Iron Man 3: Haven’t We Moved Past These Cliches Yet?

Iron Man 3: Haven’t We Moved Past These Cliches Yet?

Overall, I did really enjoy the Iron Man 3 movie. I haven’t seen the other two and my first introduction to Iron Man was in The Avengers. I found that his character was really fun and different for a superhero.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but the bad guy’s disability in this current movie bothered me.

In the beginning you’ve got Guy Pearce’s character, Aldrich Killian, who has greasy hair, awful glasses, acne, and a bad limp, walking with a cane. As such, he has no respect from anyone. Tony Stark won’t listen to him and Pepper Potts turns him down for dates, embarrassed¬†that he even asks her.

Well, the greasy hair and bad glasses are easily fixed and having a disability didn’t mean that he had to be ugly too. He makes himself over and is quite a good looking guy. But along with the makeover he also eliminates his disability. Because of course those things go together. And then Pepper Potts can barely resist him.

It’s hard to find a more pure example of evil genius driven mad by bitterness over his physical flaws.

He developed a technology that could “fix” such things, but it also appears to turn people into zombie monsters at his command. He then preys on injured war veterans. Everybody wants to be healed, apparently, even if it means injections so dangerous that you might literally explode like a human bomb and if you survive, a life of servitude to Mr. Evil Genius.

I don’t think it would bother me as much if there were some balance on the other side. Some character with a disability who didn’t let it twist him into a bitter evil person.

Guy Pearce’s character to me seemed flat and one dimensional. It’s like they took a short cut in showing character motivation. Like “Of course he’s bitter, just look at him.”

I’m surprised and disappointed that in this day and age we’re still relying on this tired cliche of the bitter cripple.



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  1. Anna
    May 6, 2013

    Hmm. I have not seen the movie! I am very intrigued by the presence of this cliche in all media, though, so perhaps I will give it a shot.

    I know the origins of Iron Man could be read within context of disability/mobility regarding the chest injury. Stark using his armor to transcend disability and become more powerful than a non-disabled person is interesting. Do they use that as interplay for addressing the disability of Killian?

    None of this makes it OK for this kind of cliche to continue thriving, of course. I’m even against the straightening of curly hair and exchanging glasses for contacts in typical rom-coms that makeover nerdy characters!

    • RuthMadison
      May 7, 2013

      Yeah, I feel like I need to see the first movie to understand the chest injury aspect of Iron Man. It’s like they almost balanced out the bitter cripple cliche but not quite. :-/

      Good point on the un-nerding makeovers too. I love nerdy guys. I will say, though, that Killian was pretty gross looking in the beginning. I didn’t think he needed to cut his hair, but washing it would not have been a bad thing!

      • Annabelle
        Jun 10, 2013

        I like nerdy guys too, but I agree with Ruth that Killian was gross looking prior to the makeover. Usually in these movies, the pre-makeover person’s ugliness is enhanced with horrible skin issues or huge buck teeth or something that magically disappears the second they get made over.

        In the first Iron Man, which I recently rewatched, there is definitely a devvy edge to it, like when Tony has to carry a huge battery around with him that is wired to his chest.

        In any case, I agree with you, Ruth. I thought the movie was irritatingly negative about disability.

  2. Beverly Diehl
    May 17, 2013

    I’m WAAAAY behind the 8 ball here. I must confess I haven’t seen any of the Iron Man movies yet, and I do intend to… eventually.

    But it does sound like they are going to old cliches here . Thanks for the review, AND for the interview on my blog.

  3. Adam
    Dec 5, 2013

    It wasn’t hard for me to enjoy the film, but it was REALLY hard work to look past the ENTIRE group of baddies were disabled war veterans except killian. ugh.
    Bad enough they were the entire group of bad guys, but in a comic book movie that markets toys. Double ugh.

    It was still a fun film and it may just be personal opinion, but the original iron man: extremis storyline didn’t have one disabled veteran villain, or even a disabled villain in it and it was great.

    Guy Pearce’s “nerd makeover” honestly made me laugh, it was like trying to convince myself Rachel Cook was “unattractive” in she’s all that. Glasses on a beautiful person is just a beautiful person with glasses to me.

    Sorry if my two cents is unwarranted, I just caught this article strolling through google and couldn’t resist.

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