I came across something interesting in David Denby's review of Iron Man - it seems that at one point in the movie, Iron Man gets waterboarded:
In any case, the freelance fanatics, or whatever they are, waterboard Tony Stark, which, considering what some American interrogators and their surrogates have done to suspects recently, is enraging to watch. Such are the ways of pop: we cast our sins onto others. The complaint sounds a little wan, but it’s worth noting that, possibly, more Americans will see this dunderheaded fantasia on its opening weekend than have seen all the features and documentaries that have labored to show what’s happening in Iraq and on the home front.
I'm not sure Denby hasn't missed the point here; Jon Favreau, the film's director, is a pretty smart guy and I'm certain that if he decided to show Islamic extremists (or caricatures thereof) waterboarding an American billionaire arms dealer there's a reason for it - and I don't think it's because Favreau was rooting for Captain America during the Civil War story arc.
On the other hand, while I think it's a bit unfair to assume that the creative team behind Iron Man threw waterboarding in there simply to make the bad guys seem worse, Denby's point about Iron Man reaching a larger audience than, say, Standard Operating Procedure or Taxi to the Dark Side is a potentially valid one, given that they've decided to update Iron Man's origin story so that it now features scary brown people rather than scary yellow people. Is there a chance that certain less-informed moviegoers might have some of their negative racial stereotypes reinforced by the waterboarding sequence? Maybe. Does that mean Favreau shouldn't have included it? Well, maybe.
Pardon my equivocation, but I'm genetically unable to tell other artists what they should do with their work - which probably explains why David Denby is reviewing movies for The New Yorker and I'm reviewing his review. But if it were up to me, I'd go for it and waterboard as many superheroes as I could. You can't craft your work hoping the dumbest segment of your audience doesn't miss whatever point your trying to make; eventually you end up resenting your audience and once that happens your work starts to suck. Someone who doesn't know that the United States is waterboarding prisoners is probably clueless enough to think that Barack Obama really is a terrorist sleeper agent - that viewer's opinion of Muslims isn't likely to get much lower. Also, as I've written before, most people don't really know what waterboarding entails. If this scene gets just a few people thinking a little bit more deeply about what's happening in America today, then I'm for it.
Besides, Iron Man is a tool. Never liked him anyway.