"...evil is very often inextricably tied up with misogyny."
April 7, 2016 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I thought that article made some interesting points, and certainly highlighted something I had not previously thought about with regard to the films. That is, I'd thought Peter was kind of a douche in those movies, but that had mostly connected to MJ also being kind of a jerk a lot and generally made me not like either of them much and kind of want them to break up just for each of their own good. I hadn't noticed the overarching pattern or connected it to Gwen.
posted by Scattercat at 4:58 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hadn't really looked at those movies this way before. It actually makes me like them, much more than I did first run through!
posted by das_2099 at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2016

Great post. I'm uneasy such rationality doesn't generate more responses.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:41 PM on April 7, 2016

Oh hey, it's my friend Sarah! I knew she was working on this article, but I didn't realize it was so close to getting published. Congrats!

As a kid I was firmly anti-Dunst, in the "ugh, but she's not as cool as comics MJ!" camp; these days I still have some criticisms, but it's her very messy un-coolness I appreciate most, and which makes her seem closest to the source material. It's been almost ten years since Spider-Man 3 and we're still struggling to get female characters in genre movies/TV who are allowed to have these kinds of human frailties -- that is, considered fully human not despite being frail but as part of the whole package. We're just now getting to the point where female characters are allowed to be screwed up and occasionally unlikeable so long as they're Strong and Tough about it. Meanwhile, back in the naughts, MJ not only has her own character arc in each film, but it's given equal emotional weight to Peter's.

Something the Raimi trilogy does very well is populate its setting with a ton of minor characters who may be weird or ridiculous but still feel like real people who have stuff going on before and after their lives intersect with Peter's. So you have not just MJ, Gwen, and Aunt May, but minor players like Ursula Ditkovitch and Betty Brant being normal-seeming women hanging out in a superhero film without having to justify their existence by having plot-relevant skills or snappy one-liners. It's pretty great.
posted by bettafish at 6:38 PM on April 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

It is pretty interesting regarding Sam Raimi as an auteur that we were all so baffled by the Peter/Venom catcalling street-strutting scene that we never stopped to think what it might mean. Turned out it went totally over my head!
posted by ejs at 6:50 PM on April 7, 2016

After reading that I appreciate these movies a lot more now, but I haven't seen the 3rd in its entirety and I'm still not going to.
posted by numaner at 9:25 PM on April 7, 2016

It strikes me that the "empty seat" speech that MJ gives Peter is kind of the crux of the second (and best) movie. Being there to rescue her isn't the same as being present for her own important moments.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:20 PM on April 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's no need to be uneasy, lazycomputerkids. It's just that no one cares about these movies.
posted by timdiggerm at 3:03 AM on April 8, 2016

But the third movie is the best one, numancer!

It's the one about Peter Parker's worst enemy being, actually, himself, which is a theme I almost always appreciate in fiction. plus MJ and Gwen are great in it, as this review mentions.
posted by subdee at 3:47 AM on April 8, 2016

Great post. I'm uneasy such rationality doesn't generate more responses.

I read this yesterday and needed some time to mull it over, because I haven't seen these movies in a very long time. I don't really remember the 3rd one very well at all; I remember very much enjoying the 1st and the 2nd ones, and I think Navelgazer has it in terms of the "empty seat" talk from MJ. The struggle that I always felt Peter faced with his superheroics was not that his secret identity put the people around him in jeopardy, but that the time and attention and energy he invested in it left him little room for those relationships. Spiderman, for me, works best when it shows that the cost of being the hero and living the double life is that you have no room for either life to be a full one. And I think it is great that the movies showed the people around him - MJ, Aunt May, etc, pointing out to him that he isn't around and available, and that they are going to move on with their lives regardless; that they are full people with or without him, his choice. One of the scenes that has always stuck in my mind (I think it is from the 2nd film) is Peter showing up at Aunt May's, sometime after he revealed to her what his role was in Uncle Ben's death, to find her packing up and getting ready to move because she can't keep the house. And Peter is all like why didn't you tell me? And Aunt May is "because I can take care of myself." Because life kept happening for her, and she had to make plans and keep moving forward. I mean, the scene winds up being about Aunt May giving Peter some insights/understanding about his role as Spiderman, but I like the fact that it showed May as a capable, confident woman in her own right, making her decisions and finding help without Peter.

Anyways, it was a good article and thought provoking.
posted by nubs at 8:34 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a good article and a pretty solid analysis of these movies. I really like the first Spider-man movies (except the problematic third one) and really detest the more recent ones. I really hope the newest reboot gets it completely right. My biggest gripe about both sets of movies is the casting of the female roles, and it's a ridiculous complaint, and it's so internet-fanboy: why, oh why would you cast Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy? I mean what the hell? Scratch that, reverse it. Kirsten Dunst would be a great Gwen. I mean she was a pretty good MJ anyway. It's kind of weird that you would cast a blonde and dye her hair but that is admittedly stupid and nitpicky. BUT what the hell? EMMA STONE? as Gwen? Have you seen her? Have you seen Mary Jane Watson as drawn by John Romita, for example? THEY ARE IDENTICAL. She's the physical embodiment of Mary Jane Watson from the comic books, on the same level that Christopher Reeve was the physical embodiment of Superman. And she could totally play the part and knock it out of the park. AND HER HAIR IS NATURALLY RED. So, what do you do? You dye her hair blonde and cast her as Gwen???!!!! What the fuck? OK. That's all.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:26 AM on April 8, 2016

I don't think anyone who saw Easy A would disagree with you that Stone would've made a fantastic Mary Jane, but look, can we please not turn a discussion about feminism and pop culture into a discussion about which actress is more suited to what role based on her physical appearance?

Especially if we're talking John Romita character designs, come on. Gwen and MJ may have very different personalities, but literally any actress of any demographic would resemble one almost exactly as much as the other because even by the narrow standards of superhero character design he drew them to look almost identical.

I'm really hoping Zendaya's role in the new films is MJ.
posted by bettafish at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Your point is well-taken and I don't really want to derail off into that subject area. It was just a moment to vent on a colossal missed opportunity. Perhaps not the best moment.
posted by wabbittwax at 12:52 PM on April 8, 2016

I'm also coming at this late and, like nubs, it's because it's been a long time since I saw these movies. I sort of remembered them the opposite way - at the time, my big takeaway was mostly that Peter was a comparatively mild but aggravating Nice Guy, and I didn't think about the issue a whole lot more deeply.

I'm pleased by the article pointing out that more was going on, and feel like I should maybe take a look at the first two again sometime to see if it's more obvious upon rewatch. (Nothing's making me watch the third one more than once - I'm already owed for those missing hours of my life, argh.) Even with my dim recollection, I have to agree with their take on MJ: it was nice to see her behaving like a real person in the narrative and not be punished for it specifically, (just getting into trouble because it's not much of a superhero movie without people in danger).

Thanks for the post. :)
posted by mordax at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2016

« Older Creators for Creators   |   Recycle Nixon. Stop Kissing Pig Ass. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments