation?

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Old 05-21-2010, 02:09 AM   #16
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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I get what you're trying to say, but personally, I think "terrorist" is something of a loaded word. Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer who writes extensively about civil liberties issues at Salon (and who is one of my favourite political commentators), explains it far better than I can in his post "Terrorism: the most meaningless and manipulated word." That article examines how the Obama administration and the media immediately agreed, after Joe Stack flew a plane into an IRS building, that this was NOT an act of terrorism. The relevant part:



In 2004, UN Security Council Resolution 1566 defined terrorist acts as "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature."

Given that definition, would you agree that it's possible for a state government to commit acts of terrorism? Unfortunately, outside of lectures by Noam Chomsky, the term "state terrorism" is rarely found in mainstream discussion. Because of that, we get things like the US and Israel insisting that for the peace process to continue, Palestinians must first "renounce violence". But nobody asks America and Israel to "renounce violence"; it's repeated over and over that Israel has the right to self-defence. In that case, if a foreign army invades and occupies your land, and countless civilians - your friends, family, neighbours - are blown away as "collateral damage", can you justify the use of violence as "self-defence"?

I don't deny that many acts of the Taliban count as terrorism. I've read some truly horrific stories, on how they bomb markets or throw acid in the faces of girls trying to attend school. As I said, that's barbarism, pure and simple. But we shouldn't forget that, at the end of the day, NATO troops are the foreigners in someone else's land, and in a fiercely independent people, there will be resistance to that - especially since the puppet Karzai government is no better than the Taliban in terms of women's rights or anything like that.

Also, it's been said a million times, but "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Don't forget, the same people that the U.S. is fighting now were financially supported by the American government in the 80s, when the mujahadeen were fighting the Soviets. Reagan constantly praised the mujahadeen as "freedom fighters", and they were presented as such in movies like Rambo III. In the end, the world is much more complex than the simplistic neocon view of "good vs. evil", where "evil" countries are implictly defined as those that defy American corporate interests.

Kel and DACrowe, of your different perspectives on political undertones in superhero movies, I have to admit my perspective is closer to Kel's. There have always been political messages in comic books, going back to the very first Superman stories in which Supes played the role of a superpowered New Dealer, fighting crooked businessmen and politicians, drawing attention to poor safety conditions in mines, etc. I loved Watchmen and The Dark Knight for their political elements. The latter is especially interesting because it reflects so many aspects of post-9/11 America: The Joker is essentially portrayed as a terrorist, while Batman's increasing use of brutal force and surveillance of Gotham's citizens reflects the steady erosion of civil liberties begun with the Patriot Act.

danoyse, you're probably right, and I did think about the comparison to the 1930s, where popular culture was largely cheerful escapist entertainment. What actually depresses me is the difference between the 1930s and now. People back then may have liked escape when it came to their entertainment, but they were active as hell when it came to standing up for their rights. America had a much more active labor movement back then - people were out on the streets, there were general strikes, etc. It really put the fear of God into the political and business elite, who were forced to adopt FDR's popular New Deal reforms as a means of quelling popular revolt.

Nowadays, things are much worse, because the only people who are out on the streets protesting are the teabaggers (at least, they're the ones the media chooses to highlight). I hate to say it, but the American Left has been floundering for a long time. In the past 30 years since Reagan began an assault on the working class, the Left has learned to be helpless, and the chief reason is because it continues to shackle itself to the Democratic Party, a centre-right corporatist party that plays the "good cop" to the Republican Party's far-right "bad cop". But both parties serve the same narrow corporate interests.
The problem with your thesis is that you pick and chooses which political theory you want to highlight in order to make a point. Observe:

1) You state that you agree with the reviewer that it was unrealistic that Iron Man could take down the hostage takers in his Mark III suit without loss of human life. First, your ignoring the fact that the hostage takers were using people as human shields. Secondly, that scene was to contrast Starks conversion, whereas before, he didn't care if his products were indiscriminate or not, just that they could create a big bang for the buck.

2) Terrorism, as it is properly defined in the US, is an act of aggression against non-combatants as a means of effecting political change. That UN resolution was purposely watered down for the sake of the Muslim states, who have no problem in using paramilitary forces against the state of Israel. Secondly, a state, while it can commit acts of terrorism, is bound by the Geneva Conventions and the conduct rules of war; the likes of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and others aren't. But the goal is to muddy up the terms to such an extent that the ability to go to war would paralyze the state, not those who actually sponsor acts of "terror".

