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How is this less realistic than a guy with radioactive spider powers?
July 10, 2013 3:47 PM   Subscribe

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly for this month's cover story, Andrew Garfield, the current star of the rebooted Spider-Man movie series, offered a new take the character's love interest:
“I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ,” he tells EW. “And I was like, ‘What if MJ is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking!…So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?” Garfield even has an actor in mind: “I’ve been obsessed with Michael B. Jordan since The Wire. He’s so charismatic and talented. It’d be even better—we’d have interracial bisexuality!”

Of course, despite many recent victories for GLBT rights in the US and across the world, this might not sit well with those Spider-Man fans who have thus far been resistant to major changes to the superhero's identity. In 2010, when news that the Spider-Man films were being rebooted, an online campaign was started to promote an audition by actor/rapper/comedian Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino (previously), who was excited by the idea. The idea was met with criticism from many fans, who were not only vocally opposed, but personally attacked Glover online despite his incredulity that "it's fucking 2011, and you don't think there's a black kid who lives with his aunt in Queens who likes science, who takes Photography?" The audition never happened and Garfield got the job (also previously), although writers and artists at Marvel were inspired by the idea, and later that year Marvel's Ultimate line of comics killed off Peter Parker and replaced him with an African-American/Puerto Rican teenager named Miles Morales.
posted by zombieflanders (127 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
If Spidey ever gets a boyfriend, I vote they name him Ender.
posted by Renoroc at 3:48 PM on July 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


This would never work, because Spidey's arch-enemy is The Goblin, and if you can't see why this would cause problems, you were never 12.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


The possibilities of sexual tension with classical enemies is mind numbing. Doctor Octopus and his four arms? The Rhino? Kraven the Hunter?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nerdy, wisecracking, science whiz, living in Forest Hills.... It's obvious that Peter Parker was meant to be a 1950s Jew. So if Marvel wanted to really honor the character, they should make him an Indian kid. Much of the story could be preserved, right down to the address, and it would give a lot of extra charge to the story of a kid who can only express himself when his face is covered.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:00 PM on July 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


This makes me like Andrew Garfield now.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:00 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The gay subtext was there from the start. Young, handsome creative type shoots white sticky material at villains to save the day? This pretty much writes itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


So if Marvel wanted to really honor the character, they should make him an Indian kid.

That is not an applicable race for US movies.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I... I... I kind of want this to happen now.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been a fan of Andrew Garfield for a while now, but this... I did not think I could love him more, and then he says this.

(Can't find it right now, but someone took a screencap of the confrontation scene in The Social Network off of YouTube, paused on Eduardo's face as he threatens Mark, and the top comment on the clip is "You better lawyer up, asshole, because I'm not coming back for the 30% -- I'm coming back as Spider-Man."

Best YouTube comment ever.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This makes me like Andrew Garfield now.

Nope. Still don't like him.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2013


Unless you are Shakespeherian-kin, this is not an irreconcilable problem.
posted by boo_radley at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2013


I am a huge Mary Jane Watson fan. The ret-con divorce was one of the single dumbest things Marvel ever did in the comics. I love that character, I love their relationship and marriage, and the fact that they ditched it out of sheer laziness was just plain offensive.

I'm also NOT a big fan of the Sam Jackson Nick Fury. That "reboot" has yet to bring anything new or interesting to the table compared to Original Nick Fury. Sam Jackson is fun and all, but in the end all I see is Sam Jackson with an eyepatch.

So with all that said... I am a MILLION times more interested in Spidey being gay or bi than I am in Spidey's ongoing not-with-Mary Jane stupidity. If we can't have her back where she belongs, then this is at least a genuinely interesting alternative.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:06 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow! Michael B. Jordan did grow up to be an incredibly handsome young man.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2013


I still haven't seen The Wire, but I recognized Michael B. Jordan's name from somewhere. Then I realized that he's playing Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station. I've heard really good stuff about his performance in that.
posted by brundlefly at 4:13 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's also in Friday Night Lights for a little while.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:14 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unthinkingly, I just figured they meant Omar. Which would be fine.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:17 PM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you took the Village People (for theatrics and the legendary 'staches) and Freddy Mercury (for bombast and tight pants) and put them in a box with ballet costumes and feather boas and shook 'em all up, you'd have Kraven the Hunter. The best part about Spider-man was the subtext! ('The Hunter', I mean, c'mon. really.)
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2013


Consider: The Sam Jackson "reboot" isn't meant to bring anything new to the character. He's just the best actor for the role. If you think he's a reboot just because he's black, you have larger problems.
posted by FritoKAL at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if Marvel wanted to really honor the character, they should make him an Indian kid.

Pavitr Prabhakar , along with his aunt Maya, uncle Bhim, girlfriend Meera Jain and arch-nemesis, Nalin Oberoi, and his son Hari Oberoi.
posted by the cydonian at 4:24 PM on July 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


I am sympathetic to there being more gay relationships in cinema. However, the more you play around with the premise behind a character from some property, whatever it is, the less it becomes actually about that character, and the more it becomes about someone who just happens to resemble that character -- in other words, merely trading on the name, just a marketing gimmick -- in other other words, a bait-and-switch. Why bother even calling it Spider-Man -- oh, that's right, because you wouldn't be raking in all those fanboy dollars.

It's the thinking that gave us a Superman movie in which he kills the bad guy at the end. Just call him Uberman or some such, leave the comic character out of it. Or better yet, invent a different character completely. Maybe gasp! shock! make him not even a superhero! Imagine the possibilities!
posted by JHarris at 4:25 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nick Fury appears to have always been Samuel Jackson anyway.
posted by dng at 4:25 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if Marvel wanted to really honor the character, they should make him an Indian kid.

All top superheroes come from India!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


the more you play around with the premise behind a character from some property

What about being gay or bi would remove the premise behind Spider-Man?
posted by FritoKAL at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn it, spoiler tag that shit, man. The movie came out 3 weeks ago!
posted by zombieflanders at 4:28 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's the thinking that gave us a Superman movie in which he kills the bad guy at the end.

Look, I know you don't mean to draw a parallel between being gay and murdering someone, so if you'd like to walk this back....?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:29 PM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Michael B. Jordan is also great in Chronicle.

He's also in Friday Night Lights for a little while.

