“With great power comes great responsibility,” right?
That’s the motto, the creed, the life lesson we have taken from all things Spider-Man since the character’s creation in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Marvel Studios, now with a stake in the web-slinger on the big screen, have employed those words to their utmost in their plan for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING.
In case you hadn’t heard, it would appear that the actress Zendaya, who was cast back in March to a then-unspecified role, will be playing long-time Peter Parker love interest Mary Jane Watson. Traditionally, in the comics, animated series, previous films and all other adaptations of Spidey, M.J. has been a Caucasian female with red hair. However, that’s not Zendaya, a 19-year-old young woman who is half-black.
As expected, fanboys who cannot ever seem to let go of the past have spoken up, taking to the interwebs to express their outrage over something that’s always been one way for them now changing to be something else, as if the bedrock of their entire existence has somehow been shaken to its core. “How dare M.J. not be the same way I’ve known her forever!!” But what they fail to realize is the larger picture… what they fail to realize is Marvel is taking those famous aforementioned Spider-Man words to heart. Marvel is using their great power with great responsibility.
Hollywood is suffering from a diversity problem in a big way. It has been for a long time, but, as more and more people get woke, the public conscience becomes aware of this gap of representation. They start to understand that white is and has always been the default, while any sort of minority – be it gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. – has found trouble breaking through into those roles and being seen as normal. Often times, what isn’t the default is seen as a “gimmick,” or “pandering,” or “PC-casting.” Take a look at the uproar that was raised when Michael B. Jordan – a talented black actor – was cast in the role of Johnny Storm – a fictional white dude – in Fox’s reboot of FANTASTIC FOUR. When you factor gender in, peek at the vitriolic response that the casting of four women as a new squad of GHOSTBUSTERS was greeted with, and then witness the constant stream of harassment those actresses were met with as if they broke into fans’ homes, stole their Blu-ray/DVD copies of GHOSTBUSTERS and popped a squat on them right in the middle of the living room… oh, while killing their families, too, since there’s no other reason that much hate should be generated over anyone simply making a movie, no matter how much you loved the original.
“Race-swapping” or “gender-swapping” is the end of the world for a small but vocal corner of the world, but guess what…? Marvel doesn’t care. And do you want to know why? Because they’re Marvel, and, at this point, they’re too big to fail.
And so Marvel, at this point, in casting Zendaya as Mary Jane is using its power to create change. This isn’t a situation where fanboys can bitch and moan and threaten and boycott. Marvel doesn’t care. Marvel doesn’t need those people who may choose not show up, unlike some other movies which didn’t have the foundation Marvel has constructed since Robert Downey Jr. first suited up as Iron Man to survive such backlash. Marvel is using the bully pulpit to combat the bullies who think they can dictate that things can and should only be one way. Marvel is altering the status quo, because they can, and the only ones who will be left behind are the ones who’ll be vow to stay home and not see Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after a crowd-pleasing first appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, choosing to die on the hill of Mary Jane Watson’s skin color.
This is the type of situation we always hope for – the big guy coming to the aid of the little guy, because it’s the right thing to do. Marvel is about as big as you can get these days, and by launching solo franchises around a black superhero (BLACK PANTHER) and a superheroine (CAPTAIN MARVEL) and positioning a person of color as one of most well-known comic book love interests, they are helping the under-represented represent. They are expanding “normal.” They are making their Cinematic Universe as diverse as the real world. They are wielding their great power with such great responsibility for the benefit of us all.
This is why they’re involved with Spider-Man once again. They get what he’s all about.