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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

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    Tony Stark Comes Out of the Closet

    By kyle | May 5, 2010

    Meet Tony Stark — Capitalist Tool. I liked “Iron Man,” and liked it even more the second time I saw it, but it didn’t overwhelm me. And I felt it was a little wishy-washy on questions of capitalism and patriotism.

    Not so with “Iron Man 2,” in which Tony Stark is a Randian hero who all but goes Galt when seemingly the only force that could ever defeat him — the U.S. government — begins to make the outrageous demand that his Iron Man technology is somehow public property. Because … well, it’s really important. And everyone knows that when it comes to important stuff, only the government can be trusted to handle it.

    Stark makes the argument that the opposite is the case. He says he has made national defense a triumph by privatizing it (!). Yes, he actually uses the word privatize, and though I part with pure libertarians about this subject (no, I don’t think cops and the military should be privatized), to hear a superhero outlining such a bold stance is a tonic to say the least. (As I write virtually every time the subject is a superhero movie, these things are so predictable that I can barely pay attention to the latest by-the-numbers plot.) Moreover, Tony is unapologetic about getting rich (he’s simply smarter than the competition), openly mocks the senators who are grilling him about his alleged selfishness and warns the government about handpicking winners in the weapons business (such as Sam Rockwell, who plays a rival industrialist who, though this is never explicitly mentioned, has obviously won Pentagon contracts by buying off lawmakers). He notes that evil-axis-dwellers such as the Iranians and the Norks are five to ten years from developing Iron Man technology, and that the cocky-but-inept Rockwell character is “more like 20” years away. In a very Howard Roark/Galt-ish moment, Stark chastises the government that it cannot take away his private property.

    “Iron Man 2,” which contains a sight gag at the expense of Barack Obama (I doubt liberals, who are humor-deaf when it comes to the One will even notice how openly their hero is being mocked) and even makes fun of Christiane Amanpour (there is also a Bill O’Reilly joke thrown in for the liberals) is a full-throated cheer for capitalism, entrepreneurship and individualism. What a joy (and a laugh) it is to realize that now both of Hollywood’s biggest superhero franchises are striking a robust conservative stance.

    Topics: Barack Obama, Comic Books, Movies, Politics | 45 Comments »

    45 Responses to “Tony Stark Comes Out of the Closet”

    1. KS Says:
      May 5th, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      It’s funny that Gwyneth Paltrow is in a movie like that. Then again, she has no problem representing Estee Lauder.

    2. JimmyC Says:
      May 5th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

      Sounds like Mr. Favreau was keeping his philosophical cards close to the vest in the first one, waiting to see how well-received it was, before going all-out with #2. Shrewd move.

    3. Kevin W. Says:
      May 5th, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      It’s not surprising at all. Gwynnie is a whore. She has a whole Oprahesque website advertising all the wonderful crap and services she consumes. She’s as deep as a breakfast tray, and half as smart.

    4. JohnJ Says:
      May 5th, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      I have to disagree. Iron Man 2 didn’t seem capitalist or Randian to me. It seemed maybe like some leftist attempt to toss a (very) small bone to a rightwing crowd that has obviously been so starved for affection from Hollywood lately than the slightest attempt at pandering is devoured without even really tasting it.

      I actually like that so much that I’m going to stop there.

      Iron Man 2 really wasn’t very good though. I found it rather shallow and pointless.

    5. ayn rand Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 4:18 am

      Oh could it be? A film that is fair and takes shots at both sides-even-GASP-The One? I almost fainted reading this.

    6. Stan Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 5:08 am

      Larry Ellison CEO of Oracle (in the top 10 richest people) is in this movie and even says a line (walking up the stairs in the start). The Oracle logo is seen throughout the movie too. Oracle have been promoting this movie even on their website. Hammer and Stark’s smooth talking is like Ellisons in some ways.

    7. Kevin W. Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 8:55 am

      Aren’t all big-budget comic-book action movies shallow and pointless? It seems to me that all they can aspire to be is entertaining, and they all to often fail in that regard. The earlier Batman movies were style over substance and a big snoozefest. Kyle, help me out: Are there any non-shallow, unpointless films in this genre that offer anything beyond mere entertainment?

    8. Kyle Smith Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 9:35 am

      Most of them are shallow and pointless, but I think both the Batman and Iron Man franchises are raising vital real-world issues.

    9. Victor Gomez Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Isn’t the director Jon Favreau also the head speech writer for President Obama?