[SPOILER for "The Wire," late Season One]

When Michael B. Jordan first appeared on "Friday Night Lights," I shocked my husband and myself by bursting into tears at the sight of his face. "Wallace grew up!" is all I could say in explanation. "Wallace got to grow up."
posted by Elsa at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


It wouldn't remove it. It'd just be a modification. Like all the many many other superhero movies infesting theaters right now. It wouldn't even be as great a modification, really, as the killing Superman movie.

Except there are already lots of Spider-Man movies. I'm fine with a gay superhero movie. I just want to get away from established characters. Make it about Spider-Man, or make it about someone other than Spider-Man. None of this having your cake and eating it too.
posted by JHarris at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2013


It's the thinking that gave us a Superman movie in which he kills the bad guy at the end.

But Superman 2 was brilliant.
posted by dng at 4:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You did not answer my question at all. Why is it about being gay that wouldn't make him Spider-Man anymore? WHY CAN'T Spider-Man be gay, or Nick Fury be black.
posted by FritoKAL at 4:32 PM on July 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't decide if I want this more, or a movie that depicts the bumbling lazy spider-man of the Amazing Spider-man comic strip.
posted by drezdn at 4:33 PM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


The problem with the proposal is that it means the Marvel Universe would be losing an interesting female character, and it's not as though they have a surplus.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:36 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a sliding scale. Nothing about being gay makes him not Spider-Man anymore. OR -- if Spider-Man's costume isn't exactly like it is in the comics right down to the halftone dots OMG he's not Spider-Man. Anything you change changes the character -- I'd say that his being gay wouldn't even be that big a thing.

His being gay isn't my problem. My problem is with Spider-Man. Please, enough with the Spider-Man.
posted by JHarris at 4:37 PM on July 10, 2013


The core of Spider-Man is that he's an outsider, and that us outsiders can identify with him. Making him gay would just strengthen that. OTOH, the X-Men are currently the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Gay Rights Metaphor, and Spider-Man would step on that.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:39 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This might not be the best thread, however, in which to complain about this annoying aspect of superhero moviemaking, so close to a hot-button topic. In short, it is a derail. Sorry about that.
posted by JHarris at 4:39 PM on July 10, 2013


The problem with the proposal is that it means the Marvel Universe would be losing an interesting female character, and it's not as though they have a surplus.

True but you could make Flash or Harry or Johnny Storm gay and solve that problem easily, and then Gwen and MJ are just Peter's BFF's.

Alternately - Split the difference. I would pay money to see a love triangle between Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy and Michael-John "MJ" Watson.
posted by FritoKAL at 4:39 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]




Except there are already lots of Spider-Man movies. I'm fine with a gay superhero movie. I just want to get away from established characters. Make it about Spider-Man, or make it about someone other than Spider-Man. None of this having your cake and eating it too.


But a gay Spider-Man movie would be ABOUT Spider-Man, somebody who has something that sets him apart from other people even before he's a superhero, somebody who has a secret that he needs to hide that causes uncomfortable interactions with jocks like Flash Thompson, a secret that keeps threatening his relationship with his best friend...
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:40 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


He's trying to reach the stars powered by fanboys' heads, isn't he.
posted by Zed at 4:41 PM on July 10, 2013


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: The problem with the proposal is that it means the Marvel Universe would be losing an interesting female character, and it's not as though they have a surplus.

See, and here I was thinking how cool it would be for MJ to exist in the universe as a prominent character, being her own person, doing her own thing -- taking part in the story for reasons other than "she's the hero's girlfriend."

I don't mean to call you out specifically, jstyutk, but look at what happens. If we're even just *playing* with the idea of having Peter date a guy, we're "losing an interesting female character." The concept of MJ *existing* in that universe goes by the wayside if she isn't the girlfriend. It's fucking insidious.
posted by tzikeh at 4:42 PM on July 10, 2013 [28 favorites]


Elsa, you got me teary-eyed over here with that comment. Sniffle.
posted by duvatney at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2013


I think JHarris just doesn't want any more movie about Spider-Man or any other massly popular character at all. Which is a shame because re-imaging superheros into (people of color, women, women of color, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, disabled, etc) variants means a great deal more people can identify with an established well-known character in media without having to risk creating a new superhero/character.

New is nice, I'd love to see 85,000 new minority superheros, but it does not hurt anyone (except maybe Orson Scott Card, who is a douchemonkey) to re-image existing superheros either.
posted by FritoKAL at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am sympathetic to there being more gay relationships in cinema. However, the more you play around with the premise behind a character from some property, whatever it is, the less it becomes actually about that character, and the more it becomes about someone who just happens to resemble that character -- in other words, merely trading on the name, just a marketing gimmick -- in other other words, a bait-and-switch. Why bother even calling it Spider-Man -- oh, that's right, because you wouldn't be raking in all those fanboy dollars.

This would be a more convincing argument if DC and Marvel didn't already remake all of their major properties over and over and over again as a matter of course. The current Andrew Garfield iteration of Spiderman is a a modified remake of the original Ditko character from 1962. There is no sacred cow here - it was butchered and turned into sausages long ago.

If you are modifying anyway, why not modify in a meaningful way?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I get that it wouldn't be perceived that way but Spider-Man being gay isn't any different than making your Spider-Man left-handed instead of right-handed. It's just a thing. Peter Parker has blue eyes or whatever. Peter Parker is 5'8" or 5'10" or 5'6". Peter Parker is gay. Peter Parker doesn't like shellfish.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:45 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Young, handsome creative type shoots white sticky material at villains to save the day?

NOPE.

He's a scientist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ret-con divorce was one of the single dumbest things Marvel ever did in the comics. I love that character, I love their relationship and marriage, and the fact that they ditched it out of sheer laziness was just plain offensive.

What? They....? Argh. Sometimes I'm glad I don't really read comics anymore.

I really liked that Mary Jane and Peter Parker had a long, complicated marriage with a lot of ups and downs. It was a relative rarity in the comic world - not as much so as a gay superhero, but a rarity nonetheless.

TBH I'd much rather one of the superheroes that typically never gets anywhere past the brooding sexual tension and/or occasional kiss with their personality-lacking eye-candy-love-interest had all that load of lazy writing totally scrapped and got given a real-seeming, long-lasting gay relationship. It just seems like, in the world of superhero IPs, there are so many shitty non-relationships being written, why not throw out one of those instead of a relationship that actually has had some (admittedly, some of it better, some of it worse) writing and thought put into it?