3) What gets me about the entire socialism movement is the entitlement mentality. In the United States, you're not entitled to a job. The reason why socialism has been able to flourish outside of American is because it builds upon the patron systems, in which clans, cliques, families, guilds, etc. have been developed. There has been none of that, which is why you have the Tea Party people resisting the agenda of the Obama Administration, and why philosophies like Conservatism and Libertarianism is still strong. Americans don't like to be told what to do, and they prefer to conduct their own affairs with as little interference as possible. Socialism, and Marxism, for that matter, is the complete opposite, in which people who believe in that ideology believes that the state has the right to take a mechanist approach in running both a society and its economy. I also find it interesting as to why Socialist tend to be pro-secular, in that they believe that rights are granted by the State, not endowed by one's Creator; take away the Creator, and the State can regulate one's rights.

4) Mostly, the reviewer takes the film way too seriously. You should check out the various interviews that Stan Lee has given as to how and why he created the Iron Man character in the first place.

Cheers,

O.

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Old 05-21-2010, 09:26 AM   #17
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

It's probably worth mentioning, but as far as I know...as a comic book reader...Iron Man/ Tony Stark is a Republican. One of the few comic book heroes I know of, that has a clear political stance.

If you start from there, then any Republican/Conservative political undertones one may see in the films probably makes more sense.

The Dark Knight had some political undertones too. Good ficition usually does have some of the current world in it.

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Old 05-21-2010, 09:28 AM   #18
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Don't ever read The Dark Knight Returns.

You probably won't like it.

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Old 05-24-2010, 04:00 PM   #19
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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1) You state that you agree with the reviewer that it was unrealistic that Iron Man could take down the hostage takers in his Mark III suit without loss of human life. First, your ignoring the fact that the hostage takers were using people as human shields. Secondly, that scene was to contrast Starks conversion, whereas before, he didn't care if his products were indiscriminate or not, just that they could create a big bang for the buck.
Your points are correct in the context of the movie. But my point was that in real life, we don't have Iron Man's technology to kill the terrorists while protecting the innocent civilians. No matter how much you might hear about "smart" bombs and the supposed precision of drone attacks, the bottom line is that in any protracted, asymmetrical war like the one in Afghanistan (I might as well say it - an imperialist war designed to subject a country's inhabitants to the will of a distant foreign power), there are going to be heavy civilian casualties.

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2) Terrorism, as it is properly defined in the US, is an act of aggression against non-combatants as a means of effecting political change. That UN resolution was purposely watered down for the sake of the Muslim states, who have no problem in using paramilitary forces against the state of Israel. Secondly, a state, while it can commit acts of terrorism, is bound by the Geneva Conventions and the conduct rules of war; the likes of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and others aren't. But the goal is to muddy up the terms to such an extent that the ability to go to war would paralyze the state, not those who actually sponsor acts of "terror".
Your argument about the Geneva Conventions is moot ever since the Bush administration decided that those Conventions did not apply to terrorists and other so-called "enemy combatants". Also, regarding the definition of terrorism as acts of violence against "non-combatants", can we apply this to Israel's collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza? If the intent is to break the will of the Gazan population, could we not define that as state terrorism? Hell, to be honest, the same thing could even be applied to the Iraq War. You might think that's a controversial statement, but no less a corporate media propagandist than Thomas Friedman said that the point of the war in Iraq was to make Muslims "suck. On. This. We could have hit Saudi Arabia...we could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth." Or conservative pundit Michael Ledeen, who said that "every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." Couldn't that be construed as state terrorism?

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3) What gets me about the entire socialism movement is the entitlement mentality. In the United States, you're not entitled to a job. The reason why socialism has been able to flourish outside of American is because it builds upon the patron systems, in which clans, cliques, families, guilds, etc. have been developed. There has been none of that, which is why you have the Tea Party people resisting the agenda of the Obama Administration, and why philosophies like Conservatism and Libertarianism is still strong. Americans don't like to be told what to do, and they prefer to conduct their own affairs with as little interference as possible. Socialism, and Marxism, for that matter, is the complete opposite, in which people who believe in that ideology believes that the state has the right to take a mechanist approach in running both a society and its economy. I also find it interesting as to why Socialist tend to be pro-secular, in that they believe that rights are granted by the State, not endowed by one's Creator; take away the Creator, and the State can regulate one's rights.
This probably gets to the core of our political differences. You appear to subscribe to the myth of rugged American individualism, and you're certainly entitled to your opinion. But from my perspective, this idea that Americans are different because they don't like the government on their backs is really just a PR line pushed by business interests over the past several decades as a way of keeping the ambitions of the American working class in check. Health care is a good example. I live in Canada, where every citizen is entitled to health care through a single-payer system. Health care is a public service unaffected by the profit motive, because we see health care as a human right. In the United States, it is not seen as a right, but rather a privilege. Yet the entire American health care system is distorted by the profit motive, and that's why you get worse care for higher prices: because insurance companies make all their money by DENYING people coverage.

