by kyrilu & chaperoned
“okay, went back and reread the first chapter (this is what I get for reading so many amazing frostiron fics. they all start bleeding together into a terrible, glorious soup of crazy sexy fluffy angsty booze and bloodshed and hot sex), AND OH FUCK THIS IS THE ONE WITH THE BLOODY EAGLE EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW AND I REMEMBER EVERYTHING.”
--Built Like a Moth review.
Aside from being a cry from help, this was written to answer the question Why Frostiron as well as to track the evolution of this pairing (Tony Stark & Loki). Provided below are the most frequently seen tropes for this pairing, a timeline of fanfiction and important events, communities that cater to Frostiron shippers, and an analysis of the pairing itself that ties together what’s already been said about it. You can reblog this on tumblr using this link if you're so inclined (and be sure to check out ssfrostiron for all your other frostiron needs!)!
Tropes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re literary devices that authors use in their stories -- not just in fanfiction, it’s any kind of media, whether it’s a television show or a published novel. What we find interesting is the continued use of certain tropes -- whether they are played straight, subverted, or lamp-shaded -- and how these these tropes unfold on a small scale. Pairing-specific tropes, basically, is what we’re listing below -- like Merlin fandom’s trope Arthur finds out (usually Arthur/Merlin, which is so popular that it has its own AO3 tag). Tropes can either be inspired from other fics, or the source text naturally provides individual authors with the same ideas.
Pairing-Centric Tropes for Loki/Tony
Art by squidbiscuit.
Provided below is a timeline of the most popular Frostiron fics, why they’re important (maybe they’re the first to showcase certain tropes - or the first posted on certain sites), and tropes present within these fics. It also includes important events like the creation of communities, use of tags, or the the premieres of trailers or movies (which encourages activity within fandoms). Through this, you can gain a sense of what things influenced this pairing’s following, when they occurred, and sometimes why.
* - author is well-known in fandoms outside of the Loki/Tony pairing.
September 12, 2011 -- Frostiron community on lj created. [x]
September 29, 2011 -- First use of the tag ‘frostiron’ on tumblr. [x]
Possibly migrated over from the lj comm, or a thunderfrost shipper just applied the same jargon.
October 16, 2011 -- First frostiron prompt on avengerkink (crack!fic). [x]
March 5, 2012 -- Frost-iron tumblr created. [x]
April 11, 2012 -- Loki and Tony movie clip released [headcount] & Avengers premieres in hollywood. [x]
April 25-26, 2012 -- Avengers is released in Australia, UK, etc. Presumably, cam quality videos would be available after time if they weren’t already.
May 1, 2012 -- First frostiron fic on AO3 with movie knowledge [x]
May 5, 2012 -- First frostiron fic on ff.net with movie knowledge. [x]
June 27, 2012 -- First use of the ‘Smartass Family’ tumblr tag, conceived by MaverikLoki and TerresDeBrume. [x]
August 18, 2012 -- High quality DVD leaks online. Gifsets flood Tumblr. Behind the scenes footage begins to leak over the following few days.
September 10, 2012 -- Frostiron prompt meme opens. [x]
October 23, 2012 -- Iron Man 3 trailer released. [x]
“Iron Man is Loki's Good Counterpart. Very clever, but has little idea of how to fight beyond Attack! Attack! Attack!? Deadpan Snarker? Narcissistic? A total diva who's all about presentation and self-aggrandisation? Prone to equally spectacular self-destructive behavior? Bitterly jealous of the blond, nobler teammate who his father liked better? A big difference, of course, is Tony's experience in Afghanistan, which drastically changed his worldview. Loki is very close to a version of pre-Afghanistan Tony Stark Gone Horribly Wrong, albeit with far more jealousy and Sibling Rivalry.”