Also, I'd award 150% bonus points for making a gay Captain America, just sayin'.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:46 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd award 150% bonus points for making a gay Captain America, just sayin'.

You owe a whole lot of bonus points to an army of fanfic writers.
posted by Zed at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Young, handsome creative type shoots white sticky material at villains to save the day?

NOPE.

He's a scientist.


He's both a scientist and creative.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:50 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess if they're going to keep rebooting the same heroes every few years, they might as well change one aspect of them as another.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:53 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This would be a more convincing argument if DC and Marvel didn't already remake all of their major properties over and over and over again as a matter of course.

I will admit, this is a good argument. And CiM has a point too.

I'll just go back to staying out of theaters showing superhero movies.
posted by JHarris at 4:55 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Andrew Garfield is fantastic in everything I've seen him in (The Social Network, Boy A, Never Let Me Go). I haven't seen the Spider-man reboot, mostly because he doesn't seem superhero-y to me. I would do dig a bisexual Spider-man though. Andrew has the acting chops and innate sensitivity to pull it off, and apparently has great taste in ship partners to boot. *dreamy sigh*

If this happens, please have Jesse Eisenberg play a future villain. I'm just saying.
posted by fatehunter at 4:56 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just wish Sam Raimi had made my meta-Spider-Man movie, where Mysterio is a practical effects guy who's been fired from Evil Dead 4: Deadites Take Manhatten in favor of CG and he tries to get revenge on Sam Raimi, so Spider-Man needs to team up with Bruce Campbell to stop him.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:58 PM on July 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


fatehunter: I haven't seen the Spider-man reboot, mostly because he doesn't seem superhero-y to me.

I don't understand; that's kind of Spider-Man's raison d'etre, no? It's what sets him apart!
posted by tzikeh at 5:03 PM on July 10, 2013


This would be a more convincing argument if DC and Marvel didn't already remake all of their major properties over and over and over again as a matter of course. The current Andrew Garfield iteration of Spiderman is a a modified remake of the original Ditko character from 1962. There is no sacred cow here - it was butchered and turned into sausages long ago.

Not to mention that Spider-Man has actually been one of the few Big 2 characters who has been played around with and reimagined quite a lot--Peter Parker was a nerdy high-school kid, then a struggling college student, then a young adult who got married oops I guess we don't talk about that anymore. The current Ultimate Spider-Man series, with Miles Morales, is pretty good. One of the more vehement backlashes against Marvel in recent history was specifically because they decided to erase his marriage and bring his aunt back to life, to restore a more "classic" (read: safe) image of the character.

I still think the current Doc Ock in Peter's body thing is stupid, though.
posted by kagredon at 5:05 PM on July 10, 2013


One of the more vehement backlashes against Marvel in recent history was specifically because they decided to erase his marriage and bring his aunt back to life, to restore a more "classic" (read: safe) image of the character.

Can you explain how they did this? I'm curious.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2013


Can you explain how they did this? I'm curious.

The devil you say.
posted by Zed at 5:08 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The events of Civil War (which also caused massive fanwank but mostly for different reasons) caused what appeared to be two major status-quo changes: Peter revealed his identity, and Aunt May got shot (mostly not related.) The Devil Mephisto appeared to Peter and MJ and told them that he'd bring May back if they gave him their marriage. Not in the sense of getting divorced, but a literal in-universe retcon where they'd never been married. They agreed and also this conveniently erased all of America's memory of Peter's identity because JMS is a hack.
posted by kagredon at 5:15 PM on July 10, 2013


I'm fine with a gay superhero movie. I just want to get away from established characters.

I don't know. Reboots and "reimaginings" are done to death, yes. But they're also the source of some really fascinating work. Red Sun is interesting in the same way that Clueless is interesting, for example: take a character we're intimately familiar with, and recontextualize. What you get isn't just a reboot of a franchise, but a reflection on what truly differs in the new context and what stays the same.

Of course, not everything is that good -- Marvel Noir was just genre candy, for example, and Marvel 1602 was visually gorgeous but kind of flat. I loved Chronicle because it really did the work of establishing a new character arc, not just a rehashed property. But it seems strange to suggest that there isn't merit in revisiting old characters through new lenses. I mean, unless we insist that every long-running story be locked to realtime, with characters aging along with their fans, this process is unavoidable.
posted by verb at 5:15 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't understand; that's kind of Spider-Man's raison d'etre, no? It's what sets him apart!

Spider-Man still ~saves the day~ all the time, which is not the kind of character I peg Andrew Garfield for.

Somewhat relevant derail: I just read a TSN/Dr. Who crossover last night, and it really bothered me that the author turned Eduardo into a savior of civilizations (with his bleeding heart, Icant.gif). The Eduardo/Mark pairing is compelling to me precisely because Eduardo is not a visionary, an icon of a generation, a mover of history; and Mark is all of those. Eduardo exists on a smaller (personal, intimate) scale - both the movie script and Andrew's performance emphasized this point. Andrew auditioned for the role of Mark, but David Fincher thought it would be a "waste" of Andrew's main selling point: emotional access to his humanity.

One can argue that Spider-Man operates on a smaller, local scale compared to other superheros like, say, the FF. But Spider-Man is important, no matter how one slices it. That's very different from, almost antithesis to the kind of roles I've liked Andrew Garfield in. Andrew seems more the type of character who is important to a small number of people, or just one person.
posted by fatehunter at 5:33 PM on July 10, 2013


Why is everyone saying "gay Spider-Man" when you really mean "bi Spider-Man?" The truest way to piss off geekdom is for Peter Parker to declare his heterosexual love for Gwen Stacy was never reeeeaaal.

I am torn about this movie possibility, because on the one had an openly bisexual Spidey would be great, in a "should be canon anyway" kinda way. (Peter/Norman Osborn, Peter/Harry, Spidey/Daredevil, Spidey/Johnny Storm, Spidey/the list goes on...hey, Spidey canonically visits a psychologist to discuss how to manage Venom's possessive love-hate feelings for him.)

