With Spider-Man: Far from Home premiering this week, we thought that now would be a great time to look back at one of our favorite characters from the MCU that just so happens to have a special connection to Peter Parker: Pepper Potts. Pepper, portrayed by the amazing Gwyneth Paltrow, made MCU history as the first major female character introduced in the franchise. She held her own alongside the larger-than-life Tony Stark, ran a company, saved the world a few times, started a family, and more.
So we’ve decided to take a look at a few of the reasons why Pepper Potts deserves our love (and respect):
1. The First Lady of the MCU
Pepper Potts was the first major female character introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008 with Iron Man. Without realizing it, Pepper set expectations within the MCU and for fans of what a female character could be in this ginormous cinematic universe. While the MCU isn’t entirely known for its fantastic portrayal of female characters, Pepper is one of its better representations. She wasn’t introduced as a sex symbol or a damsel in distress – not that every other female character in the MCU was. Since Pepper was the first female character introduced, it was reassuring to know she didn’t fall into those tropes. She defied them for many reasons.
All of this becomes even more interesting when taking a closer look at Pepper’s first scene in the first Iron Man film. Pepper escorts out the journalist Christine Everhart, who had spent the night with Tony, with the words, “I do anything and everything that Mr. Stark requires, including occasionally taking out the trash.” It is quite anti-feminist for a character who believes in standing up for the little guy, speaking up for what’s right, and supporting other women.
It’s safe to assume that Pepper’s first scene would play out differently had the first Iron Man film been made in 2019 and not over a decade previously. I am a firm believer that most things, including art, are a sign of their times and this scene is an example of this. The line is snappy, quick, and an interesting way to introduce Pepper and the presence she holds; however, it does sort of make me scrunch up my face a bit when I watch it sometimes. That scene cannot be changed now, but we can talk about it and how we wish it should or shouldn’t be different.
It is, however, worth noting that she stood by biochemist Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3 when Pepper thought she was in danger, even though Maya was Tony’s ex-girlfriend. Pepper also fights alongside the other female superheroes of the MCU in Avengers: Endgame.
2. The CEO of Stark Industries
Before Pepper officially had the position of CEO of Stark Industries, she did the work and made sure everything ran smoothly when Tony couldn’t or wouldn’t. It is clear in Iron Man that Pepper was the glue holding the company together while Tony was kidnapped. In Iron Man 2, Pepper remained loyal to the company and powered through criticisms of her ability to do her job, while cleaning up messes Tony made as Iron Man. By Iron Man 3, Pepper turned Stark Industries around. She was on the cover of business magazines, and the most brilliant minds were setting up meetings to get her approval to have Stark Industries on their side.
It is also beneficial to look at the way Pepper received the promotion to CEO. Tony passed the torch to Pepper when he thought he was going to die because he knew that she was the best person for the job. He knew Pepper would do well in the position of CEO and the company as a whole.
Also, Tony’s decision wasn’t calculated in the sense that he wanted to use the job offer as leverage for a romantic relationship. This adds to the authenticity of Pepper’s professional career but also the purity of her relationship with Tony.
3. It’s Always Pepperony
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are one of the most popular couples in the MCU for all of the obvious reasons, but also because they are always supporting one another. They truly do make each other better people.
In the case of Pepper, Tony certainly challenges her to loosen up and live a little. Pepper, on the other hand, urges Tony to slow down and relish in the life he has while he has it. She is initially against the idea of Tony being Iron Man; she doesn’t want to watch him die. Pepper eventually comes around to the fact that Tony is going to do what he can to help people, but that doesn’t stop her from reminding him of his limits – of his humanity.
In that sense, Pepper saves Tony countless times over the course of the MCU. She does her best to get him to slow down just enough to take a breath. For example, she he didn’t win the argument of whether Tony should go into space to stop Thanos’s army, but she never stopped trying. Pepper Potts always fought for the love of her life because she knew he was worth fighting for, and, along the way, I believe she taught Tony he was worth it.
4. The Infamous Pepper Potts
It should not be looked over that Pepper Potts has saved the day MORE THAN ONCE. The first time was in Iron Man when she had to press the button to overload the main Arc Reactor to take out the Big Bad known as Obadiah Stane. In Iron Man 3, Pepper saved the day again by using the energy and firepower that Extremis (an advanced form of genetic manipulation) gave her to take out that film’s Big Bad named Aldrich Killian with a bar and then a Stark explosive. Tony sat by in awe as the woman he loves, who he thought was dead, rose from the ashes and saved the world. Pepper’s heroism sends the message that anyone can save the day, even without a superserum or a billionaire’s special superhero suit.
5. Pepper Potts to the Rescue
I can’t finish this article without appreciating the fact that we finally got to see Pepper suit up as Rescue in Avengers: Endgame. This appearance culminates a lot of what I love about Pepper. As Pepper was the first woman in the MCU, to see her stand and fight alongside all of the women in the MCU felt momentous. It was a moment I’ll never forget, because I feel as though Pepper passed the torch to those women.
Pepper finally got to fight with Tony as well. She knew she couldn’t stop him in the end, so she joined him. She did what she could to give him the peace he needed to finally rest. Upon his death, she stayed with him and assured Tony that everything would be alright. Once again, Pepper made sure Tony knew that he was worth everything he did to save the universe.
In Avengers: Endgame, Pepper’s last words to Tony were “We’re going to be okay. You can rest now.” In retrospect, the “we” she referenced could be both the Avengers and the audience. As we enter a new era of the MCU without Tony Stark and the original six as we are used to them, we can be a little unsure about what’s to come, since it’s so unfamiliar. We don’t know whether our favorite characters will be okay without the Earth’s mightiest defender, and Pepper’s words are the reassuring message we need. And as long as Pepper is around, we know we’ll be okay.