Full disclosure, this is half-character study, half-shipping manifesto. The following text includes:
Please bear in mind that character motives and characterization differ dramatically according to the source material you use. This analysis is based is based entirely on the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Art by asktheironfrost
It’s not a Frostiron shipping manifesto if you don’t address daddy issues. While Tony’s are directly dealt with in Iron Man 2, Loki’s insecurities are harder to get a handle on as his motivations haven’t been made entirely clear yet and are additionally wrapped up in his love-hate relationship with Thor. In order to help illustrate parallels between the two, Loki’s goals, insecurities, and how he deals with his insecurities have been outlined below. The quote “To prove to Father that I am a worthy son! When he wakes, I will have saved his life, I will have destroyed that race of monsters, and I will be true heir to the throne!” is used as a foundation for these ideas.
What's up in Asgard
In Thor, Thor is unworthy of the throne, as is illustrated by his inability to lift Mjǫlnir. He begins a war, he risks his friends' lives, and even when his life isn't in danger he kills countless Jotuns simply because of one's condescension towards him (that he arguably deserved). This puts Asgard into the worst possible situation: Odin is about to fall into the Odin-sleep, leaving Asgard vulnerable and on the brink of war. Odin is also "the most powerful being in the nine realms" and has "brought peace to the nine realms". So, Thor’s actions don’t only put Asgard in danger; they put everyone in all nine realms into danger.
Loki, the throne, and his insecurities.
Despite this, Loki isn't offered the throne or an opportunity to take it - even after Thor is cast out - nor is he offered an explanation for why the throne doesn't fall to him.
Even before this event, however, Loki has been made to feel he isn’t good enough. So, Loki is already struggling to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with him – all while Frigga is saying how wonderful it would be if Thor could come back.
"Imagine the moment when it became inevitably clear that he would never actually matter, because of who and what he was. He spent his life in the shadows just behind splendor and surrounded by shining perfect happiness, but it didn’t ever quite reach to him. It wouldn’t have been so terrible, if he hadn’t spent his whole life being so very, very close to glory and power, but just out of reach.
He was born with an attitude and a personality that didn’t fit his actual rank, status, or even natural ability. He had a deeply ingrained notion in his mind that he was destined for some great end (“glorious purpose”), and he refused to stop battling with the conflicting reality that that great end would never be possible, because he simply couldn’t do it. He “lacked the conviction.” He lacked the opportunity. Loki’s problem was that he couldn’t rewire his own expectations towards life.
And then, despite this whole internal struggle, he was not surrounded by others who were mediocre or lacking; rather, he was surrounded by honored, celebrated gods who were perfectly in their elements and thrived because of it. How could he ever let go of the hope that one day, he could mean something, too." - letyoursoul
Because we lack further background, we're left with two guesses as to why Loki isn’t offered the throne:
There's equal evidence to support both. It’s still important to note that even at his worst (while in Asgard) nothing Loki does is any more terrible than what Thor has done or tried to do.
Either way, when Loki finds out he's Jotun, he seizes this as the reason Odin wouldn't have him on the throne: "you could never have a Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard". He does this because of his internalized racism. At the beginning of Thor, Odin states: “It was Asgard who brought peace to the other realms... but the day will come when one of you have to defend that peace”. Shortly after, Loki asks “Do the Frost Giants still live?” implying he associates Frost Giants with a lack of peace.
This is why Loki constantly says he wants to be a worthy son, refers to himself as Odinson after killing Laufey, and one of - if not the first - things he says on earth is that he is "of Asgard". His speech at the end of Thor is also indicative of this: "I could have done it" (brought peace to the realms) "for you" (because of the Odin sleep - because someone needs to take Odin’s place and even if it can't be him, it won't have to be Thor as the threat is gone). However, this shouldn't be taken to mean Loki doesn't feel he deserves the throne more than Thor - he does and by the end of Thor has proved he can handle it to himself despite his reservations (“I was a king, the rightful king of Asgard”). So, he sees himself as capable of taking Odin's place. However, this doesn’t erase the self-hatred at odds with his ego (he may be a Frost Giant but he’s still a better king than Thor).
