On-screen relationships are often tricky to get right. You only have a limited amount of time to showcase your “love birds” before those credits roll. Most of the time they come off as flat, which is why some onscreen couples get major props for being remotely believable. Sam and Diane from Cheers will live in our memories as the gold standard because people couldn’t get enough of those two. Their chemistry was infectious. Maybe even Ross and Rachel belong in this category. However, some onscreen couples get remembered because their relationship is utterly insane.
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are the Marvel Cinematic Universe's “will they/won’t they” packed with enough “won’t they” to rile up even the tamest behavioral analyst. They are so perfectly bad for one another that you find yourself rooting for them out of sheer irony. Their history is packed with so many unanswered questions that Marvel could devote a whole movie to answering them, and we really hope they don’t! He is a superhero and she is his assistant. Not exactly a Taylor Swift song.
Below, is a list of 25 ridiculous things about those two that you have almost certainly noticed, if only in your subconscious. This is a judgment-free zone. We understand that all couples have their quirks. We all know that couple who seems like they should not work, but they do. Is this one of those cases? Or, is this a super-toxic situation worthy of a Hulk’s intervention? You be the judge.
25 Pepper Knows That Tony Is A Scoundrel
Pepper Potts has seen, first hand, just how much of a dog Tony Stark can be. Iron Man (2008) basically opens with Pepper kicking one of Tony’s lady friends out of the house. On top of that, the woman insults Pepper by saying, “...Tony still has you picking up the dry cleaning.”
No thank you, strange woman! Jarvis has made it clear, this is not your house!
If I was one of Pepper Potts’ friends, I would be telling her to stay away. Tony is player, and players can’t be trusted.
24 Tony Stark Listens To No One
Tony Stark’s journey (as a character) is learning how to lean on others and work as a team. This is great for comic books, but real romantic interpersonal relationships? Please! Pepper would have dropped his bossy, stubborn, chauvinist attitude in a heartbeat.
In Iron Man (2008), Pepper suggests that Tony should go to the hospital upon being released as a POW. Reasonable! Tony’s response is to say, “NO!” and demand a cheeseburger. Get it together Mr. Stark, she only suggested it because she cares!
23 Tony Regularly Puts Pepper In Danger (Part 1)
I don’t know about you, but if my love-interest was constantly putting me situations where my life was in danger, I would probably find a new love-interest. Sure, danger is piping hot, but safety can also be hot, right?
In Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark is building his arsenal of gadgets. He decides to go ahead and test one as soon as Pepper enters the room. Now, this moment was written for comedic relief, but give Pepper some protective goggles, at least! We’re not your dad, Pepper, but that blast was no joke.
22 Tony Has Made Her Perform Surgery, Unlicensed
Tony is lying on a medical chair with equipment measuring his vitals. He has a powerful nuclear device embedded in his chest, and another nuclear device he needs to replace it with. Who does Tony get to switch the power-cores out? Pepper “Please Don’t Drop This Or We’re Both Gone” Potts.
It would probably be more appropriate to let a doctor take the reins on this, albeit less convenient. Then again, Tony Stark is all about convenience, no matter the fact that Piper, however brilliant, is not currently licensed for surgery.
21 Their Physical Chemistry Needs Help
Tony and Pepper are really great onscreen together. Their dialogue is snappy. Their personalities really compliment each others. And again, they are both gorgeous people.
If that is the case, then why is this moment so uncomfortable to watch?
It’s actually common for people to have really great “talking” chemistry, but terrible “kissing” chemistry. The moment Pepper and Tony try to kiss on the balcony at a gala event in Iron Man (2008), looks a lot like Marty McFly’s mom trying to kiss him in Back To The Future. Gross!
20 Pepper Is Too Reasonable
In every relationship there are two sides. We can take apart Tony all day because there is plenty to discuss. However, for all of Pepper’s great qualities, she might not be right for him either.
Pepper is very reasonable. In all three Iron Man films, Tony makes a distinct decision at one point to pursue a “road less traveled” in order to stop the villain. Pepper is always there to offer the reasonable way out. She’s not wrong, but for the purposes of saving the world, she isn’t right either. Boy, relationships are complicated.
19 Tony Didn’t Offer Her Any Pizza
We can all agree that pizza is bae. It nourishes both body and soul (it’s actually bad for your body). So, when there is pizza around people want to get in on that cheesy goodness.
Tony walks into a room with pizza, opens up the box, and does not even think to offer Pepper a slice?
