Man, oh, man, where do I even begin about this Spider-Man Homecoming trailer.
Before we start, let’s be super clear: these are general impressions because, shockingly, until the movie comes out, I can’t form a full opinion. I can, however, see certain warning signs based on the information that I do have. You know, kind of like how people get nervous about a certain Presidential cabinet even when it’s not in effect yet. Yes, it’s only a trailer, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the final product is going to be just as bad as advertised.
So all that said, let’s take a look at that new trailer.
Hold on. Sorry. Gotta change the language settings.
Looks pretty neat. But hey, who’s the Filipino kid with the Legos? Is that Ganke? He’s not in the Peter Parker comics…
I want to talk a bit about a word that should not come up when talking about a Spider-Man movie: appropriation. Google the word, and you get a definition like “The action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. The following concept may be hard to follow because Marvel owns all it’s heroes and stories, therefor, allowing it to use them as they see fit. But the most common use of the word appropriation is in regards to cultural appropriation, when people of one culture adopt the certain aspects of another, usually for aesthetic purposes and in a pick-and-choose fashion.
So, back to Ganke, the aforementioned Lego kid (or, I guess he’s Ned Leeds, I think, according to IMDB); Now, a while back, Marvel was asked if they would consider a Spider-Man movie about a hero that wasn’t Peter Parker. Would they feature the new and hugely successful Spider-Man from their Ultimate Universe line, a half-Black, half-Latino kid named Miles Morales? Between his proven popularity and the fan base’s growing calls for more diverse super heroes, he seemed like a slam dunk. But Marvel opted for the Spider-Man we’ve all known and been comfortable with taking a subway late at night with for years. And you know what, fine. Spider-Man is their character, and they should do what they want with him. Use Peter Parker. Give him a fresh take. Great!
Except it doesn’t feel so great when the “fresh take” turns out to be lifting the iconic pieces of Miles’ backstory, and then giving them to the white Spider-Man.
Again, I haven’t seen this movie yet, so who knows – the trailer might just be incredibly misleading. And, again, these stories all belong to Marvel, and they’re allowed to mix and match as they see fit. But am I the only person who thinks this is wrong? To have this new hero, with his own unique lore, who overcame audience skepticism towards and resistance to the idea of “Black Spider-Man” to become a beloved staple, a character people are clamoring to see on screen – only to have his story stripped for parts and given to the white guy that’s been front and center for 60+ years? Why does this movie’s “Ned” look and act and share a favorite hobby with Miles’ best friend, Ganke? Why do the characters appear to attend a charter school, like Miles does? Why does the villain look so reminiscent of the Prowler, Miles’ arch nemesis? Why is the main source of tension in Miles’ books – letting the proven super heroes do their thing while the baby hero stays in school – seem so omnipresent in this movie?
Now, can these story elements all be applied convincingly to Peter Parker? Yes. Should they, when they belong to another character, one who has had less time to prove himself and is still making his mark? I just don’t think so. It seems… wrong to me.
To quote Nicki Minaj (a series of words I’ve never started a sentence with): “You can’t want the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that.’’ Or as Azealia Banks said (another series of words I don’t think I’ve ever written), “Black culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” It just feels fucking weird that Marvel would do this to a character whose apparent reason for existing in the first place was to break down those boundaries and face both the good and the bad.
Every day, I see children wearing Spider-man backpacks and talking about his adventures. His triumphs and his faults. And race doesn’t seem to come into it, ever, really. Men, women, black and white, Spider-Man’s fans just want to be like this person because he stands for something more. And I know most of them don’t know who Miles Morales is. And now they won’t. Miles and his creators worked hard to blaze his own path and his own story. But that’s been sacrificed on the altar of a God with half a century of his own rich lore, who didn’t need any more, but who will own it now. Because it sold more. Because it tested better with audiences.
And that seems weirdly shitty to me.
PS: Also, is it me or does it seem like the inspiration for Miles Morales, Donald Glover, is playing a villain, or at the very least, someone of dubious enough character to associate with the villain? Just saying…