Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is Spider-Man a black guy?

That's a question I've pondered for the past few months. It's something I've wanted to write about for a while; I haven't, though, because of the potential can of worms it could open. However, the topic has come up on a larger scale than any theorizing I could have come up with. Apparently, there's a movement to get Donald Glover, an African-American actor and one of the stars of NBC's Community, an opportunity to audition for the Spider-Man reboot film Sony & Marvel are planning.

To put it simply, not only do I not have a problem with a black actor playing Spider-Man, it makes a hell of a lot of sense, considering the character. From a practical standpoint, considering the Raimi/ Maguire movies are still very fresh in the public's mind, a black Peter Parker would help greatly to distance this new movie from its predecessors.

From a character standpoint, it makes sense for many reasons. First, let's look at Spidey's reason for becoming a superhero, the tragic death of his beloved Uncle Ben. If you were to do a Google Image Search for "Uncle Ben", this is the first result....
With great-tasting rice comes great responsibility!

All kidding aside, there's a pan-ethnic quality that Spider-Man has that other superheroes simply don't possess. More importantly, it represents a chance for a superhero "race lift" (forgive the term) that would matter. Sure, the new Young Justice animated series has a black Aqualad, but who really gives a rat's ass about Aqualad? With Spidey, casting him as an African-American would both work and have impact.

Peter Parker is a poor kid from a neighborhood that's seen better days. That's something that crosses race lines. Rich playboy heroes are invariably going to be white because, unfortunately, there still isn't full equality for other ethnicities. As Malcolm X once said, "The problem is still here." Spidey is not a rich playboy. His problems are those everyone of middle-class or lower can identify with- he's constantly got to worry about finances, housing, medical care, and whatnot, and that's just for Aunt May! (The old bat is a millstone around his neck.)
Moreover, and this is something that many writers and artists have toyed with in recent years, is the costume. There is nothing from Spidey's costume that shows any ethnicity, and that way, he appeals to EVERY ethnicity.

Also, the Wallcrawler is a wiseacre with spider powers. That is very reminiscent of Anansi, the African spider-god and trickster of folklore.

In closing, we have in the Oval Office a black man who is a nerd, an admitted fan of comics in general and Spider-Man in particular. Coincidence? I think not.
It's time for a change, America. Let's embrace it.

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