But on the other hand this is the erasure of a major, complex female character in a canon and genre scarce of them. And Mary Jane Watson-Parker has been my favorite female comic character since I was about nine years old, so you will pry her from my Spider-canon when you pry her from my angry graspy velociraptor claws. Fuck Yeah, Spider-Wife!
posted by nicebookrack at 5:38 PM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Peter Parker doesn't like shellfish

YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:39 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


MJ not being Spider-Man's girlfriend does not mean she can't be in the comic as his friend, and the assumption that 'female character associated with male character' MUST be the girlfriend or a potential girlfriend is sexist, yo.
posted by FritoKAL at 5:42 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


They agreed and also this conveniently erased all of America's memory of Peter's identity because JMS is a hack.

J. Michael Straczynski wrote the One More Day storyline / Brand New Day lead-in under protest and under direct instructions from Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, who is infamous for his weirdly focused hate-on for Mary Jane Watson and the spider-marriage. Brand New Day is stupid, but it was not JMS stupid.

Straczynski did great work overall with Spidey, and his run on Amazing Spider-Man is still my favorite.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fucking Spider Totems.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on July 10, 2013


Why is everyone saying "gay Spider-Man" when you really mean "bi Spider-Man?"

Fair point.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


i'd rather see a brand new queer superhero squad than a hand-me-down hero.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:55 PM on July 10, 2013


MJ not being Spider-Man's girlfriend does not mean she can't be in the comic as his friend, and the assumption that 'female character associated with male character' MUST be the girlfriend or a potential girlfriend is sexist, yo.

1) AFAIK we're talking about the movie(s), not the comic
2) In the interview Garfield specifically mentions replacing Mary Jane with a male character ("I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ...And I was like, ‘What if MJ is a dude?")

If in this movie scenario Peter Parker falls in love with a guy while his badass girl friend MJ is by his side, I will be in that movie audience at the first midnight showing.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:56 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


MJ not being Spider-Man's girlfriend does not mean she can't be in the comic as his friend, and the assumption that 'female character associated with male character' MUST be the girlfriend or a potential girlfriend is sexist, yo.

This FPP is about a statement by Andrew Garfield - ‘What if MJ is a dude?’. If MJ is a dude, MJ cannot also be Peter's female friend.

Of course, if a new character is Peter's spider-boyfriend, then MJ could be hanging around as his galpal. But Marvel doesn't really do new characters; they mostly recycle. Or we wouldn't be having this discussion.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:58 PM on July 10, 2013


You owe a whole lot of bonus points to an army of fanfic writers.

If we're counting fanfic I'm pretty sure there have already been enough gay Spiderman stories told to make this whole discussion totally redundant.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:02 PM on July 10, 2013


Peter's boyfriend is named Barry Jayne. Because I say so.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:02 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


fallacy of the beard: i'd rather see a brand new queer superhero squad than a hand-me-down hero.

"Why can't Spider-Man/Batman/Superman be gay?" "Ah, come on, if you're going to have a gay superhero, make a new one up." Well, thanks, separate-but-equal, but no thanks. The whole point is to break known characters out of heteronormativity and say, "there is no law, no rule, no natural force that demands that the iconic heroic character of Spider-Man/Batman/Superman be straight. The only reason the character has been written as straight since it was created was that that was the default for any and all superheroes (or pretty much any character, really). Now we can tell the story of a heroic, iconic, queer Superman, so why don't we?'
posted by tzikeh at 6:02 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The spider totems storyline was totally worth it for the scene where Peter tries to commune Beastmaster-style with a teeny spider on his pizzeria table. (He was not successful.)
posted by nicebookrack at 6:05 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


If a Superman who kills people isn't too much of a departure, neither is a gay Spiderman.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:10 PM on July 10, 2013


Sing Or Swim: If a Superman who kills people isn't too much of a departure, neither is a gay Spiderman.

That's twice in only 70 comments that a character being a murderer has been compared to a character being gay. I know you don't mean it that way, but can we not, please? It's everywhere, and it's so very tiring.
posted by tzikeh at 6:13 PM on July 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


if Fox weren't still sitting on the rights to the Fantastic Four, that'd make it easy. Peter/Johnny is basically canon anyway.
posted by kagredon at 6:16 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now we can tell the story of a heroic, iconic, queer Superman, so why don't we?

because queerness is not a personality quirk you can simply graft onto an existing character. how would any back-story hold, considering it would shade so many motivations of the character? i think it's a sweet idea, and i love that people want to see a big-time gay superhero and are attaching it to such a popular character. But certainly there's creativity enough to give us some gay heroes who don't seem like they woke up one day and decided to be gay.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Peter/Johnny is basically canon anyway

Required reading = Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid
posted by nicebookrack at 6:19 PM on July 10, 2013


no natural force that demands that the iconic heroic character of Spider-Man/Batman/Superman be straight.

No! It is incredibly important that the Spider-Prick be inserted only into an approved socket!

i'd rather see a brand new queer superhero squad than a hand-me-down hero.

On the other hand, there is something to be said for a character who isn't special because of his gayness, or else this becomes another version of the Black Lightning problem.
posted by JHarris at 6:20 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a Superman who kills people isn't too much of a departure, neither is a gay Spiderman

Well, actually we've already had superheroes that are both gay and kill people. Nobody remembers the Watchmen movie, huh?
posted by FJT at 6:21 PM on July 10, 2013


Well, first of all, Superman isn't human, so his sexuality should always be in play. Maybe he always prefered men. Maybe it's only Clark Kent who liked women.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:24 PM on July 10, 2013


Yeah, Rorschach had some really fascinating issues about (his) sexuality, but that's a FPP on its own.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:26 PM on July 10, 2013


because queerness is not a personality quirk you can simply graft onto an existing character. how would any back-story hold, considering it would shade so many motivations of the character?

Inherently, backstories and motivations for characters like Spider-Man or Superman are always going to be mix-and-match, because these are characters who've been written by dozens of people over decades. There are some things that stick no matter what--you couldn't really do Spider-Man as a big dumb jock--but a lot is up for interpretation. And as has already been pointed out, you can definitely read queer themes into "traditional" Spider-Man backstory.
posted by kagredon at 6:27 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


fallacy of the beard: But certainly there's creativity enough to give us some gay heroes who don't seem like they woke up one day and decided to be gay.

