I'm doing a giveaway! One copy of an advanced reader copy of Arts and Thefts, through Goodreads.
In other news, I gave platelets this past week. I did it partly because a) the Red Cross calls me in, I have the universal donor type for platelets, and I feel like if I'm healthy and have time I should do it, and b) as part of the #LightTheWorld initiative. Serving others through December. Who doesn't like that?
But giving platelets takes a long time, so I watch a movie during the process. This last time it was Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was my third time seeing it, and I started to have some questions as I watched.
Such as: did Peter ever sign the Sokovia Accords? Because I don't think he did. Which is interesting since he was on Tony's team and Tony's team signed them. Maybe it was because he's a minor?
Or maybe it's because Tony brings him in as an asset, not a new team player?
There's a lot on the web about Tony being a father figure to Peter, but rewatching the movie, I just couldn't see it, not really. I think toward the end, Tony sees himself in that way, but starting out, he brings Peter in because the team needs more help, and then takes him home, tells him, "We'll call you," and leaves him without, really, any support.
To me, that sounds more like a business man using a new asset, not a teammate or even employee. And, when Peter comes to him with problems, he seems to brush them aside. However, Tony himself makes a lot of comments comparing how he interacts with Peter to how his own father treated him, so Tony at least does see a more parental role in place, especially after he rescues Peter several times.
So, is Tony treating Spider-Man as an asset or a protege? Does he see himself as responsible for Peter or not responsible at all?
This led me to some interesting character thoughts for both Peter and Tony as I waited for the machine to spin my blood into its parts.
So hold on, because this is going to be a long one. And yes, I'm only looking at the MCU for this analysis.
To begin, let's go back to Iron Man's origin story: Tony Stark was a genius billionaire playboy weapon-monger who didn't seem to think about or care about what his creations did to people. Then, he had a rude awakening when his transport was attacked by terrorists and Tony came, literally, face-to-face with what his weapons could do.
He became Iron Man as a result, attempting to undo his own actions and stop his own weapons. And I think this is really interesting, because this whole experience, this whole origin story, teaches Tony Stark the following:
My actions have consequences.
Think about this. Every action Tony makes as Iron Man comes back to this realization. He takes responsibility for the weapons he creates, especially when they create villains. He takes responsibility for his mistakes, like Ultron. When Civil War comes along, Tony is confronted by a woman who blames his actions for killing her son, which leads him to say yes to the Sokovia Accords.
In this, I see a man who sees how the things he does hurts people. He builds an AI that is supposed to protect the world, instead of killing it like his other weapons do. Then, that AI goes haywire and starts killing, too. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff are also caused by Stark weaponry; it's their desire for revenge after Stark weapons destroyed their home and family that causes them to seek enhancements and come after the Avengers. It probably seems to Tony like he destroys everything he touches, instead of protecting them like he wanted to.
Because Tony wants to protect everyone. I think he has daddy issues in more ways than one (which deserve to be discussed in a future post), and is just trying to protect everyone he cares about. Tony seems to take responsibility for the Avengers, giving them a place to live and work. He's the one who dreams of "a suit of armor around the world."
However, he can't do that. He just can't. Why? Because people have agency. They're not suits of armor, to be stored away for safekeeping. They make choices, and Tony can't protect them from the consequences of their choices as much as he wants to. But he tries when the actions, people, and dangers are his. His actions have consequences, and he's doing everything he can to protect people from them. The choice of Tony signing the Sokovia Accords makes sense; by this point, he's probably dying for someone else to oversee his actions and take that responsibility away from him.
Enough about Stark. Let's talk about Peter Parker.
I probably don't need to rehash Spider-Man's origin story, but here's the quick version: Peter gets powers, uses them poorly, and lets a petty criminal go when he could have stopped him. That criminal ends up killing Peter's uncle Ben. We all know this teaches Peter that "with great power comes great responsibility," but taken even deeper, it teaches him this:
My inaction has consequences.
As Peter says in Civil War, "When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you."
Why does this matter? Let's go back to Spider-Man: Homecoming and the interactions between veteran hero Tony Stark and newbie Peter Parker.
Tony sees responsibility in terms of what he has done, but Peter sees it in terms of what he should do. He needs help to pretty much force Captain America to sign, so he can protect the world from the mistakes he's made and other problems he feels responsible for, but he needs help, so he brings in Spider-Man. As an asset.
However, by doing this, Tony has just become responsible for this kid. He directly acted, you see. But Peter is a kid. A minor. So, when the fight is over, he gives Peter the nice new suit, but with safeguards. He gives him a handler and tracks him (think of how fast he saved Spidey in that first encounter with the Vulture). But he deliberately keeps him out of any real fights because that's how Tony Stark protects people: he shields them, like a suit of armor.
But Peter, on the other hand, has his own agency and a different view of responsibility. So, when someone is selling dangerous high-tech weapons in his neighborhood, he thinks about what could happen if he didn't get involved, and takes that responsibility. He acts, because inaction has consequences. He tells Happy about what happened, but when that gets him nowhere, he can't just let it go. Not when he has the responsibility to stop it.
And this is where the conflict with Tony and Peter happens. To Tony, Peter is his responsibility, but not the weapons dealers. He acted to bring in Peter; he did nothing to cause the weapons dealers (as far as he knows). That means the weapons dealers are not his problem (below the pay grade of the Avengers, as well), but if Peter keeps going after them, then Peter is endangered. And that is Tony's responsibility.
So he saves Peter, repeatedly. He tracks him. He tells him to stay out of trouble. Because if Peter gets hurt, Tony was the one who brought him in and so that's his fault. Consider this dialogue by Tony:
"What if somebody had died? That's on you. What if you had died? That's on me. I don't need that guilt on my conscience. I'm gonna need the suit back."
Pretty telling, don't you think? Tony is seeing responsibility in terms of actions. If someone had died because of what Peter had done, because actions have consequences, then that would have been Peter's fault. And if something happened to Peter, Tony would be at fault because he brought Peter into the superhero world.
But I betcha Peter was thinking of all the people who would be hurt or killed if he didn't stop the weapons deal on the ferry, because inaction has consequences.
Peter's view on responsibility is the reason he can't walk away when he knows the Vulture is about to try another heist. There is no "turn away" for Spider-Man. And this is probably giving Tony Stark an ulcer because he's responsible for the safety of this kid who keeps risking his safety to run after criminals who have nothing to do with him.
Interesting, no? I don't know what Marvel's planning for the Infinity War films, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see this parallel in action again. As much as it's good for Peter to learn superheroism from a veteran, I think it could be even better for Tony to have to wrangle a young hero who sees responsibility in a different way and will keep making his own choices, super-suit or no. Tony may have to learn how to let people make their own choices and not carry the weight of the world on his back because of mistakes he made. He may be able to see fighting evil in terms of helping right and stopping wrong, not as a desperate battle to correct everything that is his "fault."
Thank you for your patience with this long post. Check out the Goodreads giveaway, and if you have any thoughts about this analysis, or other things I should have talked about, feel free to post them in the comments!
Here's this week's debut:
Amanda Searcy - The Truth Beneath the Lies (12/12)