lettered: (Default)
[personal profile] lettered
I started writing this because I realized the in-universe and out-of-universe responses to Iron Man 3 could possibly bear some similarities. Which I then found hilarious. And then I went too far. It ended up facile, stereotyped, and self-affirming, but I had fun thinking about it and trying to put my head in the universe.

Please enjoy and do not take seriously.

Gary the Cameraman: A Profile

Gary used to really like comic books. He had a lot of Superman and Green Lantern. Flash and Batman, not so much, but they were okay too. Chris and Shaun were his best friend in elementary school. Sometimes they played Justice League.

They got to know Marcie in middle school. She liked comics book too, which was weird, because she was a girl, but she knew her stuff. By then they were too old to play Justice League, but they talked about it a lot. Sometimes Gary wished they could still play, but then he and Marcie sort started going out, he guessed, so there were better things to do.

Then sophomore year of high school Marcie started getting really down on comics. She said things about how the female characters were portrayed and drawn and all this stuff about the male gaze, and she started wearing black.

“You never wore black before,” Gary said.

Mom bought all my clothes before,” Marcie said.

Gary wanted to ask her whether her mom bought all her comics before, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with comics.”

“I told you what’s wrong with them.”

“But you used to like them.”

“I still like them. I still love them.”

“And there are a lot of heroines who do awesome things,” because he was seriously getting the impression that it was a girl thing.

“It’s not a girl thing,” said Marcie, because she could always read his mind. “And yeah, Wonder Woman’s my favorite. I just don’t understand how she gets to be the arbiter of justice, and why she has to do it wearing a bikini.”

Gary didn’t tell her that Wonder Woman looked great wearing a bikini, because he already knew it would get him in trouble. Then Marcie found the comic Watchmen. Gary really didn’t like it, and then they broke up. Marcie said she just couldn’t talk to him anymore.

After that Gary started losing interest in comics, sort of. Not really because of Marcie, but he was a junior in high school now. He did A/V, which sucked up a lot of time, and he was taking SATs and AP tests. It was stupid to be interested in people who weren’t real, who could never be real, so he got interested in Will Smith and Vin Diesel, who were total badasses, and Marilyn Manson for a while he guessed.

At first, Gary was interested in making movies. Then he went to college and realized people like Colin Powell and Bill Gates and Jon Stewart were also badasses, and people like Ghandi and Steve Rogers and Frederick Douglass used to be badasses, when they were alive. That was how Gary got interested in journalism. Realizing he could combine journalism with movies, sort of, he did an internship with Channel Nine and that was how he became a photojournalist.

Or that was what he wanted to be anyway. Most of the cameras in the news studio were automated, so he just did things like set the angle and clean the lenses, but he was working on being a location shot camera man, partly just to actually be doing something, and partly because he’d get a van. Vans were cool.

And then there was Iron Man.

The first time Gary saw Iron Man on the news, he wasn’t even sure what he was seeing. It was like they said on Superman: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” except it wasn’t like that at all. It was more like: “Is it Superman? Is this a movie?” except it wasn’t a movie. It was real.

The next day at work, more than half of their coverage was on Iron Man. Gary came in early and got everything done in record time, but he still had to babysit the cameras, which meant he got to see the stories coming in from the anchors and link in to some of the feeds coming from L.A., and it was all true. Iron Man was real.

That night he called Shaun and Chris. He hadn’t talked to them in a while, but in some ways, it was just like old times. They weren’t the Justice League, but Iron Man was a super hero. And then Tony Stark did the press conference, and they knew his secret identity. Watching it was sort of just like reading a comic.

Gary had never thought anything like this could happen. It never occurred to him that technology had advanced to the point where a suit like Stark’s would work, or that one man could build it.

“That doesn’t bother you at all?” asked Marcie.

Gary hardly even talked to Marcie any more, but they still had mutual friends, and it wasn’t like Chattanooga was that huge. “Doesn’t what bother me?” he asked her, irritated.

“That he built the suit?”

“Why would that bother me?”

Marcie scowled. She didn’t wear much black anymore, but she dyed her hair black and her brows were very dark, slanting down. “Maybe because the Iron Man suit is a weapon.”

Gary shook his head. “Stark Industries doesn’t do weapons anymore.” Jesus, Marcie, get with the times—but he didn’t say it, because long ago, he stopped telling Marcie things he really thought. Ever since Watchmen.

“Iron Man is a weapon,” said Marcie. “If we’re gonna bust into Iraq just because we think they’re building weapons of mass destruction, we should be busting Tony Stark too.”

“Wow,” said Gary. “You sound just like Senator Stern.”

“Thank you.”

