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America's Captain 

Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 11,531
In Reply To
The Mandarin

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,564
Subj: Re: The symmetry is the cave
Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 at 06:39:32 am EST (Viewed 139 times)
Reply Subj: The symmetry is the cave
Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 at 12:07:32 pm EST (Viewed 171 times)

    The symmetry is the cave or the labor camp, depending on the era. The Mandarin is forever the ruthless aristocratic brute who wants to put you in a sweat-shop, devouring your creativity to profit himself, or laying in a hospital bed next to a Falun Gong getting your organs harvested. Stark is forever the slave escaping the slave-camp with his boundless creative genius.

Your metaphor for Stark is the escaped slave who turns on his captors, which is about as far from the industrialist as we can get. But I think this does injustice to real slaves. Stark was a captive for a matter of days and began work on his escape almost immediately. He didn't experience the bone-crushing despair of the slave who knows chains for years or lifelong.

    Indeed, part of what makes them work is contrast rather than equivalence. The Mandarin uses chi-mysticism to enhance his savagery and strength, and combines this with symbols of wealth gained by colonialism/exploitation/stealing.

    Stark clads himself in the product of his own creativity and scientific brilliance.

And money. He wouldn't have his armor without his money.

    That's not an equivalence, it's a contrast. Yet there is a certain equivalence built into the contrast, in that the result is something of a caricature of pre-cave Stark's worst traits.

Pre-cave Stark's "worst traits" were grafted on when the Vietnam War made munitions uncool in literature meant for teen-age boys, most of whom were facing the draft. Under Stan Lee and Don Heck, Tony Stark's contribution to America's military might was noble, honorable, even heroic. There's no draft any more and really, even when there was, there was never any reason to demonize the companies who make products that help protect the Unites States, its allies and its interests.

    Indeed, their life-stories parallel each other to a certain point, and then take a sharp detour near the end of their origin stories.

    Both Iron Man and Mandarin began as aristocrats. Iron Man was raised by parents who were cold and concerned with hardening him up and making him a real man.

    The Mandarin was raised by an aunt who hated him, and raised him to be an evil super-soldier, obsessed with war and science and martial arts and political deviousness. He was raised to be the harshest possible version of what a “real man” is.

    Iron Man squandered some of his fortune on wasteful, hedonistic things, but ultimately was responsible enough to keep his company afloat and keep the people under him employed and prosperous.

And that was something to be proud of.

    The Mandarin squandered every bit of wealth he inherited, bankrupting his estate to transform himself into a super-soldier. His estate became so bankrupt he couldn’t even afford to pay property taxes. As a result, the lives of everyone who depended on his estate was ruined.

    Out of a desire to protect American soldiers with the best equipment and keep his company alive, Iron Man de facto supported American actions that were at least semi-colonial. It’s a stain on his conscience that he works every day to rectify.

It's never wrong for an American company to help American soldiers be stronger and safer in battle. Regardless whether we think the battle should be fought in the first place, once it begins, the only noble aspiration for any American is to see our soldiers win a swift and decisive victory with the fewest number of American casualties, while avoiding perpetration of atrocities such as bombing hospitals.

I know Marvel wrote Tony as remorseful. I just happen to think that decision on Marvel's part was wrong-headed. Even the teen-agers facing the draft, if asked the question in an even-handed way, would have supported the arming of soldiers with the best arsenal available, since these teens might eventually be those soldiers.

Tony doesn't sell munitions any more because of his needless remorse, but if he still did, the way to portray it as heroic would be to look at it from the soldier's perspective. Any soldier carrying some amazing weapon made by Stark Industries would think very highly of that company.

    The Mandarin explored new lands, discovered alien resources, and outright conquered, colonized, enslaved the native villages there so he could exploit the resources there, i.e. the alien technology and rings. He was pretty much colonialism-incarnate. He remains a proud conqueror and exploiter to this day.

    At each stage of their lives, their stories have parallels, though Mandarin's version is always at least slightly more evil. Then at the end there is a huge divergence: Stark becomes a slave, and through his creativity becomes a knight.

Tony was never evil. There was nothing evil about selling munitions. The flower children, beatniks, and Quakers may have thought so, but if they had looked into the faces of the soldiers marching off to fight and maybe die, they would have had to question their perspective, even if they wouldn't admit it out loud so as not to lose face.

    The Mandarin explores/exploits/steals, and via that Christopher Columbus-like behavior gains what are, at least in the Silver Age and Bronze Age, essentially ninja-tools.

    I'm digressing a lot. My point is that Stark is the slave in the cave, and The Mandarin is the brute who wants to put us all in the cave.

So you would rather see Tony as some sort of slave metaphor (with the Mandarin as a master metaphor) rather than having them both be masters who either (a) antisocially abuse power in the case of the Mandarin or (b) pro-socially convert power into utility in the case of Tony.

Tony was never a slave. He was a captive bent on escape from the first moments. If you really want to make Tony a slave then you need to put him in a concentration camp for years - not days, not months - years. You need to show him in real despair. You need to show him break under the whip and humiliate himself for the sake of a cup of water. That's a story that can be written. But why write it? Because the movie and TV industries have made a steretype out of the evil rich guy? Why not choose the more inspiring path of defying the stereotyope and depicting a rich man who makes his money honorably, spends it honorably, and gives back to society honorably by defending it in a suit of armor? This is absolutely the dark reverse reflection of the Mandarin.

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