Iron Man 3 might appear a stereotypical comic book hero adventure, but Christian Clifton thinks there is an important message hidden among the special effects.
Iron Man 3 came out last year to much acclaim. Unsurprisingly it was a box office hit but ended up getting only average reviews from critics and fans alike. Sure it had all the stereotypical Hollywood tropes to make it a hit; big action, big names, and well done CGI, but underneath all this there is something that many may have missed.
Generally people line up to see a superhero flick for those things listed above. We situate ourselves in the theater, or home couch, and ready our brains to disconnect. Our minds are on standby as we take in the pretty colors, cool explosions, and out of this world antics that flash across the screen. There are plenty of times when this is exactly what needs to be done to enjoy a movie, but often enough doing this is a disservice as it causes us to miss out on some interesting points.
Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark trying to handle life in the wake of his near death experience at the end of The Avengers. With little time left, he made the choice to sacrifice himself to save the city of New York from destruction. Through some perfect timing and a lot of luck he survived this encounter to fight another day. This time around Tony is forced to face another threat to the world, and himself, with some new found respect for his own mortality.
Something commented on by many critics and a few professionals is Tony’s battle with what appears to be PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In his article published on Psychology Today Dr. Travis Langley takes a clinical look at what is presented on the screen.
If you don’t have time to read the article, Dr. Langley discusses the 6 criterion for PTSD as listed in the DSM IV (a widely used reference for psychological disorders) and finds them all applicable to Tony Stark in the movie. He concludes that;
“In Iron Man 3, Anthony Stark appears to meet the full criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. He either does not know enough about PTSD or he is in denial, refusing to recognize his own problem, which is a common occurrence among some of those who suffer similarly in real life.”
It was a brave move to tackle this side of Tony Stark, a side that is explored in more depth in Iron Man comics over the years. We usually want to see superheroes as indestructible and able to overcome anything with some miraculous device. Instead of facing real world problems, which often take serious work to overcome, their challenges are always conquered by some dues-ex machina. I for one am very glad the writers wanted to show the world a Tony Stark who had to face a dilemma that couldn’t be beat by a machine.
As young boys, and heck even as men, we look up to heroes like Iron Man, hoping one day to be just like them. It is nice to see someone who in the past few movies appeared extremely flippant about himself and others make a noticeable change in behavior. His ultimate sacrifice of the machines that caused so much distress in his personal and love life stands out as a better role model than the “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” (Tony Stark’s own words on himself) we had come to know so well.
This new role model that Tony Stark becomes should stand as a strong reminder to men of how we are allowed to be weak, and do not need to be the hero all the time. Instead of playing the stoic wall of hidden emotions and concealed problems, let us men declare that we are broken and in desperate need of some help. If you have something going on in your life, don’t be afraid to open up about it to someone. Looking like a superhero to everyone else might feel cool, but it is never worth the evils that can arise out of ignoring our emotional damage.
What goes on between the clashes of armor and bad guys gives so much more to take home than the movie would let on in trailers and previews. PTSD is a serious issue for thousands of men and women today, and I applaud the makers of this movie for putting the spotlight on something that often goes ignored. So do yourself a favor, go watch Iron Man 3 and check out how powerful the messages from the guy inside the suit really are.
Travis Langley’s original article can be found on Psychology Today here.