I agree (see: Apollo and The Midnighter). But having a character who is universally known in pop culture, whose origin story is constantly being rewritten, be gay (or bi, in this case, thank you, nicebookrack), would be much more powerful than making up another superhero. It's the very fact that it IS Spider-Man/Batman/Superman that gives potency to the exploration of a version of him who is not straight. It's not tacking on a "personality quirk." Certainly in 2013, with a character who has been recapitulated as often as Spidey, having him fall in love with another teenage boy would not somehow invalidate the character.
posted by tzikeh at 6:28 PM on July 10, 2013


Well, first of all, Superman isn't human, so his sexuality should always be in play.

This is a very good point. It's a freak of astrobiology that Kal-El can pass for human. He's not gay, he's drebnar.
posted by JHarris at 6:33 PM on July 10, 2013


I have covered this before.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:35 PM on July 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


his sexuality should always be in play. Maybe he always prefered men.

Although the long-form of this thought was that for Supes, I'm not convinced that human modes of sexuality (straight/gay/or Bi) are even applicable, so switching between them seems like continuing to beg the same questions. I mean, I think it's as logical to think he'd like men as women or even both, but it's also logical to think he wouldn't really like humans at all, or would be into kinky shit that you just wouldn't believe. Because he isn't human.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:35 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't wait until gayness and color stop being a sideshow and become just how people are.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:36 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whatevs Andrew Garfield you're just mad you can't be Brown Widow who is also good at superscience, sexier than Spider-Man, and can sing.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:42 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


FAMOUS MONSTER, after that... I'm willing to believe your username is literal.
posted by JHarris at 6:45 PM on July 10, 2013


MJ not being Spider-Man's girlfriend does not mean she can't be in the comic as his friend, and the assumption that 'female character associated with male character' MUST be the girlfriend or a potential girlfriend is sexist, yo.

True. The question is how to break MJ out of the girlfriend box.

The Spider-man comics of my youth were comics about a healthy marriage. Peter was defined to a very large extent as being a husband associated with a female character. Sure, in the past he'd dated other people but then there was also a time in the past he didn't have spider powers. Being a husband had become part of the core of his character. It was the mutuality that made the superhero girlfriend role much less problematic in MJ's case than it usually is.

Making MJ a friend pushes her to the periphery of the story, a background character in the Spider-books. I suppose there must be some Flash Thompson fans out there. He'd certainly be a much higher profile character as Peter's boyfriend.

Giving MJ powers doesn't work. Her schtick is that she's special for who she is, not for shooting omni-beams out of her hands.

Idea: Marvel has a lot of interesting non-powered characters. Team-up: a group that helps victims of super-crime get back on their feet. At minimum you'd need Jane Foster and Foggy Nelson on board (treating plasma burns, suing the pants off the perpetrators). MJ's supermodel background and drive makes her an obvious public face of the group: the spokesman, the fundraiser, the celebrity CEO. The leader. Possibly have her transition into being a VP at Damage Control. This would get MJ out from under Peter's shadow and make her a character who could plausibly show up for a cameo anywhere in the Marvel Universe.

It's the best I can come up with. Certainly better than her current status as a nonentity with most of her history as a character wiped out by red-pajamas Satan.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:57 PM on July 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh man I miss the Watson-Parker marriage so so badly I can't even flail properly.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:16 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


They dissolved Peter's marriage to MJ, everyone hated it, but then Dan Slott quietly produced the best Spider-Man run since Idon'tknowwhen, largely because Spidey was unmarried and Slott got to tell all sorts of new stories (also: J. Jonah Jameson is mayor, Peter's got a new friend group, and he works for Nathan Myhrvold). All the old stories with Peter married to MJ still exist, there will undoubtedly be more in the future, and in the meantime we get an interesting and unique run. One More Day was a good thing.

And I actually kind of like MJ and Peter's relationship in the post-One More Day comics. Peter and MJ are post-breakup, so there's some simmering resentment, but she knows his secret and still cares about him. It feels mature. There's interesting tension, and she feels like more of an equal, with her own life and agency. There aren't as many stories with her as a damsel in distress. It shows that she could still be a worthwhile character in an MU with a bi Spider-Man. I could totally imagine Spidey developing a crush on some dude in Slott's run. (Gotta kick Otto out first though.)

Possibly have her transition into being a VP at Damage Control.

I don't really like when non-superhero characters in comics end up becoming involved in the superhero world just to give them something to do.
posted by painquale at 7:19 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Donald Glover's had fun things to say about the Spiderman campaign:

"Some people criticized the idea. They were like, 'how would you like a white guy to play Shaft!?' Ummm, I would actually love that. Can we make that happen??"
posted by dry white toast at 7:25 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also NOT a big fan of the Sam Jackson Nick Fury

The Marvel Ultimate universe used Sam Jackson very specifically as the model for their vision of Nick Fury. It's only a "reboot" in as much as the Ultimate line is a reboot.
posted by mediocre at 7:27 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Considering that Peter Parker has been in his teens and twenties for the last 5 decades, I think he's still young enough to learn new things about his sexuality.

Having him discover that he likes girls AND BOYS (!) would make for an interesting character without retconning anything with Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane.
posted by elr at 7:52 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look, people, all this jibber-jabber isn't getting us to what really matters: a big-budget Carol Danvers movie.

(If Captain "Carol Fucking Danvers" Marvel does not make an appearance in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I will ... well, I don't know what I'll do. Be sad, I guess. C'mon, Marvel Comics. Don't Scarlet Witch this shit. "Yeah, yeah, most powerful being in existence but poof she's gone!" Don't do that. I want to see Carol Fucking Danvers punching the ever-living fuck out of a gargantuan Skrull-filled spaceship while Beta Ray Bill looks on, impressed. OK, how about this: Captain Marvel punches something so goddamn hard IT TURNS SPIDER-MAN GAY. Now everyone's happy. Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel. Big screen. Lets do this.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:54 PM on July 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I would assume someone with spider powers would be both attracted to gigantic females and terrified of them since spider mates often canibalise them. Teh gay seems like a smart solution.
posted by srboisvert at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2013


I wonder how much shit Marvel would catch from Sony if they put Spider-Woman into the MCU (I know that in 616, the two characters aren't really related beyond both being Avengers, but SW was created mostly to fend off any future knockoffs in that vein*, and Sony would have a legitimate argument that the average person wouldn't know the difference.) Maybe a Captain Marvel movie could just also feature Carol Danvers's close (really close) friend Jessica and they could skirt it that way.
* on a related topic, it's still weird for me to think of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, now that the dude who fights Superman in Kingdom Come is officially Shazam.
posted by kagredon at 8:24 PM on July 10, 2013


