This blog post was inspired by a conversation with @Terrysboy on Twitter. Donald Glover has started his own grass roots campaign to be cast as the role of Peter Parker in the next Spider-man movie. Spider-man 4 is rumored to be a relaunch of the series. They want to start over again with Peter in high school and take a few chances with the script since the actors and director from the previous movies want nothing to do with the franchise any more.
I don’t think a black Spider-man would work. I was content to just leave it there but my Twitter friend @Terryboy bombarded me with replies on this subject so I think I should do him justice with a well explained retort. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on this because people already seem to have their minds made up, but I would like a chance to give my rationale.
Peter Parker as the character is currently written is a masterpiece when it comes to the American experience. A poor kid from Queens who is a genius level science student raised by his widowed Aunt seems like it could be the stereotypical background for a black character. That’s where any similarities end. This isn’t a story of a kid who pulls himself up by his bootstraps to show the reader what it takes to be a success.
This is the story of a guy who never harnesses his potential in real life but reaps all the benefits anyways. He dates and marries the most famous super model on the planet. Gets a cushy gig at the Daily Bugle taking pictures of himself fighting bad guys while being a continual fuck-up at work. He’s chronically late to everything and totally blows off his entire cast of friends to pursue crime fighting. His best friend is the son of a billionaire who still hangs with Peter’s broke ass like he’s family. Oh and in-between all of this he manages to get the best science internships in the city on a consistent basis. Things just have a way of working out for Pete at every turn.
Peter Parker is the ultimate example of white privilege. You can’t just throw a brother in that role and make any of this believable. At every turn you buy Peter’s improbable luck because you can still picture people taking a chance on him. His story is just appealing enough and his face is just familiar enough that people constantly invest in him. That’s the key to his entire existence.
The last thing and well, probably the most important thing is this; I don’t trust Hollywood to do this movie correctly with a black star. I think you’d see a lot more references to race and stereotypes in the comedic turns of the script because that would be the entire hook this movie is predicated upon. I don’t want race and superhero comic book stuff to mix unless it’s pertinent to the plot. Why not make Batman gay? What about an Asian Superman? How about a movie where the Punisher is 400lbs of fat?
Stop messing with excellent premises in the name of a gimmick. Comics endure for decades because the source material is so well done. You can’t just insert race, sex or religion abruptly into a character’s origin story just to “spice it up” and expect me to roll with that. The only way it could work is to make this casting not about race at all but that would defeat the entire purpose of this “hook” gimmick they are using to relaunch this series. Now if you can find a reasonable way to make this relevant to the script and not besmirch the original storyline… I would consider it. The odds of Hollywood doing that? Zero. So how about this; let’s get the story correct this time. Instead of adding more elements for the movie industry to completely fuck up let’s get the key details of the current stories right.
Why is Wolverine leaving the Weapon X program in an afternoon? Why does Deadpool become an amalgamation of CG special effects and only has 2 speaking lines in the script? Why is Venom in Spider-man 3 for all of 25 minutes? It’s because guys like @Terrysboy (No disrespect) had similar thoughts about cavalierly changing the source material instead of delving into the minutia of the original storylines that made these franchises long-standing pillars of American mythology.
Now if you don’t mind I have to read some more of this new Batman series where he’s doing crime fighting in a wheelchair. Peace.