There is little doubt that Tony Stark is a textbook narcissist. Agent Romanov wrote it in her SHIELD assessment of Stark and he agreed. The self proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist is the rock star of the super hero universe.
With his wealth and ACDC rebellious overtone he comes across with an air of self sufficiency. He seems untouchable. With his status as heir to a tycoon fortune, it isnʼt surprising. Yet I am intrigued how this narcissist changes to care about others and is eventually willing to forfeit his life for them.
Many guys would consider themselves content to live the life of the playboy billionaire who has everything with little care for anyone else. Much changed when he was nearly killed, taken hostage and then discovers his weapons in the hands of rogue terrorists.
His conscience wouldnʼt allow him to make money while someone in his company was dealing under the table, and he was going to fix it. Especially when the weapons were endangering the people he intended to protect. What? Even men that have it all need to grow up and take responsibility?
It makes no difference if youʼre a billionaire when you are in a hostage situation. I think Tony realizes his shallow life in that Afghanistan cave. Yinsen, the doctor who saves Starkʼs life summarizes Starkʼs situation “So youʼre a man who has everything and nothing.” For all the wealth he has, there is no family to go back home to.
He emerges from captivity as a new man, with a new mission. He announces the halt of weapon manufacturing such that it locks him out of his own company. Now free of his companyʼs responsibilities, he devotes his resources to making the Iron Man suit. In this subtle shift it seems that his loyalties are to the people he feels he has put in danger rather than the money and acclaim he gets from making weapons. He decides to take action against the Ten Rings (his former captors) that are attacking Gulmira, the town where Yinsen was from.
I love that scene with Pepper when he explains he has finally found out who he is and why he has to risk it all to make things right.
Tony: There is nothing except this. Thereʼs no art opening. There is no benefit. There is nothing to sign. There is the next mission and nothing else.
Pepper: Is that so? Well, then I quit.
Tony: You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. And now that Iʼm trying to protect the people that I put in harmʼs way, youʼre going to walk out?
Pepper: Youʼre going to kill yourself, Tony. Iʼm not going to be a part of it.
Tony: I shouldnʼt be alive, unless it was for a reason. Iʼm not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that itʼs right.
Pepper: Youʼre all I have, too, you know.
Stark makes a radical shift from war profiteering to making impact with technology that will benefit future generations with the Stark Expo.
But Starkʼs reputation hasnʼt changed much in the eyes of the Avengers.
Captain America: “Iʼve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. Youʼre not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”
Yet later he puts his life on the line to direct the nuke into the path of the Chitauri forces seeking to invade earth under their leader Loki. I think everyone sees Stark differently after he takes the risk of dying on the other side of the portal facing the Chitauri alone. Not to mention that he was able to save New York from imminent destruction as well.
I respect a person with convictions that uses all his resources to make the wrongs right once again.
You are probably not a billionaire, but would people describe you as a narcissist? How are you using the resources you have to help people in harmʼs way?
See my follow up post “Selfless Narcissism” on how we fundamentally change from narcissists to caring for others.