Why is it that you have one drunken night in cancun of the greatest passion you have ever known and suddenly you are gay. Can't a straight man crave a man's touch, long to feel one of his equally straight bros pressed up against him. Feel the rough embrace of a tight muscular body. Plenty of straight men ache for one fleeting encounter and live for the thought that it may happen again. It doesn't make you gay at all.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:50 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Andrew Garfield sounds like a stand-up guy, but I hope they don't introduce a gay angle in the next Amazing Spiderman movie, because if it is anything like the first one, people will blame the gay thing for it being terrible, instead of it just being an artless pile of dreck.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:43 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be more on board with this if there weren't such a serious issue with having women having any significant role in superhero films (even as girlfriends they're often there just to stand by and have three lines about the hero's magnificence). But they could switch the gender of a whole range of the characters and that would work to have some sort of gender representation. Why does Green Goblin need to be a guy, anyway?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:22 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]



I'd be more on board with this if there weren't such a serious issue with having women having any significant role in superhero films (even as girlfriends they're often there just to stand by and have three lines about the hero's magnificence). But they could switch the gender of a whole range of the characters and that would work to have some sort of gender representation. Why does Green Goblin need to be a guy, anyway?


Because he's Peter Parker's platonic best friend, almost a surrogate brother, who is also his greatest enemy. You need that dynamic.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:36 AM on July 11, 2013


Because he's Peter Parker's platonic best friend, almost a surrogate brother, who is also his greatest enemy. You need that dynamic.

Can't he be friends with a girl? Not every boy-girl dynamic has to involve sex. (And I thought Green Goblin was his friend's dad? Not very up on the comics, though.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:45 AM on July 11, 2013



Can't he be friends with a girl? Not every boy-girl dynamic has to involve sex. (And I thought Green Goblin was his friend's dad? Not very up on the comics, though.)


It's both. Green Goblin is his friend's dad, and later his son (Peter's friend) puts on the suit.

I'm loving the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. But yeah any change needs to preserve the core of the character, that of someone for outcasts to relate to. And any change in sexual orientation or skin color just makes the character more of an outcast, which works.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:49 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


But yeah any change needs to preserve the core of the character, that of someone for outcasts to relate to.

I don't see how making either Goblin or both, or any of the other range of characters female (or the lot of them!) would alter that. Nor why it's not possible for Spiderman to have a close and platonic friendship with a girl. (Though having that happen in a movie is as likely as them having him be gay or non-white, I'm afraid, so it's all a bit of a moot point.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:59 AM on July 11, 2013


BitterOldPunk: "Look, people, all this jibber-jabber isn't getting us to what really matters: a big-budget Carol Danvers movie.

(If Captain "Carol Fucking Danvers" Marvel does not make an appearance in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I will ... well, I don't know what I'll do. Be sad, I guess. C'mon, Marvel Comics. Don't Scarlet Witch this shit. "Yeah, yeah, most powerful being in existence but poof she's gone!" Don't do that. I want to see Carol Fucking Danvers punching the ever-living fuck out of a gargantuan Skrull-filled spaceship while Beta Ray Bill looks on, impressed. OK, how about this: Captain Marvel punches something so goddamn hard IT TURNS SPIDER-MAN GAY. Now everyone's happy. Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel. Big screen. Lets do this.)
"

Definitely seconding the definitely underutilized Beta Ray Bill. But I would be down for the whole thing.
posted by Samizdata at 1:23 AM on July 11, 2013


srboisvert: "I would assume someone with spider powers would be both attracted to gigantic females and terrified of them since spider mates often canibalise them. Teh gay seems like a smart solution."

And we can NOT forget the fact he's a top and loves BDSM.

Let's ride this to the inevitable conclusion.
posted by Samizdata at 1:25 AM on July 11, 2013


Not to mention that Spider-Man has actually been one of the few Big 2 characters who has been played around with and reimagined quite a lot--Peter Parker was a nerdy high-school kid, then a struggling college student, then a young adult who got married oops I guess we don't talk about that anymore.

Those are not reimaginations, that is character growth; once upon a time Marvel did allow their characters to age. Going from high school kid to college student is slightly different from deciding he's gay and always has been gay.

I get why people would want to play around with Spidey's sexuality or race, but to me he wouldn't be Spidey anymore. Which isn't very enlightened of me and it is a problem to have so few really high profile superheroes that aren't straight, white men.

So yeah.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:15 AM on July 11, 2013


JHarris, you did not just spoil the new Superman movie, did you? I came into a thread about lgbt issues and Spiderman and find out the ending to a new movie I've been looking forward to for a long time. Not cool at all.
posted by monkeymadness at 3:00 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that I love about these sorts of character bends (sexuality, gender, race) is that there's this wonderful syncretism of identity theories, all bound up in delicious commentary on the original, on other adaptations and on media itself.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:22 AM on July 11, 2013


Even Deadpool enjoys Spiderman slashfic.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:22 AM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


On a side note... I love me some Sam Jackson, but he is a terrible, terrible Nick Fury. The thing about Fury was always that he was, at heart, a company man, a good soldier, a follower of orders beneath all the cigar-chomping attitude. Jackson is never even a little convincing as a soldier. He's trying to play Fury as a go-it-alone hero, and that makes no damn sense.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:56 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boo. This is all so lazy.

Not that this is new. We all retell and reshape stories, and we have since the first person retold the first myth with some personal embellishment and accidentally created a religion. This just feels so much more crass and capitalist and for that I hate it all the more.

I can't wait for there to be queer action heroes, superheroes, mentors, friends, etc. I can't wait for there to be normalized queer villains who are not just an Evil Other. But not like this. This robs queer people of their own origin stories, their own unique perspectives.

Superheroes/gods/whatever are a wonderful examination of the time and place that created them. Robbing them of that robs us all of what we can learn from their origins. Let's tell a new story about the dawn of the 21st century, not rewrite the important (and often tragic) history of the 20th century.
posted by jph at 4:01 AM on July 11, 2013


I think these sorts of reimaginings reveal a problem with the liberal narrative of tolerance, namely that it sees the way forward in portraying sexual and racial difference as trivial or superficial. Treat gay marriage like any other kind of marriage, and you demonstrate that gays people have an equal right to marriage. Show us that racial "others" share the same hopes, dreams, and desires as the straight white male default, and you presumably fight prejudice.