What Loki hopes to accomplish
(Art by Pepperonipotts.)
Ultimately, Loki sees Odin's end goal as bringing about peace. Odin tells Loki that he thought he could "bring about an alliance, bring about permanent peace” by uniting Jotunheim and Asgard through Loki “but those plans no longer matter" (because of Thor's actions). Again, Loki associates the Jotun with a lack of peace – Loki threatens that peace by virtue of existing. Mixed with the events at the end of Thor, this leads Loki to believe he no longer has a place he belongs and never did.
“There is a personal engine but it’s behind a degree of megalomania. When you see Loki let go of that spear at the end of Thor, he lets go of Asgard, he lets go of Asgard and his need for that place and his attachment and need for the affection and respect of Odin and his brother. As he disappears in that wormhole, that’s a literal way of saying, “I’m done. Asgard is gone and I have other things to do.” At the beginning of The Avengers, you see the beginnings of what Loki is planning and if he doesn’t belong in Asgard, where might he belong? In that tragic place of confusion of “Where do I belong in this universe?” Loki’s answer is “I will make myself belong”, which dark and menacing and dangerous.” -Tom Hiddleston
No longer feeling he belongs, Loki seeks to make a place for himself in Asgard through other means. He decides to make himself as – if not more – powerful than his brother and Odin to obtain that peace his father is after as well as to earn his father’s respect and gain a sense of belonging. (It’s important to note that he does this by gathering an army – a direct response to his brother’s criticism that “some of us do battles others just do tricks”.)
Loki's relationship with Thor
(Art by seizure7.)
With this in mind, Loki has a very negative view of his brother because of Thor’s actions – to the point that Loki is willing to kill him in order to protect Asgard or if he interferes with his plans. However, it doesn't mean he hates him. In Thor’s deleted scenes, Loki states: "I've looked forward to this day as long as you have. You're my brother and my friend. Sometimes, I'm envious but never doubt that I love you." While he wishes to prove to Odin Thor isn’t ready for the throne (meaning ruining his brother’s coronation isn’t “just a bit of fun” – the lie he offers to Laufey to avoid revealing his plan), he originally never intends for his brother or friends to be in danger during the process. In fact…
“The thing about Loki is that he’s the one who’s keeping an eye on the whole fight instead of just fighting his guy. Because I think he thinks it’s his responsibility to make sure everyone is on track and comes home safe. I just rewatched this and he is the one who reins everyone in “Thor let’s leave,” “Laufey we accept your deal,” “THOR WE HAVE TO LEAVE” “THOR!” As they’re all running away in Jotunheim after this fight, he’s the one who calls for Thor to make sure Thor is coming too. He’s the one who tattled to get Odin to come save them. And that way no one else has to risk being the coward, and that’s like Loki’s role on the team and it both leads to him being necessary AND leads to him being bullied.” -roselerner
Part of the reason Loki takes such a strong approach to trying to deal with his brother is because Loki feels sentiment is his biggest weakness:
"The thing people forget about Thor a lot is that he’s actually a really emotional person. Most of the emotions he shows readily are aggressive, “manly” emotions but in his movie we see him break down and cry without the slightest bit of embarrassment or shame.
Thor’s problem was never that he was out of touch with his emotions or anything like that, rather that he was impulsive and hot-headed and immature - he didn’t stop to think about what he was doing, because he never had to.
Really, when you think about it, despite the roles that they occupy, with Thor as the traditionally masculine manly man and Loki as the more “feminine”, it’s interesting to note that LOKI is actually the one with the most problems dealing with his emotions. The stereotype usually goes that men don’t have emotions or they repress their emotions or that emotions make them weak but Thor clearly doesn’t believe that at all - he’s got no problem being open and emotional at any point. Loki on the other hand, hides his emotions and represses them and clearly does view them as a weakness.
