When I see Pepper in the Iron Man suit, I think of her as being Iron Man.
But then, I have to stop and think about what that means in the MCU.
I have a very comic-based perspective, and in the comics, Tony and Iron Man are not one and the same. Eddie March was Iron Man. James Rhodes was Iron Man. Clay Wilson was Iron Man. And they aren’t the only ones to have worn the armor! They are merely the ones who took the name and the mission. Though Iron Man is very much an expression of Tony’s psyche, how Tony sees and interacts with the world and a way to address Tony’s needs, other people can and have assumed that name.
Tony spent a long time distancing himself from Iron Man. He maintained a secret identity for years, and he compartmentalized the different parts of his life to a very heavy degree. In the MCU, we don’t have the secret identity. We don’t see the compartmentalization. To MCU Tony, he’s the exact same person in and out of the armor.
For most of comic Tony’s existence, he was a different person. He needed that alternate identity to surrender to. When he needed to relinquish the armor to someone else, he relinquished the identity as well. The other people who took on the name Iron Man made it their own. They were different Iron Men with different styles and different motivations, but they were all legitimately Iron Man. Tony often felt they were more legitimately Iron Man than he had been! Eddie March valued what it was to be Iron Man more than Tony did. Rhodey was just plain better at it.
When I see Pepper in Tony’s suit in IM 3, I think of her as being Iron Man. When Rhodey wore the Mk II in IM 2, I don’t see that as War Machine or a pro to-War Machine; that’s Rhodey as Iron Man.
But…now that I’ve really thought about it, that doesn’t fit at all. Because Tony and Iron Man are one and the same in MCU. Iron Man is just an outfit that Tony puts on, and he continues to be himself.
So, who are Rhodey and Pepper when they don Tony’s suits? What do we call them? That’s not War Machine and that’s not Rescue. I guess they are just..themselves. That’s Rhodey. And that’s Pepper. And no one changes anything about themselves when they put the armor on. They are just themselves, doing what needs to be done.