When I was a kid like most others superheros were a big deal. Most people had their favorites. Many had their own reasons for why they liked their heroes. Some could fly, some could spin webs, some could stop bullets, some were green and hulking, but no matter how different these heroes were most had one thing in common. They had a secret identity. Often the secret identity was in contrast to who they were in real life. Spiderman, Superman these nerdy looking guys, in their spare time were hero's who their cities would have been lost without, yet at the same time, they might have been lost had their cities that they protected know their identities.
The secret identity of the superhero had been a well guarded secret until two summers ago when Tony Stark revealed that he was Ironman. My jaw at the end of the movie almost dropped. Here was a superhero breaking the cardinal rule, you do your best not to share your secret identity. For you citizen informants out there, it's like how you have to keep secret about the occupational health and safety laws, and the super duper secret club that binds you all.
Secret identities are not only protective, but it gives the superhero a bit of mystique. A second identity, a secret and mysterious life. A life which might be secret from friends, family and those close to the superhero. It's something that friends, family and those in the know often have to help the superhero to protect. Not only for their safety at times, but those shows would have been a lot more boring without the secret identities.
From cartoons to real official shows we all have hero who we loved, and we have all watched with baited breath to see how our hero would protect their secrets. From Batman/Bruce Wayne, Spiderman/Peter Parker, Superman/Clark Kent, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, The Incredible Hulk/David Banner, many of us grew up watching them, and protecting their secrets. The same is true for hero like the Greatest American Hero, and the suit that could never quite be figured out. Some watched Jem and the Holograms protect their identities, Sailor Moon and her crew, then ofcourse there were the X-Men lead by professor Charles Xavier and their need for secrecy. Not only to protect their powers from society at large, but at times to protect them from themselves.
Heroes have come and gone over the years, but one rule had always been sacred, and that was to protect the secret identity. Now when Tony Stark pulled a look at me, look at me, I am an attention whore, it fit in well with the character, and I did get past the shock of it all, but I think he is just the superhero for this generation. A generation who like to share what they are doing on twitter, Myspace, Facebook. A generation that are less concerned with privacy, secret identities, and things of that nature. Tony Stark is arrogant, he wants people to know who he is. Even as cool as being a superhero is, he need that extra accolade from the people around him, and they do not disappoint.
Did it take away from the character? In the case of Tony Stark not really, but it was so contrasting to the dark knight that had come out only a couple of summers before. A true hero for the people who gives them what they need. If that means being the villain then that's what he is, if it means being the hero than it means being the hero, if it means sacrifice then that's what a true hero does, and just like in real life, don't expect any gratitude in return, and yes just like the end of the movie, know that they can and often are capable of turning on you in a moments notice. Thus why Jesus kept his identity as secret for as long as he could. I always found that strange as a child, reading the bible stories, but I understand it much better now.
Batman and Ironman, two very different kind of hero's. One outlandish and outgoing, who wants to be seen and heard, a hero reflective of this time period, and this generation. That's how I interpret the Tony Stark character. The dark knight was old school, in that he kept his identity a secret, but he would have revealed it and come forward to protect the innocent, and he gave them what they needed, cause he understands the nature of the people, and their need for people and things to believe in be it false or not. Thus one that should be a villain is hailed a hero, and batman the true hero becomes the villain.
They are both two very strong characters that stand out in my mind, amongst the many that have come and gone over the years, many that I have loved and grown up with. So the question remains, did Tony Stark break a cardinal rule in revealing that he is indeed Iron Man, or was he just a hero for this time period and this generation?