“That wasn’t a compli—what? You think the Senate is right? You really think they should be putting Tony Stark on—”

“Of course I—you think the Senate is wrong? Oh my God. You’re one of those.”

“One of what?” said Gary.

“Whatever,” said Marcie. “Just whatever. I can’t talk to you.”

The Senate hearings aired live on CNN, and Channel Nine milked various pieces of the footage for all they were worth. Gary got together with Chris and Shaun and had beers. They brought all their Tony Stark stuff, and it was just like it used to be, when they brought all their comic book stuff out: they had Stark phones and Stark Industry shirts and pens and watches, and Chris had made schematics of how he thought the arc reactor worked. He was the smart one; he’d gone to MIT.

“Marcie is stupid,” Chris said. “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“Senator Stern’s the stupid one,” said Shaun. “Like he could show up Iron Man on live TV.”

“Well,” said Gary. “It was a hearing.” When they looked at him, he tried to explain, “I mean, Stern wasn’t doing it for the TV.”

“Wasn’t he?” Shaun sounded really wise.

“Anyway,” said Chris, “the point is, the world needs Iron Man. How are we supposed to fight the bad guys without Iron Man?”

Gary sighed. “Marcie says there are no bad guys.”

“Shows what she knows.”

Then Captain America woke up, and Gary got to go do location camerawork. The two events weren’t connected, even though Gary liked to pretend they were. He just did local coverage, but he liked to think that with Iron Man and Captain America around, anything could happen anywhere. Even in Chattanooga.

Then drones attacked the Stark Expo, and aliens attacked New York, and it turned out Bruce Banner, the famous scientist, hadn’t died in an accident, and that Norse legends were real. Gary called Marcie because she’d always been a fan of myths and legends.

“Oh God, it’s terrifying,” Marcie said over the phone.

“But Captain America,” Gary pleaded. “You always liked Captain America.”

“It doesn’t matter! What matters is that in the forties, people thought being hopped up on drugs and kicking foreigners in the head was a-okay!”

“Steve Rogers isn’t kicking people in the head.”

Marcie moaned. “I’m talking about the aliens. He's kicking aliens in the head now! And it's a-okay, because they're from another planet!”

“And they were killing us."

"Yeah, but—"

"You’re not saying you feel sorry for the aliens.” There was a pause. “Please tell me you’re not feeling sorry for the aliens. Marcie,” Gary said, because he had to get her attention. “Marcie! Listen. The aliens—aliens, Marcie. They’re the bad guys.”

As it turned out, Marcie felt sorry for the aliens.

Meanwhile, Gary grew a Van Dyke, started styling his hair differently, made a doll, and got a tattoo.

Then Tony Stark died. Things went downhill from there, until they started looking up.


Gary liked to think his life changed the evening he found Tony Stark in his van, but it didn’t, really. Channel Nine reported on the showdown, and there was some local coverage of the Chad Davis story and how Chattanooga connected to the Extremis case. Latricia Thomas interviewed Mrs. Davis, who was always a nice lady, and Gary got to set the cameras for it. As for the rest, they watched it on TV.

Trevor Slattery stood trial in a highly publicized media frenzy, which Chris and Shaun watched with only a kind of lackluster enthusiasm. They all used to be so into Iron Man, but lately it was weird. At first, Gary thought it was just that they were jealous that he got to meet Tony Stark in the flesh, but lately, he thought it might be something else.

“So the Mandarin wasn’t even real?” said Chris. The TV was on and they were having beers again. “He seemed so . . . evil.”

“He was an evil scumbucket douchebag who deserved to die,” said Shaun.

“Yeah,” Chris said again. “That’s what I mean, though. He seemed like—like such a big deal. Like, I thought they were sending armies into Syria or Iran or wherever, and he’d just like, make them disappear. And you’d send those drones after them and just—poof.”

“You sound disappointed,” said Gary. Lately he’d found himself in the somewhat awkward position of playing devil’s advocate.


“I mean,” said Gary, “did you want him to be real?”

“No,” said Jason. “It’s just not really interesting. The Mandarin wasn’t, you know, the Mandarin from TV—”

“The Mandarin who hijacked our TV,” Gary pointed out.

“But see, that just makes you think it’s really this big terrorist plot,” said Chris. “Instead it’s just some dumb actor, so it’s not really a big deal that Iron Man took him down.”

“Yeah,” Shaun said. “Like, I could take that dickweed down.”

“And all that shit Iron Man said about, ‘come find me; I’ll give you my address’—it’s just not, like, it doesn’t mean anything if the Mandarin isn’t the real deal, you know?”

“It’s lame,” Shaun concluded.