Of course, in turn, being openly emotional is, for men, something that comes with self-confidence - Thor never doubts that he will be perceived as the masculine manly man he sees himself as, where-as Loki is never given respect by his peers. For him, emotions probably are vulnerability.” -zombiebitecuddles
Because sentimentality is one of Loki’s biggest weaknesses, it’s difficult for him to hate Thor (who is genuinely a good guy despite his actions. This is why we frequently see an outpour of emotion and tears when he’s forced to confront Thor. It’s also the reason why, as Phil Coulson states, he "lacks conviction" and looks shaken after he releases the cage with Thor in it during The Avengers.
“[Coulson] figures Loki out first. “You lack conviction.” Loki lacks certainty on a deeper level. He lacks certainty that he is right and that this is what he wants, and he lacks a real moral grounding on which to fight for his cause. He has double-thought and deceived himself into thinking he is some dark savior… Coulson recognizes this RIGHT AFTER HE WATCHES THOR AND LOKI INTERACTING, and sees the “fun of it” leaving Loki’s face once he’s dropped Thor out in the metal death trap... Like a heartbroken child that needs to feel validated, even in the most twisted way… THE FACT THAT LOKI NEEDS TO PAUSE TO JUSTIFY HIMSELF TO COULSON, A MERE “ANT,” WHICH GIVES COULSON THE OPENING TO SHOOT HIM, PROVES THAT COULSON IS RIGHT. LOKI IS INSECURE IN HIS MISSION AND ITS SUCCESS, AND SO HE HAS TO MANUFACTURE THE BOMBAST AND THE DEFENSIVE WORDS TO MAKE HIMSELF FEEL BETTER AS MUCH AS TO PROVE HIS ENEMY WRONG.” - icy-mischief
Loki is extremely driven by his emotions, takes things very personally and fears being like his brother, who lets them rule him during the first half of Thor. This is amplified by the fact that Loki feels one of his duties in Thor’s life is playing the voice of reason.
"Loki might mask his true emotions a lot, but that doesn’t mean he’s unemotional by any means. In fact, I think he’s one of the most emotional characters in Thor. Not only is his shattering heart obvious when he realizes that everything he knew is crashing down around him (“TELL ME!”), not only does he completely break down in front of Odin after he learns about his true parentage, but he whips himself into an illogical, raging frenzy afterwards. And I’m not referring to him yelling at Odin immediately after the fact. I’m referring to him completely changing his viewpoint from what it was in the beginning of the movie and trying to destroy Jotunheim.” -asgardian-riddles
Loki’s interaction with Natasha, where he tries to use her sentimentality against her, also serves to illustrate this.
Loki: Your world in the balance and you bargain for one man?
Natasha: Regimes fall every day. I tend not to weep over that, I'm Russian... or was.
Loki: What is it you want?
Natasha: It's really not that complicated. I've got red in my ledger; I'd like to wipe it out.
Loki: Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Drakov's daughter, Tugenov, the hospital fire? Yes, Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer... PATHETIC! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away. No, I won't touch Barton. Not until I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And when he wakes, he'll have just enough time to see the work he's done, and when he screams, I'll break his skull. This is my bargain, you mewling quim.
Believing her sentimentality would have her sacrifice the world in a gamble to return Clint back to normal, Loki’s interaction with her becomes increasingly angrier, more violent, personal, and he “snaps a little too quickly” because he sees something of himself reflected in her. Ultimately, however, Natasha appears to have tricked Loki. This bothers Loki because, as claricechiarasorcha points out, “in her conviction Natasha is stronger than [Loki] is, and he hates that.”
Hating his brother is also easier than hating Odin because, in hating his father, Loki would be forced to confront the idea that he and the fact that he's Jotun are at the root of his father’s disregard towards him. Additionally, it allows Loki to believe that because Thor drew so much attention away from him ("I remember a shadow"), Odin was unable to see Loki for more than what Loki perceives as his flaws: being Jotun and not having the battle prowess of his brother – the latter of which Thor mocks in Thor’s deleted scenes. Loki's contribution to a battle is brushed off with: "some of us do battle, others do tricks", which causes some discomfort for Loki. (This is why Loki later finds it so important to go to battle and be seen doing it in The Avengers – he’s trying to prove he’s capable of it.)