The bad name of socialism in America is largely due to a century-old campaign to demonize it as "un-American". It's also because when Americans think of socialism, they think of top-down, centralized bureaucratic Stalinism or Maoism. As a Trotskyist, I see those movements as perversions of what Marx intended. Personally, I think we need a new socialism for the 21st century, which is more decentralized, but fundamentally, rests on the principle of workers governing themselves, on pushing democracy to its fullest extent, and continuing the steady progress made through the 20th century through labour unions, civil rights, the women's movement, etc.

The secular thing is interesting, and I can't disagree with you there. Although I was raised Christian and was a believer until I was 18 or so, I became an atheist and support Karl Marx's view that religion is the opiate of the masses. Organized religion tends to reflect the most conservative elements of society, and the massive Church bureaucracies in the Western world, like all bureaucracies, are consumed by their own survival above all other considerations (note the first instinct of the Catholic Church in the pedophilia scandals - to protect its own members and accuse the media of trying to hurt the Church's reputation).

The conservative movement in the United States has been ingenious at tying Christianity to the most exploitative type of untamed capitalism, and the reason that's so tragic is because the teachings of Jesus Christ are essentially socialist in nature. Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; he preached about peace, about the virtues of caring for the poor and healing the sick. That's what makes me so angry to see so many American conservatives, who support the death penalty, preemptive war, torture, destroying the welfare state, and cutting taxes for the already obscenely wealthy, describe themselves as Christians. I guess they think denying women the right to control over their own bodies somehow compensates and makes them "pro-life".

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4) Mostly, the reviewer takes the film way too seriously. You should check out the various interviews that Stan Lee has given as to how and why he created the Iron Man character in the first place.
Agreed. I'm sure I could have some great political conversations with the writer, but it would be a real chore to go see Iron Man 2 with him.

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:10 PM   #20
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

The sad state of American filmaking has nothing to do with American-centric of the studios. It has everything to do with sequels, remakes of old movies, adaptations of games, toys, TV shows, comic books, books and the obsession of Hollywood in having every big budget movie in 3D.

Also, not every Hollywood movie has a political message.

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:12 PM   #21
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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the sad state of american filmaking has nothing to do with american-centric of the studios. It has everything to do with sequels, remakes of old movies, adaptations of games, toys, tv shows, comic books, books and the obsession of hollywood in having every big budget movie in 3d.

Also, not every hollywood movie has a political message.
qft...

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:13 PM   #22
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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The sad state of American filmaking has nothing to do with American-centric of the studios. It has everything to do with sequels, remakes of old movies, adaptations of games, toys, TV shows, comic books, books and the obsession of Hollywood in having every big budget movie in 3D.

Bingo. The problem is a lack of creativity. Hitchcock is probably rolling in his grave with what the industry has turned into over the years. Not a single sequel in his fimography.

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:14 PM   #23
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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Don't ever read The Dark Knight Returns.

You probably won't like it.
I've read it. And I despise it.

Sexist and homophobic tripe with pedophillic overtones by a hasbeen misogynist with obvious prejudices and serious issues with women.

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:15 PM   #24
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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I've read it. And I despise it.

Sexist and homophobic tripe with pedophillic overtones by a hasbeen misogynist with obvious prejudices and serious issues with women.

Why don't you go ahead and tell us how you really feel?

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Old 05-24-2010, 05:15 PM   #25
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Default Re: The Politics of "Iron Man 2"

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This review reminds me of the guy who used to review movies for Box Office Mojo and used to apply Ayn Rand ideology to everything he saw.
Sounds hilarious.

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Comic Books have always had Political undertones, why wouldn't their movies be the same....?
I think that the writers and artists nowadays are approaching such political undertones with pop culture relevancy instead of actually trying to be propaganda like it was back in WWII.

And I disliked that review. In my opinion (and Jon Stewart's), entertainers shouldn't have a "responsibility" to properly inform the public. They're supposed to entertain. Informing the public is the news media's job. If we get something politically relevant AND entertaining, that's great too. But we shouldn't put it on our entertainers as a job requirement.

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