After Tony has the shrapnel and arc reactor removed from his chest with the help of the controlled Extremis virus, he gives Pepper a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant containing the pieces of removed shrapnel on the chain.
And it nicely mirrors the gift Pepper gave Tony in the first movie - his original arc reactor in a glass case. “Proof That Tony Stark Has a Heart”, indeed.
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.