By Daniel Cole
Some of you might be aware that this week the star of Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, actually mentioned in an interview that it would be interesting if long time Spidey love interest Mary-Jane Watson was actually a guy.
This comment may have been in jest or a serious statement from the actor, but it does bring up an interesting idea. What if Spider-Man was gay? It is hardly a revolutionary idea to have a gay superhero, but it would be fascinating to see the Amazing Spider-Man interpretation of the character take a decidedly different route.
Of course the concept of “fucking about” with a well-established character will anger a lot of people and there will be a lot more that won’t see the point in doing it. But I’d argue that Spider-Man as a character is fundamentally about representing the underdog and the downtrodden. He gives a voice to the unheard and when he was created all those moons ago he gave a voice to the teenager. Now teenagers have so many voices that poor old Peter Parker is just another teen hero dealing with the same problems a plethora of other characters are.
This isn’t to say that we should make every character part of a minority to make them unique, but if any character could be malleable enough to be given a minority status and still keep a hold of what he represents its Spider-Man. Marvel has even acted upon this notion by introducing the world to Miles Morales and although he is a minority character he still embodies and preaches Spider-man’s timeless values of “with great power comes great responsibility.” In fact Miles is a success story with a loyal fanbase.
But I can hear people saying “but that’s different, its in another universe, he isn’t really our Spider-man.” Well I’d counter that with the fact that the Spider-man who is on the big screen now is a different Spider-Man to the comics. He is another iteration and there is no problem with tweaking an aspect or two.
The film itself would benefit from a Peter Parker who would be exploring his sexuality whilst fighting crime. In fact it isn’t too far removed from the concept already, as Peter is the ultimate coming of age superhero parable.
There are also major benefits on a societal level as something as high profiled as Spider-Man embraces the 21st century head on. It would give a much-needed role model to a legion of Spider-Man fans out there and it would perhaps dispel some of the prejudices of others. Granted I have perhaps too much faith in the power of art, but you never know.
It of course will never happen, but this whole idea has raised a few issues that should be addressed. Is it really a problem to change one trait of a well-established character? Should representation of minorities be considered when adapting a well know superhero, if it doesn’t affect the core thematic concept of the character?
Personally I’d have no problem with an adaptation changing things up to create a more interesting on screen portrayal. As long as the soul of the character exists it really shouldn’t matter. In fact it would be quite entertaining to watch a gay Spider-Man tackle social injustice, find his heroic path and date Marty-James Watson.