Iron Man 2: This Pepper needs a little more kick

It’s been almost a month since Iron Man 2 was released, so I’ve had some time to think about all the things that disappointed me. But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about its many failures from me — just go read any legitimate review.

Nevertheless, one point of pain that still doesn’t sit well with me is the film’s treatment of Pepper Potts. Spoilers ahead.

After being offered the position of CEO at Stark Industries, Pepper seems to take the reins with confidence and determination. Having to clean-up after Tony isn’t an easy job — he’s either acting like a jackass or a drunken fool for the majority of the film — but she deals with the media and tackles her newfound responsibilities with the grace and severity that they deserve. She even puts Tony in his place during an interesting scene that highlights the characters’ role-reversals. Sitting behind  Tony’s old desk, Pepper finally gets to be the boss and tells Tony that his antics have only hurt Stark Industries. And to rub it in, she gets leaves with her own assistant and Tony’s chauffeur, Happy.

At Stark Expo, Pepper proves that she can  handle a crisis with ease. When robots start killing people, she doesn’t lose her cool or suddenly become a damsel in distress. Instead, she calls the police, confronts Justin Hammer (consequently leading to his arrest), and helps the police get civilians to safety.

But she acts like a jabbering fool when it comes to Tony. Her discovery that Tony’s Arc Reactor was poisoning him gets her stammering and shrieking like a little girl — because powerful, confident women must always lose their sense of control when it comes to men — and to top it all off, she resigns from her position because it’s all too much pressure for her.

Wait, what? I’m pretty sure we just witnessed a level-headed, competent and professional Pepper Potts for the majority of the film.  So why does she resign exactly? 

Iron Man 2 gives us no reason to believe that Pepper is incapable of running Stark Industries or dealing with the “pressure” of being CEO, so her resignation not only doesn’t make sense, but has nothing to do with her ability to be CEO.

Instead, the only reason seems to be Tony. Pepper only freaks out when Tony is putting himself or her in danger (which is pretty often), and it all seemed a little too convenient that Tony finally kisses Pepper once she’s professionally inferior to him again.

So thanks Iron Man 2, for reinforcing a sexist and out-dated belief that women let their personal lives get in the way of their professions.

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1 Comment

Filed under film, film review, superheroes

One response to “Iron Man 2: This Pepper needs a little more kick

  1. Anonymous

    There’s a sad irony to that. You may find it interesting to know that in the Iron Man comic right now, Pepper is demonstrating her strength as a person in VERY interesting ways. To save her life, Tony had to give her an Arc Reactor of her own (she had stormed out of a party after Tony said something dumb, which is why she was just far enough outside to survive but be critically wounded when the building blew up and fell on her (yeah, comics, I know). Pepper is grateful for Tony saving her life, but requests to have it removed when she’s healed – she can’t bear to be powered by technology that grew out of technology that was used to kill people. Tony (darkly wondering if that’s what she thinks about him, with that tech being such a part of him) reveals that he saw that coming – and designed an all-new Arc Reactor using tech from another company (Danny Rand’s, aka Iron Fist). Enjoying the perks (greater energy, etc.), Pepper keeps the reactor, and Tony offers her a suit of her own. She agrees in line with her stated concerns – if Tony’s armor is called the “Iron Man” armor, hers will be the “Rescue” armor. It can only be used for saving people, not fighting bad guys. So far, she’s been able to keep to that, including having a pretty nifty moment when she uses the repulsor for the first time in the real world to magnetically repels bullet like Keanu Reeves at the end of the first Matrix movie, as a circle of blue light glows from under her shirt.
    Not soon after, she and Tony’s support staff are held captive by, of all people, Sandman from the Spider-Man franchise. Engulfing her and covering her mouth, he and Electro tell her to behave. Pepper then gets a very awesome moment. When they uncover her mouth so she can breathe, she says “I’m sorry…You must have me confused with Tony Stark’s assistant!” breaking free with some kind of energy field and actually fighting back against the baddies (I guess that’s different in a self-defense context). There’s a standoff, and they get away, but she got to have a pretty empowering moment there.

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