Salon Bemoans Spider-Man, Movie Superheroes Being 'Straight, White Men'

April 29th, 2014 4:01 PM

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw lamented how the movie depictions of Spider-Man and other superheroes are all "straight, white men" in a Tuesday item on titled "America deserves better superheroes: Why a straight, white Spider-Man is no longer a real underdog." Baker-Whitelaw, a "fandom and Internet culture" reporter for the website The Daily Dot, zeroed in on the supposed "ramifications of having eternal underdog Peter Parker remain a straight, white man."

The writer also complimented Andrew Garfield, the actor who plays the title character in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for wondering why the superhero "can' into boys," and contended that Sony, the studio releasing the upcoming movie, "might benefit from listening to...Garfield's comments on the potential hypocrisy of portraying Peter Parker as being marginalized by society." She later hoped that superhero movies would catch up with the "reasonably progressive and diverse representation of real-life America" in present-day comic books:

...Marvel movies are often praised for being more progressive than your average summer blockbuster...but they're still decades behind the comics....none of those movies have starred anyone other than a straight, white man in the lead role. The Avengers franchise has managed a handful of female characters in non-romantic roles, plus Falcon and Nick Fury in the supporting cast, but the mere concept of an openly LGBT character still feels like a pie-in-the-sky dream. Meanwhile in Marvel comics, Northstar came out in 1992, opening the floodgates for a whole host of other LGBT heroes....

...[T]he chances of Peter Parker coming out in Amazing Spider-Man 3 are more or less nil. Hollywood is (sic) yet to produce a big-budget blockbuster with any kind of LGBT character in the lead role, never mind having an established hero come out after decades of heterosexuality....Considering the fact that white male geeks already have Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Reed Richards and Charles Xavier to heroize their nerd cred on the big screen, it's difficult to argue that they still represent some kind of oppressed minority. It's probably time to give someone else a chance.

After briefly touching on how the Spider-Man reboot movies seem "kind of...redundant," Baker-Whitelaw first took Sony to task for giving "the impression of being so resistant to change that it hadn't even considered allowing non-white actors to audition for the role." She continued with her kudos for Garfield – that it is "good news...that Andrew Garfield does seem sensitive to the ramifications of having eternal underdog Peter Parker remain a straight, white man."

The reporter, who is also a fantasy short story author, continued her compliment of the actor by citing how he "went into more detail about his thoughts on the idea of a bisexual Peter Parker:"

"He [Spider-Man] represents the everyman, but he represents the underdog and those marginalized who come up against great prejudice which I, as a middle-class straight, white man, don’t really understand so much. And when Stan Lee first wrote and created this character, the outcast was the computer nerd, was the science nerd, was the guy that couldn’t get the girl. Those guys now run the world. So how much of an outcast is that version of Peter Parker anymore? That's my question."

Baker-Whitelaw then played up how "this debate has been raging among comics fans for years. All of the big-name superhero movies are adaptations of long-running comics, and because most of those titles were first published sometime in the mid-20th century, their protagonists tend to be straight, white men." She then wondered if "Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker any kind of representative for the 21st century underclass." Her reply: "Not so much."
Later in her article, the Daily Dot writer played up the "reasonably progressive and diverse representation of real-life America" in Marvel's fictional universe and bewailed that "movies like Amazing Spider-Man appear to exist in a parallel universe where everyone is (apparently) straight, and the general population is about 80 percent male." She also returned to praising Garfield, who apparently "put a great deal of thought into how Peter Parker should evolve past his current, rather dated state of being an oppressed underdog who is also a straight, white male science genius." She added that "there is no logical reason why Mary Jane Watson couldn't be genderflipped and played by Michael B. Jordan, much as how other characters like Heimdall, Nick Fury and the Human Torch switched races for their movie adaptations."

Of course, this isn't the first time that has issued a far-left lamentation of a pop culture phenomenon. Back in 2013, the website attacked Disney for its apparent lack of LGBT characters, and ripped a renowned video game for having a "deeply problematic" view of "class, race, gender and animal rights."