One of the reasons I like Tumblr so much is that its much easier to find in depth analysis of some of my favorite movies and characters, that go well beyond your typical, glossy movie reviews. In fact, Tumblr is almost famous for this.
*I do actually like Tony despite my criticism of this character. I sympathize with Tony and his efforts to try to do good, and understand he’s gone through a lot of trauma he’s simply not dealing with very well. But at the same time, I also acknowledge that this does not excuse Tony’s fuckups. I like Tony because in the Iron Man movies he is willing to acknowledge when he’s messed up and apologize for his mistakes. That’s not the problem. The problem is that he goes on to make all new, horrible mistakes.
Tony Stark, of the original team, is the only civilian after Bruce. But there are some key differences between he and Bruce. Bruce is treated delicately by the team after he comes back from the Hulk. They give him his space, let him listen to his chill out remix. They let him come down in his own time. I also think that Bruce has demonstrated that he has a solid handle on himself. He grapples with a huge amount of guilt (and anger), but he’s never demonstrated any signs of trauma. He’s upset by some of the destruction he causes, but he’s found a balance, probably in his own research into ways to calm himself and balance his anger, that’s helped him be able to live with himself without snapping.
Tony Stark doesn’t have that. Tony is a civilian, with no proper training other than the training he’s put himself through in order to operate the suit. Sure, he was a military weapons contractor most of his life, he’s been around military most of his life, but he’s never seen violence and combat like he has since the kidnapping.
Tony’s also demonstrated that he really has no healthy way to handle his guilt, his pain. He bottles things up and he shoves them to the side to deal with later. Except he doesn’t want to deal with it later. So he tinkers and he builds and with each subsequent betrayal of his trust throughout his film appearances, it only serves to increase his paranoia, increase his anxiety, make his survivor’s guilt that much deeper.
Tony has slowly been losing his mind since his kidnapping in IM1. He’s nearly killed in a bombing by one of his own stolen weapons. He’s held hostage by a terror cell, he’s learning that his weapons that he built to protect his country are somehow ending up in the hands of terrorists and murderers. So when he goes home, he immediately shuts down his weapons manufacturing and starts building a way to get his weapons out of those hands.
He learns that his father figure of the last 30 years has betrayed him, is trying to take over his company, has been selling his weapons to terrorists all this time and tried to have him killed.
He’s grappling with the guilt and the weight of the lives and livelihoods destroyed by his stolen weapons that he can never make amends for. And then he’s dying, he tries to give his life away to his friends while pushing them away to spare them any pain his inevitable death may cause.
And then months later he’s flying through a wormhole, his suit goes dead and all he can do is watch as a nuke tears apart the Chitauri fleet before his eyes as his exit gets smaller and smaller. He could die here. Die floating out in the silence and dark expanse of space. He won’t get a burial. He won’t be laid to rest beside his mother.
But he manages to fall out at the last moment, but every night he’s back there, back in space, unsure if the blast will reach him before he chokes to death.
He has no time for any therapy, because the world always needs saving. He continues to work, his PTSD and survivor’s guilt gets worse and worse, eating away at him. He builds himself an army of armors to try and keep himself and his friends safe.
*(Technically, he does have time for therapy, as the final scene of The Avengers shows. He just refuses to get any more, and chooses the wrong therapist.)
He tries to give it up for Pepper, because it’s what Pepper wants and he’d do anything for her. But he can’t give it up, not when there are innocent lives at risk. So he makes new suits. He makes the Iron Legion. He’s trying to find a way to protect the world while being able to retire. To get some rest. To find some peace. Hopefully to get some therapy. But that time never comes because in all his paranoid efforts to build peace, he builds destruction instead. Ultron tries to end the world and the team stops him, but at the cost of a country. At the cost of thousands of lives. And he tries to do his best to save as many people as he could, but it’s too much.