Reification and Mystification of character

Belinda Yang
Essay #2
Comm. 359

“I had my eyes opened. I came to realize that I had more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries” ( This is a quote from the well known and one of the top grossing movies in 2008, Iron Man. In this film starred Robert Downey Jr who is known for acting quirky and fun characters. He is not just a man that is able to grasp his characters perfectly but he is also able to act them and understand them naturally. He has been acting for a long time but we all know him best as the role of Marvel’s “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark. As of just recently Downey stated that he would no longer be taking the role of Iron Man after the Avengers 3 film. To all the die hard Iron Man fans this is a massive blow because who will be able to portray Tony Stark as naturally as Downey can. Many would like to say absolutely no one because of things like mystification and reification of the character.

Downey is looked at by fans as a perfect portrayal of Tony Stark. Not only is he visually like him but his own personal experiences and personality is very similar of Stark’s.  Downey has characteristics that scream out Iron Man. He is able to intricately play the role and the character. That gives Downey a sort of power and control. Audiences see him as a irreplaceable actor in the sense that he is Iron Man and also due to the fact that he has been acting as Tony Stark for a span of almost five years. Seeing another face on the screening of Iron Man 4 would be different and even weird. Downey’s fans have sort of attachment to him. “It is a physical relation between physical things. As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labor within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this” (Marx, 332). Which I dissect, as the audience has grown used to seeing and watching Downey act as this superhero character, so because of that reason it does not matter what the directors or producers have to go through during production to make the movie nor does the reasons why Downey no longer wants to play the role of Iron Man matter. They can not possibly see another person taking the spot of Tony Stark. He brings life to the character in ways that the fans have grown to love and appreciate.

In the world of superheroes it is filled with fantasy and in many ways also realism. Downey is able to control both those aspects through his acting and portrayal of Iron Man. The directors are able to steer him in such a great way that when he is acting as Tony Stark it creates a sort of mystification, which is known as an illusion. There is so much of a illusion is created that sometimes in reality people actually mistakenly call him Tony instead of Robert. The illusion is also so strong it grabs the viewers attention and throws them into the fantasy land where they are able to become attached to Tony Stark who is in the real world Robert Downey Jr.

Downey works together naturally with the character of Iron Man through his own experiences. Both people had a past of dealing with alcoholism. He wanted to take that part of him and use it in the best way he could possible while playing the character of Tony Stark. Of course this topic made news and was spread throughout the mass media because his image became more similar and reflective of Stark’s. Downey said, “I’m allergic to drugs and alcohol; I break out in hand cuffs.” ( At that point people were then able to connect Downey and Stark’s similarities together in appearance and personal experiences.

One could say that consumers in society had learned to idolize Downey as the one and only Iron Man. It really does not matter about the suit and the equipment he uses in the end because the character is the most important part of the belief and reality of a character. If the character is not portrayed or they do not look the way that the viewer expects then the film could be a total flop. Reification is important to a consumer, it means something is idolized. As Marx said in the reading “Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret”, “To be a well-favored man is the gift of fortune; but reading and writing comes by nature” (Marx, 340). After I read this I thought about how Downey is a very well liked person in reality and not only is he that but he is able to naturally take on his characters and roles.

Who knows what will become of Iron Man in the future but for one, Robert Downey Jr will not continue on playing the role. Tony Stark does not die just because Downey leaves the franchise but the fans will surely be disappointed mainly because of that reason. The power of the character himself as of right now seems as if it will die down largely because of Downey’s departure. The illusion and even reification could also become less and less. Though the traditional comic book Iron Man fans probably care more about the accurate storyline, plot and suit creation then anything else. All in all it could be a positive or negative effect on the franchise and character. His image has set a goal and created a dominate figure in the Marvel film world. In the end Marvel and the world knows the time put into Robert Downey Jr as that Iron Man had most definitely been a positive impact.

Word Count: 995

 Works Cited:

“Iron Man (2008) – 31 Quotes.” Moviemistakes. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.

Debord, Guy. “Commodity as Spectacle”. 109-114. Print.

Marx, Karl. “Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret”. 331-342. Print.

“Robert Downey, Jr Is a Real Life Superhero for Those of Us in Recovery | Palm Partners Blog.” Web blog post. Palm Partners Blog. N.p., 21 June 2013. Web. 01 Nov. 2013


One thought on “Reification and Mystification of character

  1. Pingback: Iron Man-Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist | The Hero's

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