Iron Man 2 delivers a pro-free market, anti-government control message that is crucial for our contemporary culture.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), our favorite cunning industrialist, is back in top form in Iron Man 2. Just when we think our government can’t lean farther to the Left, Hollywood shows us at least they still know how to get it right on occasion. Now more than ever, the pro-free market, anti-government control concepts in Iron Man 2 are important in our contemporary culture.
The film begins six months later with the oily Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) demanding that Stark hand over his Iron Man weapon to the “proper authorities” (i.e. the government). Stark’s response is simple, “you want my property - you can’t have it!” The Iron Man suit may be a weapon but it is also a clear nuclear deterrent, as Stark defines it. The senator continues to categorize Iron Man out of context in order to push his regulatory agenda.
Iron Man 2 also continues to show the advantages of military innovation, however, the reactor that keeps Stark’s heart beating is now beginning to poison him so he must prepare the company for future success in case of his death. Desperate measures ensue after Stark gives up on trying to fix his heart problem and appoints Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) as CEO of the company. The government is not giving up on trying to once again gain control of national defense. Therefore, Stark wants to make sure he has someone he trusts at the helm of Stark Industries in the event of his untimely death.
The government is not the only problem; however, Hammer Industries’ flaky front man Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) exploits the government’s interest in his company in order to plot against Stark’s reputation. The government’s obsession with controlling Stark rendered them helpless to the villainous Russian Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who was hired to invent a weapon that would trump Iron Man. Vanko’s only motive was to kill Stark with no concern for possible collateral damage.
As expected, it is the strong-willed, intelligent capitalist that built Iron Man who comes to the rescue and once again keeps America safe from not only its own government but also its enemies overseas. Stark remains a patriot in the truest sense and knows he holds the key to keeping America safe. Instead of trying to save himself, he puts his focus on saving the country and in turn his company from destructive government control, a notion that any small government supporter can appreciate.
It is no secret that the Iron Man character is conservative, creator Stan Lee discusses him in the DVD commentary of the first film:
“It was the height of the Cold War. The readers – the young readers – if there was one thing they hated it was war, it was the military, or, as Eisenhower called it, the military-industrial complex. So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer. He was providing weapons for the army. He was rich. He was an industrialist. But he was good-looking guy and he was courageous… I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like – that none of our readers would like – and shove him down their throats and make them like him.”
Therefore Lee’s intent was to see if he could make conservatism cool and the wild success of the first film would sure tell us that it worked. Although the Stark character was not without criticism in the first film seeing that he was a bit of a lady-killer. In the sequel, however, he is much more of a social conservative. Stark’s witty and flirtatious ways are still ever present even though is obviously loyal to Pepper in Iron Man 2. Instead of seducing the liberal journalists he avoids them completely.
The media as a whole is pushed aside without remorse in Iron Man 2. Where Stark cared about his image in the first film, he gave up trying to keep a politically correct profile in the sequel and put his full attention towards the future of Stark Industries. There is even a scene where we see Fox News and Bill O’Reilly that doesn’t involve a cheap shot at either of them. We know that the Iron Man films lean right, but it’s difficult to believe the studios let this fly.
Front Page assistant editor David Swindle wrote about the first Iron Man film last year in a piece called Superhero Conservatism:
“Why does the superhero genre bend to right? Quite simply, because the conventions upon which it has been built force such a trajectory. Almost all superhero stories involve a clash between good and evil or order and chaos. The superhero genre acknowledges evil's existence and the need for it to be opposed, usually with force.”
In Iron Man 2 the enemy is twofold, the primary villain is the U.S. government that is unsuccessfully trying to once again monopolize national defense. Their quest for power left them blind to the motivations of an additional villain, Ivan Vanko, who sought to destroy Stark while proving he could also breach military security in the process. Therefore, showing us that government control is not only unnecessary but it can also be destructive. Instead of attacking America, enemies of the country go after Iron Man because they know they cannot defeat the U.S. with Stark running the show.
The government in the film is reminiscent to the current administration’s continued reckless drive for power and control. The dominant purpose behind health care reform was about control, not the well-being of the American people. This is similar to the way government in the film cares less about national security and more about owning the machine that makes it possible. Iron Man 2 is a useful manifestation of capitalist principles that are ignored by today’s government leaders. The free market will collapse under the weight of big government and Tony Stark knows this better than anyone.
Just like Iron Man, its sequel has all of the elements for a guaranteed commercial success. Acknowledging the fight between good and evil as well as the importance of the free market is something that resonates with many Americans in today’s political climate (and was also proven with the success of the first film). Tony Stark endures as a hip personification of capitalism with his humorous charm and eternal drive for success not to mention interest in national security. Stark Industries has privatized world peace, what could be better?