This would be an egregious oversight in any situation, whether you are in a conscious coupling or simply work friends. Most people would offer a slice of pizza to their most hated of enemies. So, why doesn’t Tony offer Pepper a dang slice?
18 They Don’t Trust Each Other
Without trust, relationships fall apart. Alas, trust is probably the most important element in a successful relationship other than communication and sharing pizza. Pepper illustrates again and again that she does not trust Tony Stark because he is a liar. Yes, he is charming, but also a liar.
Tony illustrates that he does not trust Pepper by building an Iron Man suit and not telling her about it. He goes ahead, without her approval, and constructs a robotic flying device that is NOT READY. He then gets banged up, shot at, and almost ended. A relationship counsellor would have a lot to unpack in a session with these two.
17 Tony Makes Things Weird In Public
We get it. They dig each other. It’s bound to happen to when two very attractive people spend a lot of one-on-one time in high stakes situations. But, for Tony to just walk up to Pepper and drag her onto a dance floor in front of all of her colleagues...that is a shade too far!
The conversation goes as follows:
TONY: Do you want to dance?
TONY: Come on then.
Just like that, they are dancing in front of everyone. Read the room, Tony Stark.
16 Tony Regularly Puts Pepper In Danger (Part 2)
Of the three Iron Man films, number 2 is the least remembered. However, it had all of the same type of content you come to expect from an Iron Man movie. This would include big action set pieces, a colorful cast of characters and villains, oh, and Tony putting his friends in danger.
This time, Iron Man goes up against Whiplash. During the “race track scene” Happy crashes into Whiplash in order to save Iron Man from harm. Guess who is sitting in the back of the car? Pepper “Screaming In Fear” Potts. Almost get me ended once, shame on me. Almost get me ended twice, shame on you Tony Stark.
15 Tony Stark Is A Bad Influence
At the end of Iron Man 3 (2013), Pepper Potts uses the Iron Man suit in order to stop the big-bad from a destructive rampage. This is a harrowing event, no doubt. In fact, you could say Pepper Potts is low-key the hero of the Iron Man franchise.
This is not how Pepper Potts dreamed her life would go.
It is doubtful that she ever thought that her life-path would put her in a situation where she would blast a man (already on fire) away, or risk being blasted herself. Upon running through the calamity of events that transpired as a direct result of Tony Stark, it’s hard not to see him as a bit of a bad influence.
14 Together They Cause Millions Of Dollars In Damage
When working as a team, this dynamic duo often comes out ahead, but at what cost? The answer...millions upon millions in property damage and casualties. We say THAT qualifies as pretty ridiculous.
Now, they are saving the day, and arguably things would be a lot worse if they did not contribute to stopping the bad guys from unleashing carnage. Let’s consider, though, all of that fire and all of that mayhem. It’s got to be a nightmare to clean up.
13 Going Through Turmoil Sets Their Love Aflame
Trauma can bring people together. This concept is not lost on us, but give it a week at least! You were both nearly ended, you animals!
In Iron Man (2008), they were almost made food by powerful robots, the likes of which they had never seen. After destroying said robots they stare at each other longingly, realizing that together their love binds them stronger than any mechanical suit can. Most of us would be shaking on the floor of a mental hospital from the psychological toll that those events would have had on us. This entry is just impressive.
12 Ridiculous Gifting
Tony gives Pepper a ridiculously sized stuffed bear as a present. She cannot possibly do anything with this bear, other than break it down and destroy it. It is not a reasonable gift for anyone, save a giant’s baby. Thus, this stuffed bear becomes her chore, or perhaps, the chore of some other poor hired servant whose job it might be to rid the property of Tony Stark’s expensive whims. Pepper looks up at this bear confused, and probably a little flattered. Not cool.
11 Pepper Is Ride Or Die (But, Why)?
Pepper's undying loyalty to Tony is definitely a ridiculous aspect of their dynamic. We understand that they have worked together for a long time, and sure, they have a bit of a family bond between them.
Is there a bond strong enough to commit corporate espionage over?
Pepper is so loyal to Tony that at one point she breaks into the Stark Industries main-frame in order to get Tony the info he needs to destroy millions of dollars worth of his own companies’ weapons. Yikes! There is some real jail time at stake here.
10 Tony Regularly Puts Pepper In Danger (Part 3)
In Iron Man 3 (2013), Tony Stark threatens the Mandarin on television. This is reckless, and the Mandarin responds by sending missiles over to Tony Stark’s home. The result is a crazy explosion that completely decimates the house. Pepper survives the attack, but barely. This is a great example of a red flag. Any man who puts you through this much danger, intentionally or by way of being a superhero, is the kind of man you should probably leave. Sorry, Tony, but a man committed to the regular putting down of bad-guys had best work alone.
