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Iron Man 3 (2013) and gender stereotypes

it might have been a fun mess, but it was a mess nonetheless. i found myself getting wildly distracted by some of the awkward dialogue as well as the overall feeling that conceptually everything about the story and the characters were sound, but the actual execution was a surface and shallow version of what it was trying to be. I wasn't convinced by the portrayal of Stark's PTSD. the relationship that Stark had with the kid was solid but incredibly fleeting. The whole War Machine/Iron Patriot thing, the Ben Kinglsey deal, the use of the president and the vice president, all of it felt kitchen-sinky and throwaway.

Probably the most annoying thing about the movie was the writing of Pepper Potts, even more so from reading the wiki entry about her character. The film's producer states that there was a deliberate attempt to try to foil the standard Damsel in Distress trope with her character, saying, "Is Pepper in danger or is Pepper the savior?". That's absolutely flabbergasting because even before reading that i was getting frustrated with how the relationship between her and Stark in this film seemed to strengthen the gender stereotypes rather than diminish them. Stark (male): opens the movie with him neglecting his stable relationship for his toys, and his character has all of these seemingly huge flaws and hurdles to jump both emotionally and physically with his PTSD, his inability to deal with it, etc. yet he never comes off as being a weak character. Pepper (female): spends a majority of the film living the generic female lead in these sorts of movies - getting fed up with main protag's inability to "commit" to her emotionally, but loves him anyway and pretty much everything that she does in the movie is motivated by her love and devotion to him.

Worse, Stark proves time and time again in the movie that he doesn't need the suit to make him a super hero. Even when things at times go awry, he's never lost and, as i said, never comes off as being weak, he proves that he's a hero on the inside. Pots, on the other hand, is only a true "heroine" when Extremis is thrust upon her or when Stark forces the suit on her to protect her, and in any of those situations, her actions aren't independent, they're linked to and motivated by Stark, and as a result, even when she has those strengths she comes off as being weak.

Compare the two in the scene that depicts them both as being held captive. Stark is generally calm, collected, has a plan, and doesn't falter when it doesn't come off flawlessly. Never does he give off a "save me!" vibe. Potts, in the brief scene that we see her captive, is crying hysterically and babbling and is exuding nothing else *but* a "save me!" vibe, and doesn't stray from that for the entire rest of the movie, even when she "saves" Stark with the use of her Extremis.

And of course I know that this is more common than uncommon; hollywood shut down the proposal for a live action Wonder Woman movie and Batgirl movie because of their perception that people don't want to see strong female leads. WB Execs did similar for Bruce Timm's animated superhero movies after they perceived that the Wonder Woman feature was a failure not just because of the fact that the lead was a woman but also because the film dealt very directly with the issue of those gender stereotypes, and, in my mind, dealt with them very successfully. The creator of the video game Remember Me had to fight to keep the main protagonist a female, being given heavy pressure to make it a male to give it a stronger market appeal.

Never mind the staggering results of the Bechdel Test.

And it's because of things like that that make exceptions to those tropes and the people behind them shine that much more. Timm for Wonder Woman and trying to push equality in his DC Universe stuff in general. Joss Whedon also deliberately tries to shape strong female characters in their own right, and he doesn't always succeed, but he does a good job.

And it's also the reason why Carruth's Upstream Color has crept to the number 2 spot of my favorite films of all time, but i've already talked about that and also why i can't talk about it unless you go out and watch it first.

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againstathorn
Nov. 19th, 2013 02:57 pm (UTC)
I was really, really disappointed in Iron Man 3. The first two movies were solid, in my opinion, but IM3 marked an unfortunate departure, both thematically and in terms of style. Terrible.
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