And, really, there's little reason for Loki not to blame his brother. Along with Thor's aforementioned actions (such as putting Asgard in danger), his relationship with Loki tends to be very condescending as Thor has a black and white, self-centered view of the world. In Thor's deleted scenes, Thor and Loki have the following conversation about a battle in Nordenheim:
Loki: Nervous, brother?
Thor: Haha, have you ever know me to be nervous?
Loki: Hum, well there was that time in Nordenheim…
Thor: That was not nerves, brother! That was the rage in battle.
Loki: Ah, I see.
Thor: How else could I have fought my way through a hundred warriors and pull us out alive?!
Loki: Uh, as I recall, I was the one who veiled us in smoke to ease our escape.
Thor: Ha ha ha yes, some of us do battles others just do tricks.
In this conversation, Thor’s language is very self-involved: “How else could I have fought my way through a hundred warriors and pulled us out alive” and he refuses to share credit with Loki because he believes it negates his own battle prowess. This is done in spite of Loki seeming to minimize his contributions - thus the use of the word "ease" – presumably to spare his brother's ego since humility isn’t exactly common among the Asgardians. Thor laughs before he can even finish. A sudden tension on Loki’s part gives off the sense that that it isn’t just friendly jesting and has been representative of their relationship for a while.
This scene is also important because after Thor’s statement that “others just do tricks,” the servant also laughs. This is the first scene where we see how Loki deals with not being taken seriously: he displays a show of power, such as by turning the wine into snakes. Thor laughs at this action, validating it, and Loki immediately looks nervous, as though he’s regretting what will take place during the coronation. Again, his sentimentality is at odds with what he believes to be right.
Additionally, Loki’s decision to hate Thor rather than his father may stem from the Jotun receiving some degree of acceptance from Odin that Thor doesn't seem to offer. Thor refers to them as monsters: "When I'm king, I'll hunt the monsters down and slay them all! Just as you did, Father." Meanwhile, Odin appears more sympathetic while talking about the Jotun after the casket is almost stolen, stating "it is but the act of a few" and no reason to open "innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war" - just as he later tells Loki that he took him from Jotunheim because he was "but an innocent child".
Likewise, despite saying Loki is still of Asgard, Thor tries to distance himself from him ("he is adopted") after the “he killed eighty people” comment -- an action Thor himself did in Jotunheim.
By the end of Thor and during The Avengers, Thor has undergone significant character growth. However, it’s important to note he's still incredibly self-centered. Thor appears almost completely blind to Loki's good intentions as he constantly makes Loki's actions about himself and what he perceives as Loki’s jealousy of him. Their conversations almost always center on Thor asking what he did to wrong Loki (which Thor believes is to have simply inherited the throne). He asks Loki: "whatever I have done to wrong you..." at the end of Thor. However, the most notably interaction comes from The Avengers:
Thor: So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights? [Loki looks taken aback.] No, the earth is under my protection, Loki.
Loki: And you’re doing a marvelous job with that. The humans slaughter each other in droves, while you idly threat*. I mean to rule them. And why should I not?
Again, this shows that Loki's ultimate goal is to bring peace to the nine realms and that he believes this is more than worth the sacrifices (his brother's death, destruction on Midgard, etc.). Still, this shouldn't be taken to mean he doesn't want the glory that accompanies this action.
This scene is also notable because it parallels Thor’s words to Odin in Thor:
Thor: There won't be a kingdom to protect if we are afraid to act! The Jotuns must learn to fear me! Just as they once feared you.
Odin: That's pride and vanity talking, not leadership. You've forgotten everything I taught you! About a warrior’s patience.
Thor: While you wait and be patient, the nine realms laugh at us! The old ways are done! You'd stand giving speeches while Asgard falls!
