It’s got to say something about the hypersensitivity of the contemporary American right that Iron Man—Iron Man fer chrissakes—can be cast as a piece of anti-American leftie propaganda. For those unfamiliar with the plot—which nobody should be, because the movie is awesome and ought to be viewed immediately—let me sum up without, I hope, spoiling anything important. The hero of this movie is brilliant American businessman and inventor Tony Stark who uses his genius to make weapons for the military. He builds his iconic suit after being kidnapped by unambiguously evil terrorists, in order to escape. He then proceeds to kick a lot of terrorist butt, for which the Afghanis he liberates from various warlords are clearly grateful. The military at one point mistakes him for an enemy bogey, but is clearly portrayed as essentially on his side. (His best friend in the film is his military liaison, an Air Force Lt. Col.)
So, what’s the awful lefty anti-American aspect? Well, as a result of a certain betrayal I won’t give away, the terrorists are getting hold of large quantities of Stark’s incredibly powerful weapons and using them to inflict terrible suffering on civilian populations. Note that, even though this is inevitable in war, we are not directly asked to confront the suffering that the United States, too, must be causing: It’s the terrorists who are the problem. In any event, a newly reflective stark decides to stop making weapons, at least until he has a chance to rethink his company’s future direction.
Aaaand… that’s it. That’s the big problem. Not any sense that the U.S. or the military is somehow fundamentally part of the problem as well—we’re left with the implication that the hero’s going to work arm-in-armor with the military. What’s intolerable is any hint of ambiguity, any hint of doubt. This is the fragile insistence of a movement that has lost its confidence.