And, seeing that Spider-Man, Superman, or whoever has certainly been reimagined an reconfigured many ways over, but rarely in terms of the social identity of the character, the question becomes, "why not?"

That's a damned good question; I do want to see a bisexual, or a gay, or even an asexual Spider-Man or Superman, or a major superhero portrayed as a person of color. But if the idea is to treat that as an otherwise unremarkable change, no, I *don't* want it to happen. Sexual or "racial" difference mean different experiences of the world, different perspectives on it, and very different opportunities in it.

If Peter Parker is bisexual or gay, what happens to the scenes where Flash Thompson beats him up? How do we read his status as a social outcast in high school? Is being bullied and ostracized the same experience for all nerds, sexuality notwithstanding? Should Flash be sexually confused too, or do we alter that character by implying or stating that he's a violent homophobe? Do we risk effacing straight female characters because we've reassigned major supporting roles to gay male characters? If we want to keep the rest of the narrative substantially the same, we risk trivializing the reality of difference, or -- ironically -- privileging one form of difference over another. The answer is tha we have to change the narrative in key ways.

But this, too, has its pitfalls. I look at Brian Bendis's Miles Morales character, for instance, and I notice that Bendis keeps the "science whiz in high school" idea by putting Miles in a charter school, letting him win the lottery that gets him out of a bad public system and into a good private one where he even has on-site housing....but look what's just happened there: does the story become, among other things, advocacy for charter schools as a solution to underfunded and underperforming public schools? Or, worse, is there no thought there at all, just a desire to write Miles as much like straight, white Peter Parker as possible by introducing a trendy device that just happens to ensure that the African-American NYC teenager's stories don't have to take place in the sort of setting where an African-American teenager in NYC is most likely to live, work, and go to school?

I'd argue that most such reimaginings, both by fans and pros, end up treating the reconfigured main character as not much more than straight white dudes in sexual or racial drag, as if difference were not radical but trivial...and, tellingly, as if the white middle class experience were still the default. Well, that's leaving out the versions that just see it as an opportunity to make campy jokes about sperm-shooters and Doc Ock's tentacles, which is a whole other problem that ties to a whole other set of problematic ways we have historically portrayed difference in the performing arts.

I want a major superhero reimagined in terms of difference...but genuinely remagined.
posted by kewb at 5:09 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


plus on the hand-me-down-hero thing: if spiderman were found to be gay or bi, the story would always be that he used to be straight; his mythology would not suddenly adapt to queerness. if he went into a long-term relationship with a man, it would be viewed as giving in to a queer audience; with a woman, and it would be viewed as abandoning the queer audience. at some point somebody would re-reimagine him as straight, and then he would be the spiderman who used to be straight and then queer and then straight again. or going through a phase, and who does that homophobic writer think he is anyway. (as a kid, watching stephen on dynasty go back and forth with marrying heather locklear was damn frustrating.)
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:27 AM on July 11, 2013


This would be a more convincing argument if DC and Marvel didn't already remake all of their major properties over and over and over again as a matter of course. The current Andrew Garfield iteration of Spiderman is a a modified remake of the original Ditko character from 1962. There is no sacred cow here - it was butchered and turned into sausages long ago.

True, the reason I'm not impressed by this idea is because I've had such terrible experiences with Marvel bringing characters out of the closet for publicity, and then abandoning them to production hell, shuffling them off-stage in favor of OCs by the next creative team, turning them into victim-villains, and then bringing them back again as a publicity stunt. Why should I throw my money at writing about character developments and relationships that probably won't exist next year when there's so much better writing and comics about sexuality out there?

Oh yes, anyone else remember the brief development where Peter Parker died, and came back to life with Wolverine claws, because everything is better with Wolverine claws? (With a touch of Alan Moore Swamp Thing on the side.) If you don't, good for you, because occasionally Marvel's hell of retconning retcons to justify the retcon accidentally erases ideas that are pure crap.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:58 AM on July 11, 2013


Remember when he sprouted four more arms so he had 8 limbs like a spider? Or when he had the Captain Universe powers? Or when he, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and the grey Hulk were briefly the Fantastic Four? Or when he had the Spider-Mobile? (If so, you may be a fanperson.)
posted by Zed at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


no natural force that demands that the iconic heroic character of Spider-Man/Batman/Superman be straight.

Being fair a potentially gay Batman combined with close relationships with successive Robins has been used in the past to attack the entire comic book industry, leading to the Comics Code Authority. So Batman might well be off the cards. Or maybe not. That said, Batman is a special case here.

The only big problem I'm seeing is that I can name a total of two female characters in the first Garfield Spider-Man film. Gwen Stacey and Aunt May*. And for what should be obvious reasons I do not expect Gwen Stacey to survive much longer. (Of course this is pointing in the direction of the Bedchel thread).

And now I'm having visions of a male Black Cat ("You think the mask is my disguise? There's a reason they've never caught me.")

* Yes there were a couple more. Gwen Stacey's mother for one - but I can't even remember her name or anything she did that wasn't the dinner.
posted by Francis at 10:45 AM on July 11, 2013


I think these sorts of reimaginings reveal a problem with the liberal narrative of tolerance, namely that it sees the way forward in portraying sexual and racial difference as trivial or superficial. Treat gay marriage like any other kind of marriage, and you demonstrate that gays people have an equal right to marriage. Show us that racial "others" share the same hopes, dreams, and desires as the straight white male default, and you presumably fight prejudice.

I don't think the point would be to Have Spidey Show Everyone Being Gay Doesn't Matter. Peter Parker -- in particular -- is a loner/outsider who struggles with secrets he feels he can't reveal to those around him. If it's a legitimate part of his identity in a given continuity, not just a random detail like 'brown hair, glasses, gay', then I don't think it's particularly problematic.


If Peter Parker is bisexual or gay, what happens to the scenes where Flash Thompson beats him up? How do we read his status as a social outcast in high school? Is being bullied and ostracized the same experience for all nerds, sexuality notwithstanding? Should Flash be sexually confused too, or do we alter that character by implying or stating that he's a violent homophobe?

