Sunday, October 5, 2008

Iron Man, the Film for Ecofeminists?

For those of you who read Fettchen, I apologize for being MIA these past few weeks. Life has been nutty, you know, with class (Neue-Sachlichkeit-Marlowe-Queer-Theory-What?), work (Forty-Student-Leaders-What?), stomach flu (suck!), Rock Band for my Wii (mwahhahhahhaha!), and design/writing articles for my college's newspaper (read my latest article here).

After the torrent that was the month of September, I took this evening to catch up with a friend of mine and have a night of hanging out and movie watching. The movie of choice? Iron Man.

I enjoyed the film a lot, and since I didn't see the movie when it came out, there's no sense in writing a review or giving you a full blown rundown of the film (you can get that, if you want it, here). What I would like to offer is a slightly different angle that some of my counterparts in the blogosphere may not have taken.

Iron Man fits into the vogue of superhero-moviedom with all of its variegated clich├ęs. Take one part debonair + two parts asshole + 3 fl. oz of dramatic-life-changing-moment + financial capital + weird-primogeniture-motif and you've got 2.35 hours of action packed, testosterone injected, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am-ary. In a word: Trite.

Not so with Iron Man. I'm excited that, despite preconceived notions, we're starting to see films coming out of the superhero genre with more substance than before. Iron Man offers a lot of truly critical moments that give to more sophisticated moviegoers that spark of higher-thinking we need to keep watching.

The character of Tony Stark fits the mold of comics superhero to the T, with splashes of womanizer and alcoholic. After the character undergoes his crisis and begins to craft his hero identity, we see an interesting frame of thinking envisaged by the filmmaker. In a world where the power of patriarchy and he who carries a big stick is king, Iron Man posits that its the sleeker, more compact, more energy efficient superhero that saves the day.


Ecofeminism asserts that the patriarchal oppression of woman intersects and is analogous to the oppression of the earth through conquest and imperialism. Ecofeminists consider the domination of nature by a system that values male-land ownership to be at the root of the exploitation of lands, the tragedy of the commons, and the subjugation of the third world and persons of color.

While an ecofeminist critique is far from the center of Iron Man's purpose as a film, I find that, at times, the film makes an ecofeminist critique.

In the film, the main character is initially culpable with the patriarchal system of war that rapes and pillages the people of Afghanistan. Tony Stark creates weaponry that is, without his knowledge, sold to the people he thought he was rightfully fighting. After being captured and forced into labor (you know, building a bomb), Stark realizes who the real enemy is: the system that engenders the people that have held him captive with their warmongering and manaical hatred of others. Through this transformation, Stark leaves his powerful weapons that hurt the earth in order to build a single weapon to save it: his suit.

The exoskeleton, unlike the weapons he's crafted previously, are small and compact. Their purpose is to efficiently get in an out of situations in order to help people, not hurt them. Now, I'm not so into my own argument not to admit that his way of helping people is by breaking those who hurt them in half (or throwing them through brick walls, or shooting them in the head, or handing them over to vigilante justice . . . where was I?), but keep up with me. In essence, Stark shifts from thinking about weapons as a way to subjugated and force surrender toward the idea that technology can be used to aid those who are being subjugated and forced to surrender.


In the last epic fight of the film, Stark is pit up against another version of his suit, one that is clunkier, slower, and seemingly more powerful because of its might and brawn. Stark is able to defeat this suit because of the increased effectiveness and efficiency of his smaller suit. In a show down of arms, its the Prius of the two, the suit with better mileage if you will, that saves the day.

At the end of the day, the film isn't about an ecofeminist critique. Though elements of a critique float around the edges of the movie, the film finishes with all the glory of the commonplace wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am-ary, as always. What remains, however, is that these critiques, these thoughts, are perimating the genre-driven, money-grubbing sphere of that his Hollywood. Its only a matter of time before this sleekified, possibly-maybe ecofeminist superhero takes a not so nuanced step out of the fading limelight of patriarchy and into the, forgive the flourish, basking radiance that is deeply thought provoking, yet entertaining, film media.