For me, it started while channel flipping. I was fourteen, just starting high school and currently in charge of the remote. There was no Netflix back in those days, so my fellow hunter gatherers and I had to click through a lot of advertisements before something interesting caught our eyes. After several minutes, a man with a blue glowing chest, appeared between a cooking show and a news report. I could have kept clicking and seen what else was on…but I flipped back. The strange glowing chest, the high-tech armor slowly being assembled around him, the basement lab, the monotone A.I. voice….I was intrigued. I stayed and watched all the way to the end. That decision sparked what my parents thought was a phase, my sister thought was annoying, and what all my friends at school thought was weird. I can say with rigid conviction that I would not be anywhere near the person I am today without Tony Stark.
These are the confessions of an Iron Fan. This is the journey this character has taken me on.
There are multiple ways to be a fan of something. You can be a casual hobbyist, a hardcore collector, a virtual walking encyclopedia of information about the topic or simply someone who wouldn’t change the channel if a particular show or film is on. There’s an entire spectrum to what being a fan means, but at the end of the day, the only opinion on whether you are a fan of something is your own.
For me, I know I’m a fan. I’m too deep into this bottomless trench to call myself anything else.
It started when I saw the movie Iron Man, which led to possibly an unhealthy obsession for all things Iron Man related. Between watching the films and eagerly waiting for the next installments to come out, I spend my time reading the comics and collecting figurines.
However, as a fan, the influence this character had on me is not limited to film and literature choices. I dressed up as variations of Iron Man/Tony Stark in plain clothes for several Halloweens as well as one amazing trip to the New York Comic Con. Additionally, I let my love for the character dictate how I spent my time in high school: I started a robotics team.
The robotics team, in turn, led me to a myriad of other connections and adventures that never would have happened if I wasn’t so overcome by this character. My team won a place in the word championship in California. We got to compete with ten thousand other high schoolers from around the world. We got to go to Disneyland. I got to see the West Coast for the first time in my life. I got recruited for a job. I got to know the person who is still my best friend. As if to round it all off, I wrote about that entire experience in my college application essay.
I got into my first choice school because of it.
I find the more I look back at my life and review the choices I’ve made, and even most of the successes I’ve had, most of them can be linked back to that day I didn’t change the channel. Currently, most of the friends I’ve made in school are happy to sit and talk for hours about Marvel movies and comics, as well as bring their own action figures over for rousing games and hilarious sketches.
For me, Iron Man is a normal conversation topic in my life. He is also a normal aesthetic in my decorating, normal character on the clothing I wear, normal character in the merchandise I buy, normal character in my reading, and now a normal character in my writing.
I think the only time he ever becomes abnormal is when people (whom I am not friends with, mind you) discover I am a fan and find it abnormal.
It’s happened to all of us. Maybe not the twenty questions game or the condescending conversations (those are the worst), but the genuine surprise from guys (and/or girls) in the comic book section of stores, at the movie theater, or even at cons themselves (sometimes while you are actually COSPLAYING the character they are surprised you actually like).
So, for me I guess, after living a life that has been so deeply saturated with this character, the question is: Why is my passion surprising?
Usually, it’s surprising to these individuals because I am a woman.
You misunderstand, weird-guy-at-comic-con-who-wouldn’t-stop-talking-to-me-and-thought-Tony-Stark’s-role-as-a-smart-rich- engineering-industrialist-could-never-be-portrayed-by-a-female-character….my attraction to this character has nothing to do with my raging hormones. I identify with Tony Stark. I want to be as smart as him, as resourceful, as loquacious in a banter battle, as charismatic while public speaking. I understand his anxiety attacks, I am fascinated by the symbolism of his heart, I love watching him realize he is a terrible person and needs to change…
I want to build my own armor.
My being a woman does not inherently change the experience of being a fan.
Additionally, my being a fan does not inherently detract from my being a woman.
Yes, I am obsessed with this character….but being so has done me a lot of good. The journey of understanding this character has helped me better understand myself. I know I like science, and that I’m good at it. I know my worst fear is not being as smart as people think I am. I know that there are tons of women who read comics, and they are all amazing individuals. Allowing this character to influence my personality and decisions has led me down some amazing paths, and to some amazing people, and for that I am grateful that my fourteen year old self decided to stick with that station all those years ago.
Liking this character makes me a fan. However, being a fan is not a choice, but rather a facet of my personality. This is the truth about fans everywhere. You like something, identify with something, aspire to be like something, for a reason.
For me, that something is Iron Man. Though he may only exist between the pages of comics, or the magic of the big screen, he has certainly had a large enough impact on my life to become real.
I am an Iron Fan, and I have absolutely no regrets about it.