    10. Robert P. Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 10:04 am

      I actually thought Hancock came close to being a significant film. It just didn’t make any sense at all that anyone would attempt to hurt him since he has absolutely zero weaknesses (at least that the generic public knows about.)

    11. David Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 10:20 am

      Loved the Obama gag. Unfortunately, most of the theater was not laughing as hard as I was.

      I thought Iron Man 2 was fairly even handed as far was poking at the left and the right though.

    12. Kyle Smith Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 10:33 am

      The Jon Favreau who writes speeches for Obama is not the same person as Jon Favreau the director.

    13. Robert P. Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 10:46 am

      RE: Victor

      Pretty funny actually, I just read an interview with Jon Favreau where he says:

      “Half the people I meet think I’m the speechwriter for Obama and the other half think I play Ari Gold on Entourage.”

    14. Paul in Pttsburgh Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      Really torn now as whether to see this in the theater or not. Really loved Iron Man, mad props to Robert Downey jr for being one of the few Hollywood conservatives on record and was psyched to hear of the sequel… then Scarlett “I think Obama is Jesus Christ” Johansson was cast I refused to pay to see her in a film. Then the trailers gave a hint of some conservative talking points and now this review has me reconsidering.

      Oh what’s a right-winger who refuses to supports the half-wit Hollywooders like Johansson but wants to support the RDJs to do here?

    15. Kyle Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Swallow your outrage. Virtually every movie was either made by or stars one or more out-there lefties. If you’re going to be that single-minded, you’ll just have to swear off movies.

    16. Paul in Pttsburgh Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      “If you’re going to be that single-minded, you’ll just have to swear off movies.”

      Indeed, that’s pretty much what I’ve done. I can count the movies I’ve seen in the theaters in the last twenty five years on one hand – there’s Iron Man, The Lord of The Rings trilogy and the Passion of the Christ… and that’s it. Canceled my cable as well until Congress ends the practice of forced bundling and I can pay for only those channels I want.

    17. AndyZ Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Jon F (the director) is a slightly more right of center kind of guy.

      His good buddy Vince Vaughn certainly is, and my impression is that Jon has always been a “make it on my own” indie film kind of guy from SWINGERS and MADE. In the past, he spoke a lot about being overweight and doing what he needed to do to improve himself and seems to have avoided the pitfall of fame and fortune to maintain a kind of regular-Joe, blue collar mindset (I think Adam Sandler is like that too).

    18. Charles Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      Cant wait to see the movie.

    19. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

      Refusing to see a movie because one of the actors in it happens to have a different political point of your own is nonsensical. How about the guy who wrote it? The guy who directed it? The guy who shot it? The guy who composed the music for it? The guy who did the set design? The guy in chage of the SFX? The guy who did the make-up? The costumier, the props guy, the grips, the stagehands? The guys who did the advertising? The guys who produced it? The guy who wrote the book it was based on? The TV companies who produce the chat shows the star appears on? The guy at the local video store who stocks the movie? The guy at the local record store who sells the soundtrack? Do they all have to be right-wing to earn your cash? Good grief!

    20. Paul in Pttsburgh Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      “Do they all have to be right-wing to earn your cash? Good grief!”

      They don’t have to be anything at all, they just don’t have to go out of their way to make sure I know about their stupid left-wing anti-American views without me having to look for them. Unfortunately Hollywood has gone so far over the top that I view the whole place and everyone in as one giant cesspool run by vermin. If you work with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johanssen, Danny Glover, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert De Niro, etc if you support, interact, or enable them in anyway then you’re just as much my enemy as they are. I even go out of my way to not patronize those local businesses that put up signs in support of leftist candidates like Obama and Kerry. I DON’T ASK what any of these people’s politics are but if they feel compelled to make sure I know and I disagree, then I feel compelled to respond by never patronizing them again.

      If I woke up tomorrow and saw a headline saying people had quit going to the theater altogether and everyone in Hollywood was picking through trash bins trying to survive I’d give big hearty chuckle and go about my day as if nothing had happened.

    21. JimmyC Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

      I’m with Hunter on this. I might refuse to see a movie if it’s over-the-top left-wing (or if it’s ridiculously mean-spirited toward conservatives), but most movies have a mix of political ideologies, both in front of and behind the camera.

      If you avoid a movie like IM 2 that has conservative themes, just because you don’t agree with one of the cast members’ politics, then you’ll end up hurting everyone who worked on the film.