9 Their Best Friend Is A Robot
Tony’s house robot is named Jarvis. Pepper, Tony, and Jarvis are all friends, or friendly enough, as much as one can be friends with a robot’s voice. Their other friends include Happy (Tony’s driver) and Agent Coulson (a stoic S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent). Relationships thrive on the company of others. You need to have people in your corner, rooting for you. This group of disparate toys might be quirky, but likely not that encouraging, although we wouldn't mind getting a cold one with this whacky crew.
8 They Have No Time
This is more of a hypothetical observation, but according to the MCU, earth shattering events happen exactly twice per year. Given the time that it takes for a film’s worth of stuff to happen, there is no way Pepper and Tony have time to do anything other than try and not get destroyed by baddies. We have done the math. They would have approximately 1 hour per week to do have a date night, maybe tack on 30 minutes to that if Happy drives. He is, after all, a master behind the wheel.
7 Tony Replaces Pepper With Black Widow
If you are going to replace your girlfriend/assistant with anyone, it should not be Scarlett Johansson. Granted, this is a point of contention for Pepper and Tony during the events of Iron Man 2 (2010), but come on.
Nothing like some good old competition, am I right, Tony?
No right-minded person would let this slide. Tony can say it’s for her own good, but with a robot as cool as Jarvis, does he even need a personal assistant?
6 Tony Acts Like An Idiot On His Birthday
Sure, we’ve all done stupid things when drinks get introduced. Given that Tony Stark is celebrating his birthday, it’s not unimaginable to assume he probably puts his foot in his mouth. What IS unimaginable, is that he would put on his Iron Man suit, make an embarrassing speech while stumbling around, and fight one of his best friends. Talk about a bad night! I am positive we have all seen people breakup over much less, but Pepper stays with Tony, a mystery too ridiculous to solve.
5 Tony Regularly Puts Pepper In Danger (Part 3)
At the crux of Iron Man 3 (2013), Tony Stark, along with the help of Rhodes (War Machine), is in full conflict with the real Mandarin (Aldrich Killian). There is a battle. It is hectic. Pepper Potts is object of Tony’s rescue.
She falls into fire. It doesn’t look good.
Thank goodness that by the end of the film she’s fine. They break up, and it’s like, yeah! Of course! You should have done that two movies ago. This relationship is not just emotionally unhealthy, it’s physically unhealthy.
4 On Again, Off Again
Movies often posit a wild romantic notion that love is chaos, love is passion, and love is unpredictable. While there is some truth to the spark of love being important (nobody wants a boring affair), tumultuous and volatile relationships burn out as quickly as they start.
Pepper and Tony have lots of tension in Iron Man (2008) but get together in the end, by Iron Man 2 (2010) they are on the rocks, and by the end of Iron Man 3 (2013) they breakup, but get back together before Spider Man: Homecoming (2017). It’s a mess.
3 Tony Makes Her Hang Out With A Bunch Of Weirdos
I’m sure being associated with Tony Stark has its perks; private jets, fancy dinners, cool tech etc. However, if you end up in Tony’s circle you will have to hang out with tons weird and dangerous men.
Obadiah Stane, for example, is a power hungry megalomaniac (of course he is just look at his name). He’s played by a bald Jeff Bridges, this immediately screams red flag. Then you have the sneaky S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents like Mr. Coulson above, and by the time you get to The Avengers, it’s like, how many other-worldly dudes should she have to put up with?
2 Tony, Himself, Is A Weirdo
Tony Stark is an eccentric billionaire with a taste for theatrics. He is like Howard Hughes minus the “jar collection.” You probably do not know anyone like this because not many people like Tony actually exist. They are strange and reclusive, with bizarre spending habits and complicated interests.
I understand why someone would find certain aspects of Tony attractive, but I believe that Tony is past the point of being relatable. He is a weapons dealer. What could they possibly have in common other than a mutually tense attraction, and also Jarvis? They both love Jarvis, and I get it.
1 Oh, Yeah! He Is Her Boss
This should go without saying, but...THEY WORK TOGETHER.
Any reasonable adult should understand that mixing business with pleasure is never a good idea. Especially when dealing with an employer/employee situation, you need to establish clear boundaries.
You should never date your staff.
I don’t care if you are Tony Stark and have possibly billions of dollars at your disposal. You’re still not above the ethical contract we all maintain when entering into a professional work environment. Sorry, Tony. This one is on you.