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The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 164: ‘Iron Man 2’

The Arkham Sessions, hosted by Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward, is a weekly podcast dedicated to the psychological analysis of pop culture, including Batman: The Animated Series, Steven Universe, the MCU, and Doom Patrol. Nostalgic, humorous, and even a little educational, each episode promises to lend some insight into the heroes, villains, and classic stories of the Dark Knight and more!

The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 164 – Iron Man 2

We’re reviewing the third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 2 (2010), recognizing that the formulaic villain (Whiplash) is far less interesting than the supporting figures in Tony Stark’s life. Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, and the newly introduced Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) emerge as important connections that bring life to the story.

At the crux of the film is a startling discovery: Stark learns that an element in the arc reactor that keeps him alive (and powers his Iron Man suit) is actually slowly poisoning him, and he cannot find a substitute. Accepting his impending death, Stark begins to take certain actions to prepare others for the loss and cement his legacy. The outward signs of recklessness and despondency are noted by his loved ones–Stark takes to the bottle, seeks out dangerous situations, and gets combative when others offer help. It is as if all his personality features–narcissism, invincibility, and selfishness–are dialed way up. How much of this is reactive vs. calculated?

We explore the 5 Stages of Grief, a model developed by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s. We may expect Stark to undergo each stage of grief–Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance–, but his journey doesn’t quite match this textbook paradigm. As it turns out, the 5 Stage of Grief model has been adjusted in the last several decades to represent more realistic and dynamic responses to personal loss. Additional components include physical reactions such as headaches, fatigue, pain, and difficulty sleeping. Moreover, “in-between” stages include moments of worry, guilt, detachment, questioning, and, very importantly, synthesis and integration stages. Finally, while much can be learned from grief models formalized by psychological scientists, it is always helpful to recognize the uniqueness of an individual’s lived story and honor their own authorship of their grieving process.



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