    22. Paul in Pttsburgh Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      “If you avoid a movie like IM 2 that has conservative themes,”

      In this case you might be right, which is why I’ll probably go see it and make sure RDjr gets his props, but my disdain for Hollywood remains and grows each day.

      And for those who think my opinion is the exception; might want to look at the box office trends of the last decade.

      I know lots of people who won’t see a film if Matt Damon, Sean Penn or any of the Hollywood commies are in it. LOTS!

    23. Robert P. Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      RE: Paul in Pittsburgh
      Can’t Avatar be considered very left-ist and arguably Anti-American? I’m pretty sure that one made a few bucks.

      Also, I think Matt Damon has done pretty well this decade with the Bourne trilogy, the Ocean’s trilogy and The Departed all making gobs of money.

      Sean Penn has been in too many low-profile movies the past decade to fairly judge his box office credibility.

    24. JohnJ Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

      I absolutely agree that it’s good to see movies that at least aren’t explicitly hateful towards conservatives.

      That said, I’d like a movie that had at least a little character development, plot, and story too. Iron Man 2 just wasn’t enjoyable enough to make it’s lack of hatefulness towards conservatives worth seeing, in my humble opinion.

      Clearly I’m outvoted, though.

      However, “comic book” movies don’t have to be shallow and pointless. In addition to the new Batman movies, I’d list 300 and Watchmen as proof that action movies can also have lots of substance, story, and character development.

    25. KS Says:
      May 6th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Maybe if an actor’s politics or personal life distracts you from enjoying a movie, you shouldn’t see it. There was a time after Woody Allen and Mia Farrow split up that I couldn’t see him without thinking of their custody battle, his relationship with Soon-Yi, etc. Eventually I got over that, but I liked him best when he was with Diane Keaton anyway.

    26. PatrickKelley Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 9:45 am

      The Gary Shandling character-the Senator from Pennsylvania-is supposedly a mock-up of Arlen Spector, whom Shandling does somewhat resemble. That alone with Stark’s behavior before Congress would make it worth seeing. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat and watched Senate hearings where I almost literally prayed that one of the witnesses would tear those bastards a new asshole-and I don’t necessarily just mean verbally.

      This movie, if it really is that staunchly pro-American from a conservative perspective, could be the start of a new trend. It also could be a barometer of the public mood. Hollywood knows the public is pissed, and the fact that they might be openly playing up to the public’s disdain with liberalism is noteworthy, but not too shocking. It is after all first and foremost a business.

    27. Paul in Pttsburgh Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 9:52 am

      “Maybe if an actor’s politics or personal life distracts you from enjoying a movie, you shouldn’t see it.”

      Completely missing the point. Nobody’s talking about being distracted from enjoying a movie. The radical left in Hollywood from the studios, to the unions and on down to the actors themselves, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting candidates and causes that represent a minority view in the country. They’ve used their resources and talents to help craft messages intended to deceive voters as to the true nature of the people they support. They misuse their celebrity to influence opinions.

      In 2006 and 2008 the largest contributors to the Democrat Party and individual leaders within the party were Time/Warner, Vaicom, NBC/Universal and the whole list of movies studios. The actors and executives of these companies are counted amongst the top individual contributors. Len Riefenstahl would blush as the role these people had in helping Barack Obama fool people into thinking he was just another red-blooded American, middle of the road Democrat.

      If you buy movie tickets or pay for their cable channels you are providing the resources and enhancing their status which they ultimately use against the country.

      Enjoyment is not a factor; I don’t patronize these people because I don’t want to fund their efforts to undermine my family’s well being and give them to resources to force Sean Penn’s sick, twisted view on the nation.

      A broke Hollywood and unemployed Scarlett Johansson would no longer be a threat to our republic – that’s the point.

    28. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Obama is a red-blooded, middle of the road democrat, and you, sir, are a crackpot.

    29. kishke Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 11:53 am

      Anyone who throws and bowls like Obama is not a red-blooded anything.

    30. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Fair point, but, you know, growing up i London in the 70s I knew quite a lot of Marxists, and to compare Obama to those lunatics is laughable. The very idea that Obama is some kind of communist who spends every waking moment planning the destruction of the Constitution is laugh-out-loud hilarious. He’s just another middle-of-the-road Democrat.

    31. tsj017 Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

      “Obama is a middle-of-the-road Democrat”?

      You might want to measure the width of that road again.

      Seriously, I’ve heard this talking point recently, and it’s laughable. Lots of people bought that nonsense in 2008, but no one’s buying it any more.

