There has been a lot of talk about her in the latest movie, obviously. And a lot of people being mad at her, thinking that she’s not supporting Tony, all this shit. And I want to talk about this, because I feel like people are making a lot of assumptions and really ignoring the context in which these events are happening.
Tony is a man suffering from PTSD. This is an awful thing that deserves empathy and support from those who care about him.
However, Tony is also a man suffering from PTSD who has refused to talk about it or deal with it in any way. His conversation is Pepper is the first time he’s admitted it to her, but you sure as hell know it’s not the first she’s known of it. Of course she knows. Do you think she’s done anything except try her very hardest to support Tony in whatever way she can in the months since the events of New York? She’s moved in with him, and I think we can assume without seeing every interaction that’s she generally done her best to take care of him, because she’s Pepper and she’s a professional at taking care of Tony Stark, and because she loves him.
She doesn’t call Tony’s suits a distraction because she’s annoyed at him not spending time with her. She’s calling them a distraction because their Tony’s way of distracting himself from the very real issues he’s refusing to deal with. Sitting down in your workshop when you can’t sleep and building THIRTYSOMETHING SUITS is not a healthy way to deal with your emotional trauma. Tony is building a wall of metal around him, pulling away from those who care about him in a very literal way that we can see when he has an empty suit stand in for him on date night with Pepper.
And then the dream happens.
I’ve heard even from people who aren’t frothing about Pepper being mean to Tony that they wish Pepper had just been more terrified and less angry. One, emotions are not rational when you have just gone through a life-threatening situation. Like, come on. Two: although Tony is not responsible for his nightmares, and his suit activating was an accident, it’s all a part of the continual road of Tony not dealing with his issues in a healthy way. It was an accident, but it was an accident born of Tony’s actions and responses to his trauma.
Have you ever tried to help someone who refused to help themselves? It’s really, really hard. It’s incredibly frustrating. And, yes, it is angering. It is infuriating. And if their refusal to help themselves ends up putting you in danger, accidentally or not, you have every right to be angry about it for one night. It is a normal human reaction to be pissed and terrified and need space. Most of Pepper’s life for the past – I don’t know, seems at least a decade – has been taking care of Tony Stark, and now she takes care of him as a lover and a girlfriend rather than a personal assistant, and that’s great, but he is Tony Stark, and he must be exhausting. I mean, think about it. He is not an easy man to love. She stays with him because she does love him, and for her he’s worth it, but she’s human.
So no, if you’re one of the people whining about Pepper being mean to Tony, you need to stand back and reassess. Pepper is a woman trying to love a very damaged, difficult man. Tony’s PTSD is not his fault. I’m not even saying the dream and the accidental suit attack was his fault. I’m just saying that he’s someone who’s not taking care of himself and who has refused, up until his scene with Pepper in the movie, to open up about it. That’s where the movie opens up on the subject, but this isn’t the beginning of Tony’s problems. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it impossible to read Pepper’s “oh, you think?” in that conversation, reacting to Tony admitting he has a problem, without seeing all the times she must have tried to help him before now.
Pepper is human. Tony is human. We’re all just human. She’s not being mean or a bitch, she’s not abandoning him in his time of need. She’s doing what she needs to do for herself and her own emotional safety and well-being for one night, because that’s actually the appropriate response.
So yeah. Pepper is awesome, man. Haters gonna hate, but they shouldn’t.
Here’s the thing about comparing Tony and T’Challa’s choices at the end of Civil War
Tony and T’Challa are definitely supposed to parallel each other, and yes, their actions are polar opposites. A lot of people are taking this to mean that T’Challa is a better person than Tony, and I’m not going to say this is wrong. T’Challa so far is a very good man, and Tony is a very flawed man, though one who wants desperately to be good.
But T’Challa 100% did try to kill Bucky. He told Natasha that he was going to kill him, and then he tried pretty damn hard to do it. After he failed he had some time to begin to come to terms with what had happened, but he did not make the decision to not kill anyone until a) he found out he had tried to kill the wrong person, and b) he saw first hand the pain caused by anger and a desire for vengeance by watching Tony and Zemo
When Tony attacked Bucky and Steve, it was only moments after he found out that his parents had been murdered. Tony had spent more than 20 years trying to cope with the fact that his parents died in an accident that was no one’s fault, and then he finds out that his parents were deliberately taken from him. And he had to watch it being done, while the person who pulled the metaphorical trigger was standing right next to him. T’Challa had already known that his father was murdered, it was only the who that he was wrong about.
So while I know that if Tony was thinking rationally he would have realized that Bucky was innocent and didn’t deserve anything that happened to him, and didn’t deserve to be attacked, I don’t entirely blame him for being irrational, and I think it’s unfair to forget that T'Challa had almost made the same mistake earlier.
Rebecca Hall: The flashback scene where Maya and Tony meet is on New Year’s Eve 1999 at a science conference. Maya Hansen, Tony Stark and Happy Hogan all end up in Maya’s hotel room, which was a very funny scene. We had a fun time shooting it because it was funny on the page, but somehow the three of us started getting more and more ridiculous with it and got a lot of jokes out of it.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in doing something set in 1999 too. You kind of think, “Oh, it’s not that long ago. How period can it get?” And you realize actually that the haircuts were really specific and there are certain cultural references that you can really milk like Jon Favreau dressed up like John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction.” It’s kind of great.