There are lots of possibilities, there. Does Flash have to know Peter is gay or bi? Is Flash just an asshole to everyone he considers a nerd? Does homophobia as a motivator make it somehow "not-spiderman"?

I mean, I get what you're saying -- slapping a coat of "and he's gay, now!" onto a superhero as a gesture towards modernity seems like it downplays and devalues the real differences in experiences that they'd have. But Peter Parker isn't a 68-year-old man today, either: modern reboots of the story have changed significant aspects of his character in meaningful ways while staying true to the heart of the story. Is "straightness" the heart of Spiderman/Peter Parker's story? I don't think so.

A gay/bi Peter Parker could be done badly, and it could be done well. I just don't think that there is any inherent risk to the character based on that move -- any more than relocating him to the 1990s or the 1800s and making environmentally appropriate changes is an inherent risk.
posted by verb at 11:44 AM on July 11, 2013


I think the CCA has been increasingly irrelevant since the 80s. Especially Marvel hasn't been shy about putting out increasingly bloody Wolverine and Hulk stories. Part of that was likely spurred by the explosion of independents who never considered the CCA and were not remotely shy about using sex and violence as fanboy catnip.

I think the only reason why Marvel wouldn't do it is entirely commercial. LGBT protagonists are still seen as a fringe or niche market in some circles, and that doesn't work well with their corporate goals of pimping their A-list characters and teams out as broadly as possible through as many multimedia markets as possible, in as many titles as the print market can stand. It's about getting the logo onto your toddler's diapers now.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:46 AM on July 11, 2013


I think the CCA has been increasingly irrelevant since the 80s.

The CCA has been defunct since December, 2010; the IP to the Comics Code seal was bought by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in 2011, and they use it ironically in their fundraising efforts.
posted by kewb at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I read they even lost Archie in the end.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:55 AM on July 11, 2013


The CCA has been defunct since December, 2010; the IP to the Comics Code seal was bought by the Comic Book Defense Fund in 2011, and they use it ironically in their fundraising efforts.

How did I not know that? That's like the best thing ever.
posted by Zed at 11:55 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Peter Parker -- in particular -- is a loner/outsider who struggles with secrets he feels he can't reveal to those around him.

It seems sort of like Peter Parker, in particular, would have particular trouble here. The het version of the character has trouble expressing himself sexually, and Spider-Man sometimes comes across as a juvenile wit and (in his interactions with characters like Black Cat) an over-the-top flirt, sort of a distorted version of what plain ol' Peter wishes he were like.

Of course, the limits of the analogy would need careful definition. The "usual" secret Peter struggles with is that he's suddenly got super-powers and is secretly pro-wrestling/crime-fighting. And in some high-profile stories, his superhero secret gets his partner killed by a maniac. Some of that should be kept separate from any idea about personal anxiety and a suppressed or uncertain sexuality, just as it was with sexually inexpressive, insecure het character from the 1960s and 1970s comics.

It'd be interesting to see what the character would be comfortable revealing in the end: his sexuality, or his heroics. Would there be reasons he'd be afraid to tell Aunt May about his sexuality, or is the idea kind of a chiasmus, where he can be Spider-Man in front of the world but not to his loved ones, while ironically he can only comfortably disclose or express his sexuality to those nearest and dearest to him?

There are lots of possibilities, there. Does Flash have to know Peter is gay or bi? Is Flash just an asshole to everyone he considers a nerd? Does homophobia as a motivator make it somehow "not-spiderman"?

No, I'm saying that's the sort of thing creators would need to think through as part and parcel of such a move. Heck, why not make Flash the brassy, redheaded love interest and Mary Jane the bully-turned-friend with a bad family life? Most of the elements are there in the source versions of both characters to make it work.

I mean, I get what you're saying -- slapping a coat of "and he's gay, now!" onto a superhero as a gesture towards modernity seems like it downplays and devalues the real differences in experiences that they'd have.

Yeah, that's a part of what I'm saying. Implicitly, I don't trust the films to do any better a job telling a love story about Peter and Marty James Watson than they've done with the love story between Peter and Mary Jane Watson. When the love interest's main role is to play hostage bait for the villain or be a reward for the protagonist, the romantic/sexual element of the character is trivial and superficial to begin with.

Is "straightness" the heart of Spiderman/Peter Parker's story? I don't think so.

Nor do I; but I do think that Peter, while portrayed as something of a social outcast in high school, has generally been written as "straight by default," "white by default," and "male by default" on the assumption that these are the things that made him identifiable to the widest possible readership. Given that, there's a substantial chance that the same things that blandify most blockbusters will turn anything too unusual into just another coat of paint.
posted by kewb at 12:29 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Too unusual" is a mistaken and offensive way to phrase that last bit; let me clarify that I mean "unusual" from the perspective of the marketers and producers, for whom "straight/white/male/cis" is still very much their default idea of "what the audience identifies with."
posted by kewb at 12:33 PM on July 11, 2013


It'd be interesting to see what the character would be comfortable revealing in the end: his sexuality, or his heroics. Would there be reasons he'd be afraid to tell Aunt May about his sexuality, or is the idea kind of a chiasmus, where he can be Spider-Man in front of the world but not to his loved ones, while ironically he can only comfortably disclose or express his sexuality to those nearest and dearest to him?

Spider-Man as a safe -- anonymous -- camp identity for a closeted Peter Parker might not be popular with some comic book fans, but I know I would buy the hell out of it.
posted by verb at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


because everything is better with Wolverine claws

Even musical theatre!
posted by homunculus at 2:27 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


X-Men Circus
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


X-Men Circus

This is probably one of those digressions that require too much explanation or requirement of prior knowledge to be meaningful to almost anyone, but, anyway...

There's a really cool looking role-playing game I want to play called My Life with Master in which the characters are the minions of the Master, a sort of movie Dr. Frankenstein/Dracula figure, with whom they have a twisted co-dependent relationship. The characters' stats track their Weariness, their Self-Loathing, and what Love they may have in their lives. They are typically unable to resist the master's orders at the beginning of the game, but may earn the ability to do so; the game often concludes with a minion finally killing the master.

The My Life with Mutants hack of this game featuring Xavier as the Master has honest-to-god changed how I view the X-Men.
posted by Zed at 7:32 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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