    32. The Monster Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      “He’s just another middle-of-the-road Democrat.”

      You’ve got to be kidding. When he was in the Senate, his voting record was rated furthest to the left, even past SOCIALIST Bernie Sanders.

    33. Daddy-O Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      As a kid, most of my reading material outside of school was comics. I read them, dreamed about them, and when I grew up, I even drew them professionally for a stint. Looking back, it strikes me that ALL heroes have a strong conservative bent.

      These types of heroes must first acknowledge good and evil. How exciting would it be if Batman tried to negotiate with the Joker? Then, if the Joker doesn’t agree to negotiations, Batman appeals to the Justice League, and forms an international and interplanetary commitiee which crafts a strongly worded message stating that the Joker faces possible sanctions if he does not— oh, sorry, I was thinking about Obama and North Korea. Sorry.

      Comic heroes are characters of decisive action, and clear moral vision. The funny thing is that this model nearly always resonates with audiences. From Iron Man to Braveheart, from Gladiator to Spider-Man, conservative heroes fill people with enthusiasm and a sort of vicarious pride.

      And what is ironic is that the folks who produce these films, act in them, and profit from them are more often than not limp-wristed, moral equivocating, Leftist half-men. The profit from tales of chest-baring conservative ideals, then condemn them when seen in the real world.

      Mighty pathetic.

    34. Wearyman Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:40 pm


      The very idea that Obama is NOT a radical leftist is what’s laugh out loud hilarious. The only way you could NOT understand this is if you have absolutely no knowledge of his background and life.

      Barack Obama has been, since BIRTH surrounded and steeped in radical marxist leftism. BOTH of his parents were marxists. (His father left him to join a Marxist government in Africa) His Mother was a member of several far-left radical groups, and both of his grandparents were leftists that even attended well-known leftist churches. His biggest influences in life were Marxists and Socialists, and one of the biggest influences in his adult life (according to his own writing!) was none-other than violent domestic terrorist and well known Marxist William Ayers. His Pastor for 20 YEARS was the radical Liberation Theologist (read: Marxist and Racist brand of Christianity) The Rev. Jeremiah Wright. EVERY SINGLE member of his cabinet is a radical leftist or an OPEN Marxist.

      Basically, every single person that has ever had any kind of significant influence on his life has been a radical Marxist or leftist. I ask you; Knowing this, How in hell could Obama be anything BUT a radical leftist?

      For him to be a “Middle of the road” moderate Democrat would require a personal transformation on-par with a religious epiphany! We have NO evidence that has EVER happened with him!

      Quit kidding yourself and accept that America got hoodwinked into electing a Marxist. The sooner we rid ourselves of him and his ilk the better off we all will be.

    35. Trey Burley Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      I’ll go see any movie if it’s got good buzz and is something that I want to see. All fo the Iraq war movies didn’t look good, had horrible buzz and were even poorly received by liberal outlets. I’ll go see product even if I disagree with their stars politics, but it’s good when there is always a protagonist, regardless of which party is in control.
      That is the most frustrating part about how people interact with their entertainment; in that they get their opinions and news from it as well.

    36. HobbesDFW Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

      “Obama is a middle-of-the-road Democrat”?

      If your frame of references is strictly the overt Trotskyites and Stalinists of 70’s Britain, I will grant that Obama might seem moderate, at least in his public persona. After all, no politician who sounds like Michael Foot or Tony Benn could get within laughing distance of the white house, much less occupy it.

      That said, the statement was not “Obama is a middle-of-the-road Communist”, or “Obama is a middle-of-the-road fellow traveler”. The comparison was to democrats; i.e., members of the U.S. Democratic party. And The Monster has it correct, his voting record speaks for itself there.

    37. Wearyman Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Oh, and I have seen a pre-screen of this movie and I concur with everything Kyle has said. It’s a great Randian romp and I fully intend to go PAY to see it again, this time with my wife.

      You should go see it too.

    38. pjean Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      It’s no wonder then that our left-leaning press here in Minnesota panned it. Figures.

    39. pjean Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

      As soon as an actor thinks that because they’ve been in a movie, that they’re entitled to demonize me or my beliefs, I’m done. Does an actor, musician or athlete have to be a conservative? Absolutely not, but if you think that you can belittle me and refer to conservatives, as “limited” because they hold a different perspective, than you are no longer a celebrity because of talent, you are just a “media whore”.

    40. Lee Reynolds Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      Something that no one ever talks about is the link between Robert Downey Jr recovery from drug addiction and his adoption of conservative ideals.

