This Week in Geek: Could a Black Spider-Man Work?

35537Since the big announcement came down a few weeks ago, the internet has been swirling with excitement and speculation. One thing that has been on everyone’s minds has been who will be playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? We know so far that Andrew Garfield is out, and that’s about it. One question that keeps coming up is whether Marvel should cast an African-American for the role of Spider-Man. The way I figure it, there are two things really pushing this. One is that Donald Glover joked about being the first black Spider-man back in 2011. Of course, at that time, Andrew Garfield was cast for the role. Now that he’s out, this has all come up again, many fans of Glover’s would like to see it happen. The other big thing pushing all of this is the cult following that Miles Morales has in the comics as Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe. I have nothing against Miles Morales being Spider-Man in the Ultimate Comics, or if they wanted to put him in a movie. But they won’t. It will be Peter Parker, because that is what everyone knows, that’s what everyone expects. Miles is not as well-known as Spider- Man, so I think it would be a big gamble to go with him. It doesn’t mean that Miles Morales movie wouldn’t be as good, or even better than a new round of Peter Parker movies, it just wouldn’t be as profitable. Hollywood doesn’t make movies just to tell good stories. They make movies to make money. Peter Parker sells, Miles is unproven and untested. That’s what it comes down to.

That being said, why can’t Peter Parker be African-American? What about Peter Parker is tied to his race? I understand, in the comics, he has always been white, but what about him would be dramatically altered if he were African-American or Asian or Hispanic? What would change about the character? That is a gamble I think I wouldn’t mind Marvel taking. They have already said that their Spider-Man would be Peter Parker, but could Pete be black? Fox is taking that chance with the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four film, and I think it will work fine. Let’s talk a look at what makes Peter Parker/Spider-Man who he is.

High School Student

Granted, Pete’s not in High School anymore in the comics, but this is the direction Disney/Marvel wants to go, and it is an area where Spidey works well- balancing his school work and his home life and his love life with saving the world. Peter Parker in High School works well, and having him be a young kid in the movies will be fun to see as he interacts with fully grown superheroes like Cap and Iron Man. Here’s an interesting fact, African-American kids, like white kids, go to high school. This particular part of the character would work whether he is black or white. In fact, it is working in the ultimate Comics version.

Science Nerd

Peter Parker was always kind of a brainiac. That’s always been a part of who he is. He enjoys science and all of that stuff. I mean, he was the one who developed his webbing and how to shoot the webbing from his wrists. There is a long history of him even being able to hold his own with Tony Stark and Reed Richards. This is another aspect of his character that is definitely not tied to race. Anyone can be smart, anyone can be into science. You don’t have to be any kind of race or gender or anything like that. He would be just as believable as a young African-American kid who is into science as he would be as a white kid.

Strong Family Ties

Peter is always concerned about his Aunt Mae. He wants her to safe, he wants to protect her. He wants to help her by doing stuff around the house or whatever. He recognizes how much work she does to take care of him. He also has always had a strong tie to his deceased uncle, Ben Parker. We know that what happens to Ben is what really propels him into being Spider-Man. None of that would have to change if they cast a Black Peter Parker. These kinds of ties to family and emotions and what not are not exclusive to any one race.

Sarcastic Sense of Humor

One of my favorite attributes of Spider-Man is that he is always cracking wise as he is fighting the super villains. He is witty and funny and it just makes for a more entertaining read. This was something I thought Andrew Garfield portrayed better than anyone. His Spider-Man was almost irreverent with some of his humor, but it worked, and I liked it. Again, this is something that works regardless of race or skin color. Your sense of humor is not tied to your race. It’s just not. I have seen funny people of all races, and I have seen really not at all funny people of all races. Race simply does not matter here.

Big Heart

Spidey has one of the biggest hearts of any superhero out there. He really is just out there to help out the little guy. He goes out, day after day and puts his life on the line to protect people and to help people. I mean every superhero does that in the comics, but with Spidey, somehow it’s something more.  He really does simply because he wants to help and he feels like with his powers he can help. How does this make him white or Black or anything? It doesn’t. Big hearted, generous people come from all races and all walks of life. Race is not a factor here either.

From New York

You want to know something that defines Spider-Man? He is from New York. If you were to write a movie and have him come from Chicago or Boston or L.A., that would be ridiculous. Who cares what race he is, as long as he still comes from New York. The city is as much a character in the Spider-Man mythos as the Lizard, or Green Goblin, or Mary Jane. New York is absolutely central to the character. The good news here is that New York is also one of the most diverse places in the world, so anyone could come from New York.

The real reason Peter Parker is white in all the movies is simply because he always has been white. The only reason he always has been is because he was created in 1963, when all the major characters in mainstream media were white. That’s not the case anymore. It doesn’t represent who we are anymore. If Peter Parker/Spider-Man were to be created from scratch today, who’s to say he wouldn’t be a nerdy, African-American kid instead to a nerdy white kid? Chances are, he could be, and would that really change much about his story? The fact that the idea of Spidey being black in the next movie is even a big deal at all tells us that we need to have it happen. I don’t care who they cast as long as he can act well. That should be the only real requirement. This isn’t changing his race just to do it. We are talking about a fictional character who is not tied to any one race. Changing the race of a character just to change it would be making Thor Black. Thor is from Asgard, he is supposed to look Scandinavian. That’s Blue eyes, blonde hair. It would be wrong to change that for him. Spidey, though, is from New York. There is no cookie cutter New Yorker. This is saying, race is simply not a factor here, let’s find our best Spider-Man and put him on the screen. Race doesn’t matter here, so I am fine with whatever.

Jake Dietz
Jake Dietz is a humble bank employee by day, and super dad to 5 little monsters by night. He enjoys all things geeky. That's why he started this blog. He considers himself a member of many fandoms, and dreams of the day when all geeks, everywhere, can find a way to live together in harmony.

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