“But what about Aldrich Killian?” Gary pointed out. “I mean, isn’t he the real Mandarin? He’s just as evil as—”

“He’s not the real Mandarin,” Chris said. “He’s not like, a global terrorist or a mob boss. He doesn’t have like, whole cities under his thumb, and like an evil genius vendetta against our way of life. He was just some random dude.

“Yeah,” Shaun said. “Iron Man should have to fight someone on top of the FBI’s most wanted. You know, like Batman has the Joker—”

“Okay,” said Gary. “Batman is a comic book character.”

“But you know what I mean,” Shaun said.

“I really don’t,” said Gary.

“There are people out there like that,” said Shaun.

“There really aren’t.”

“What do you mean there aren’t people like that?” Shaun scowled. “There are totally people like that. The Mandarin was like that.”

At the risk of repeating himself, Gary said, “Except he wasn’t real.”

“That’s the point though,” Chris said. “There are people like the guy the Mandarin pretended to be. Those are the people Iron Man needs to fight.”

Gary swallowed hard.

“Yeah,” said Shaun. “What’s the point of having Iron Man if you don’t have a real Mandarin. It just makes Iron Man seem lame. You might as well not have Iron Man at all.”

Gary looked at his tattoo.

“Iron Man needs a nemesis,” Chris explained. “You need an actual villain, or else Iron Man is nothing. It’s a joke. It’s just like a joke, when somewhere there’s a real Mandarin who need killing. And that’s what we need to be focusing on. That’s what we need to pay attention to. That’s what you should be filming, Gary.”

“That’s what needs to be on TV,” Shaun explained.

“Excuse me,” said Gary.

He stood up, went outside, where the cool night air was colored a navy blue, tinged with a streak of violet toward the horizon. It licked up his skin, under his clothes, against his tattoo. Gary took out his phone, searched for Marcie’s number.

He thought about her as it rang: Marcie with her straight black bangs against her white forehead, Marcie with her big black eyes, the sarcastic turn at the corner of her red mouth. He thought about Marcie in high school, Marcie with her cigarettes, Marcie with her fishnets, Marcie with her battered copy of Watchmen.

When he got her on the phone and told her what was going on, the night on Chris’s doorstep, she said, “They’re still there.”

“What?” said Gary.

“The comic books,” she said. “They’re still there. No one's taking them away from you.”

I still like them, she had told him. I still love them.

Gary wondered whether how she still could.

When he asked her, Marcie laughed, her husky, smoky laugh. “I still love them because there's no reason I can't,” she said. “No one’s going to stop you, Gary.”

Gary looked at the face on his arm and found courage.

No one was going to stop him.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-10 05:22 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else.

I appreciate this. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-10 08:13 am (UTC)
everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)
From: [personal profile] everbright
Hahaha, so meta it's eating its tail.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-10 10:02 am (UTC)
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
...now I want in-universe Hawkeye Initiative. *cough*

Anyway! This was delightful, and I enjoyed it muchly. It feels one step into fable and teaching tale, one step into the ritual progression & ruthless internal logic of fairy tale, which is fascinating to map onto a 'verse of supposedly hyperrealistic-except-superheroes, because it shows superheroes aren't that far away from modern fairy tales to begin with.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-10 01:51 pm (UTC)
thingswithwings: Tony Stark, pleased, holding up a picture of Iron Man, because he loves himself (avengers - tony/tony is tony's otp)
From: [personal profile] thingswithwings
oh, hmmm, this is fascinating. And just as ambivalent as the Iron Man series itself, but obviously more intentionally and interestingly so. :) I like listening to you talk about this problem.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-11 12:02 am (UTC)
sholio: Text: "Age shall not weary her, nor custom stale her infinite squee" (Infinite Squee)
From: [personal profile] sholio
This is really amazing! I love how you've used in-universe characters and events to develop the whole experience of learning to de-idealize the problematic things we love. It's really nicely done, and the characters felt very real; it never seemed too heavy-handed to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-11 11:59 pm (UTC)
dorothy1901: Gilda: Put the blame on Mame (Default)
From: [personal profile] dorothy1901
This is wonderful. Reality versus fiction is hard! Good and evil are hard! Logic and rationality are unimportant in real life, and you'll never get the true big picture. Thank you for this.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-19 05:01 am (UTC)
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)
From: [personal profile] cofax7
Oh, I really liked that.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-19 04:11 pm (UTC)
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)
From: [personal profile] laurashapiro
That was great!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-23 09:19 pm (UTC)
dragojustine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dragojustine
I adore the space between fic and meta, and I adore this. They're still there indeed.


lettered: (Default)
It's Lion Turtles all the way down

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