      Is there a link? I don’t know that for sure obviously, but I’m inclined to believe there is.

      The foundation of conservatism is personal responsibility. Drug addicts suffer from a profound lack of personal responsibility. I think RDJ found his salvation from drug addiction by embracing a philosophy that reminded him that it was his own choice to do those drugs in the first place, and that only he could choose to stop destroying himself with them.

    41. Joel Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      I always thought that all super heros were
      very Pro American and thus to the right side of the law

    42. Steve Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

      I’ve never heard libertarians say cops and the military should be privatized. Libertarians believe government has limited responsibilities: protecting us from foreign invaders and domestic criminals are actually acceptable uses of government power.

    43. The Monster Says:
      May 7th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      “I’ve never heard libertarians say cops and the military should be privatized.”

      Only people who confuse anarchist thinking with minarchist (libertarian). Those of us who consider ourselves libertarian recognize that, human nature being what it is, in the absence of what we call “government”, these competing cops/military (gangs) will fight each other until one has exclusive control over its “turf”, at which point, it becomes a “government”.

    44. Dennis Says:
      May 10th, 2010 at 4:49 am

      I think you’re all a bunch of nut bags! Every movie seems to have a hint of politics in it. I think it’s called popular colture, where concern of the government consumes the culture of the public.

      Not to see a movie because of an actor’s personal opinion is absolutely ridiculous! Judge a movie on the quality of the actors, story, visuals; not the opinions of the person in it. I don’t like Spike Lee’s opinions, for example, but he makes good movies.

      The reason why Superhero movies tend to not have “substance” as you call it is because the general public can’t handle that. Movies are a business of entertainment. Business being the important factor. That’s why most of us fanboys hate them because they’re not as good as the books. I know the general public are a bunch of morons; so I deal. I know these movies aren’t made for me, they’re for you. (The guy who worked on comics I leave you out of these statemenets)

      I have yet to see Iron Man 2 yet, but I’m planning to see it soon. And based on Fav’s passion and desire to stay true to the subject matter as best as possible I have little doubt the movie won’t be good. RDJ did a great job portraying Stark in the first movie.

      And if you really want to debate the politics of the Stark character, read a comic! I’m sure I made a spelling or grammatical error some where in here; but I don’t care. If you want to harp on that, piss off!

    45. Alex Says:
      May 12th, 2010 at 7:18 am

      I haven’t seen the movie, but it doesn’t sound conservative at all. Conservatives love big government, and only say they dislike big government when they want to get the Republican Party back in power. This movie sounds from the description classical-liberal or libertarian rather modern-“liberal” or conservative.

      As for what Steve said on 7 May 2010, most libertarians are what we call minarchists. About 15 percent of the Libertarian Party, however, are anarchists. For clarity, that does not mean we favour chaos or lawlessness. Quite the opposite, we favour a peaceful society with law. The one and only law we support is that no person or group of persons may initiate or threaten to initiate force or fraud against the person or the justly-acquired property of anybody else. Rather, when we 15 percent call ourselves anarchists, this only means that we believe that all useful functions of the state can be more effectively, more efficiently, and more ethically handled by individuals, voluntary associations, and private firms operating on a truly free market. For more on this perspective, I would recommend checking out The Market for Liberty by Linda & Morris Tannehill.

      And as for what “The Monster” said on the same day, let’s be clear. Free market anarchists want almost the same exact thing as minarchists. The difference is that minarchists do not believe the market can effectively provide for defence, arbitration, and aggression insurance, while the anarchist recognises that, human nature being what it is, a government-monopoly system is prone to systemic corruption. What happens when crime rates rise under the monopoly system, for example? People say, “somebody should do something!” and the politicians, wanting to get votes, will then increase funding for the cops. When your police department gets more money in response to you doing a poor job, what incentive do you have to do a good job? None. Also, the historical example of ancient Ireland, which had a functional anarchy for about a millennium, seems to indicate quite clearly that the lack of a centralised power makes it extremely difficult for invaders (e.g. England) to take over; after all, without a centralised system of government, there is no seat of power to simply seize.

      But that all being said, minarchists and anarchists are in agreement about 99% of the way. I see no reason to kick the minarchists out of the libertarian movement simply because they happen to be slightly less libertarian than us. As far as I’m concerned, we’re ALL libertarians, regardless of whether we support a teeny, tiny state or no state whatsoever. We should work together toward our common goals rather than letting our one intellectual disagreement divide us strategically.