by Brett White
Hey everyone who was unjustifiably angry about the campaign to have Donald Glover don a pair of web-shooters, you’ll probably really hate the charming change Andrew Garfield has quasi-sorta-half-but-maybe-not-really suggested for his character, Peter Parker. The “Amazing Spider-Man 2” actor has suggested that Mary Jane Watson be… a man.
It’s no secret that Shailene Woodley’s part as Mary Jane has been removed from next year’s Spidey sequel, and the character’s future remains uncertain. With that in mind, Garfield has apparently proposed an idea to producer Matt Tolmach and director Marc Webb.
“I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ,” Garfield told EW. “And I was like, ’What if MJ is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking! … So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
Garfield even has an MJ in mind for MJ – “Friday Night Lights” actor and possible Human Torch Michael B. Jordan. Tumblr and fanfic writers, start your engines.
But to address this seriously, because Garfield actually brings up a very important point when it comes to both superhero comics and superhero films. Why can’t Spider-Man be gay? A similar question – “Why can’t Spider-Man be black?” – was asked a few years ago with the Donald Glover campaign. That, of course, irritated a number of people, but it also caused a lot of people to think about what these characters actually mean.
The most important facets of Spider-Man’s character, I’d say, are his sense of responsibility to do the right thing and his put upon/down on his luck nature. This hero can’t catch a break! When Spider-Man was created in the 1960s, just having him be a teenager was a novel enough idea that it actually made Peter Parker representative of a minority. He was the voice of youth, a leading character that readers could relate to because of his age. Fast-forward to the year 2013 and it seems like 70% of all media is focused around teenage and young adult protagonists. Peter Parker’s minority status as a teenager has been taken away from him. So what is he? He’s a white, cisgender, straight male. Because of all of these things, Peter Parker has it pretty good.
Yes, the perpetually down on his luck Peter Parker does have it pretty good, especially compared to the social injustices facing other groups of people in America. Making Spider-Man black or gay would not only give him back that underdog edge he had when he was a teenage hero in a decade where teenagers were voiceless, it would give members of that social group a hero to aspire to be like. When you look at the big screen superheroes from this year, last year and many years before it, what do you get?
Straight, cisgender, white dudes.
Spider-Man, a character created to be fundamentally different from every other hero, is just like every other hero. Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Iron Man, Bruce Banner, Thor, Captain America, Kick-Ass, Hawkeye, etc. I know some of them are aliens, I know some of them are burdened with horrible powers, but I also know that if any of those heroes walked down the street, they would not be subjected to the type of profiling, skepticism, disdain and persecution that so many people face just for being who they are. Wouldn’t it be great to have a superhero deal with that kind of injustice in addition to big ol’ brawls?
Why can’t that hero be Spider-Man?
The Donald Glover campaign did make a dent at Marvel Comics; writer Brian Michael Bendis introduced the half-latino, half-black Spider-Man named Miles Morales to great success because of Glover. Since there’s a 99% chance that Garfield’s idea will not happen, it would be great if this became a real movement and inspired the superhero comics companies to give more gay characters a leading role. Right now between the hundred-plus comics published by Marvel and DC, only one features a gay lead: “Batwoman.” There should be more. Hopefully this will lead to that, if it doesn’t lead to a change on the big screen.
[via Entertainment Weekly]
What do you think of this suggested Mary Jane switcheroo? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter!