I’ve been thinking about Tony Stark a lot recently, and there’s one particular facet about him that I want to discuss. We know that Tony Stark is one of the most intelligent characters in the MCU. He’s a veritable genius, and the son of a genius. Although in Iron Man 2 he remarks that his father is still taking him to school after having been dead for two decades, it’s likely that it’s just his bad self-esteem talking, and that he actually is even smarter than his father.
But while he is a genius, he has a tendency to downplay just how intelligent he is. He lets the eccentric part of his personality shine through, loud and abrasive, but he’s actually hiding much of his intelligence much of the time. Especially, it seems, in interpersonal relationships.
He comes across as kind of socially awkward, but it’s a part of what he uses to work people, to manipulate them into doing what he wants. And there are two scenes in the second Iron Man film that ought to inform how we view Tony’s relationships, all of them.
Enter Natalie Rushman. We see Tony try to figure her out. He’s unable to figure her out and he’s aware of this. It bothers him. But, he does see something in her. He can see that she’s not what she appears to be. Tony tells her that she has a quiet reserve and an old soul, but that’s not all of her.
And those things are true of Natasha Romanoff, not of the pretend persona Natalie Rushman. Tony saw through her facade, but he didn’t know what he was looking at.
The next scene is just before what dying Tony Stark believed would be his last birthday party. He confesses that it’s hard for him to get a read on her. He then asks her where she’s from. While she purposefully misunderstands the question and answers him with ‘Legal’, it’s clear that Tony was asking what on file had been All-American Natalie Rushman where she was from, really. Because while it was hard for Tony to get a read on her, he knew she wasn’t American.
It was hard, but not entirely impossible for him to get a read on her, because he could tell a lot about her.
Now, this is important.
She’s Natasha Romanoff. She’s a secret agent that was trained from childhood to infiltrate in KGB’s elite espionage program. She’s the freaking Black Widow. She’s really good at what she does.
And Tony is on to her. Not all the way onto her, but pretty fucking far.
And the thing is, it’s the only time we see him do it. Because with everyone else? With everyone else,with everyone else reading them is so easy for him that he doesn’t even have to try. Natasha is the one exception. Tony has everyone else figured out, bar none. And he works them over. He prods them, pushes them, rushes them, charms them, bullies them, pleads them – does what ever it takes to move them where he wants them. He has been more intelligent than all of his peers all of his life, and he’s learned to manipulate people.
It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just a consequence of his genius level intelligence. But this is a facet of his character that is often ignored because he hides it so well, because it’s so effortless for him most of the time. It’s only because it’s hard for him to cold-read a master spy that we see it at all.
Sometimes Tony’s cute and clever one-liners conceal how breath-takingly intelligent he is, and that’s just the way he wants it. And we should probably review some of his interactions against this fact.
Does anybody else see the smile from Steve/Chris at the very end? How he tries to hide the enjoyment by ducking his head behind his shoulder? His hand wrapping around her entire body to pull her to him….The way Natasha reaches her arms out for him and her fingers grasp onto the material of his shirt as Steve slams their body’s together? Her burying her head in his chest…. The sway and jerk from their hips upon force of impact…
ROMANTIC TONY SHIPS (in no particular order of importance):
Pep, Brucie bear, Platypus, Steven, Mr. Magic Fingers, Star-Dork, Rock of Ages, Bohdi, King Kit-Kat, Natalie Rushman, the Manchurian Candidate, M'Lady Gamora, Link, probably Viz but I honestly haven’t gone down that rabbit hole, and J.
See above. Also: Wicked Witch of Weast, Roadkill, CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE DESTROYER IS COOKING, Giving Tree, Dumm-E, Agent Agent, Captain Fury, U, Butterfingers, FRI, Aragog, Who are you again?, and Fly Boy
PLATONIC/FRIEND SHIPS (see that pun?):
See all of the above.