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.