This further emphasize that Loki is copying Thor’s actions (which are his father’s) to some degree. The big difference between Thor and Loki’s actions is that Loki has the “warrior’s patience” that Odin seems to see as Thor’s Achilles’ heel, making him better able to execute his plans.
This is also why, at the end of Thor, Loki seems to give up trying to be better than Thor and instead focuses on being better than Odin
Why this is problematic shipping-wise
(Art by phobs. Also quick disclaimer and another one that we don't hate these ships.)
Shipping-wise, Thorki can be problematic as their relationship could potentially hinder character development.
Loki feels inadequate next to Thor. So, by allowing Thor to redeem Loki, it further emphasizes the idea that Thor is superior in Loki's mind (and that there that something is wrong with him) as well as validates Thor’s misguided actions. Therefore, Loki has to redeem himself without Thor's help to reconcile some of his feelings of inferiority. It is also only through Loki redeeming himself that an opportunity arises for Thor to re-evaluate both his own actions and judgments of Loki.
While it’s hardly intentional, Thor feeds his own ego by defining himself against Loki. (As an aside, you could even argue that Jane’s presence in Thor’s life and the supposed death of his father serve to give him a sense of autonomy. He can no longer define himself as the son of Odin and future heir. Instead, he’s forced to rely on and discover sides of himself and qualities that he normally wouldn’t bother to develop. For example, he takes Loki’s role as the person looking out for everyone else, making sure no one gets hurt by the Destroyer and as patient teacher explaining the universe to Jane.) Even in Avengers, Thor’s whole reason for being on earth and becoming involved with the Avengers is because he’s attempting to stop his brother. By the end of Thor, Loki is meant to represent elements of Thor’s former self: driven by his anger, destructive, etc. Tony and Loki's relationship is similar (in that Loki represents elements of Tony’s former self). However, unlike Tony, Thor's primary character flaws aren’t self-hatred and the isolation brought on by these things in his life (similar to Loki’s flaws). Thor's problem is that he’s self-conscious, which manifests through his destructiveness, and that he uses Loki as a means of boosting his own ego.
“[Loki] has a complex about being worthy that is irretrievably tied up with Thor. So much of his identity and ideas of self-worth have been poured into his brother; even when Loki is not perfect, he is still the second son of Asgard. Again this goes back to his adoption. The unexpected loss of the blood relation to his brother sends him into a tailspin because he defines himself by other people; he resented being Thor’s shadow, but he also loved it. The truth is, Loki did not think himself Thor’s equal — and he was only worthy and deemed something worth noticing because he was Thor’s brother. This is clear in his relationship with the Warriors Three and Sif: they are his brother’s friends, not his, and we never see Loki with any friends of his own.
Loki defined himself by his brother, the way the moon only shines because it reflects the light of the sun. The moment he wasn’t Thor’s Brother he suddenly became…nothing. Nothing more than a monster under the bed. And that killed him, because as hard as it could be, to be Thor’s brother, at least it was something worthy. A monster is just a monster…unless it is worth fearing.”- claricechiarasorcha
This creates the potential for a very unstable relationship as Loki’s and Thor’s personalities are built on defining themselves against one another. So, it’s a hard sell to say that they can both rectify these feelings of inadequacy through one another (although it’s by no means impossible).
The same argument can be made for Tony’s relationship with Steve. Like Thor, Steve is tied to Tony’s feelings of inadequacy. Steve functions as something of a brother figure to Tony in the sense that Howard is responsible for the creation of Captain America, a figure Tony idealizes like a brother. Downey states: “Could you imagine if you met your long-lost brother that was, at one time, your dad's favorite and all the sudden you sit down together? And he doesn't really want to hang out but there's business?” Like Loki with Thor, Tony’s goal is to become Steve’s equal. When he fails to meet this goal, it has the potential to amplify his feelings of self-hatred.
- Frostiron pt. 1
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