In a couple of weeks, the latest film about America’s web-slinging superhero, titled “The Amazing Spider-Man,” will hit theaters around the country.
Despite the fact that Sony Pictures Entertainment released the third in a series of Spider-Man films just five years ago, a new director has been hired and the franchise is being completely rebooted. Tobey Maguire will no longer be the face of the nerdy arachnoid superhero.
What is the point of making an entirely new series of live-action Spider-Man movies so soon? With “The Avengers” still fresh in our memories and “The Dark Knight Rises” swiftly approaching, no one seems to be terribly excited for “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Sure, there won’t be anything wrong with it. There is simply a distinct absence of anything fresh, new or exciting.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
Back in 2010, something rather exciting happened. Donald Glover, the astronomically hip young rising star who stars as Troy in “Community,” decided that he wanted to audition for the role of Spider-Man. The film’s producers did not have him on their short list of potential actors.
But Glover appealed to his adoring fans, who stirred up a social media campaign demanding that he be considered for the role. For a while, #Donald4SpiderMan was a trending topic on Twitter. Facebook groups in support of his casting for the role popped up here and there.
This ignited a spirited debate among the nation’s comic book geeks — would Glover be a good fit as Peter Parker? There was much enthusiastic support and much backlash. No one doubted that he would bring entertaining flair to the role. The major point of contention was Glover’s race — did America want a black Spider-Man?
For many, this was a plus. There is a marked lack of black people — or any non-white people — cast as the protagonists of mainstream films (Tyler Perry doesn’t count). Racial minorities make up a substantial portion of the population, but they almost never appear as the main characters of mainstream American movies.
And comic book movies are among the worst culprits in the lack-of-diversity department. Every single comic book movie I can think of has a white male hero.
Many argued that a black Spidey just wouldn’t be right. True, Peter Parker has always been a white character. But the ethnicity of Spider-Man isn’t an integral element of his character. Certainly, it would be a little weird for a black man to play the Norse god Thor. But the essence of Spider-Man is that of an average geeky American guy. If we truly live in a country where we are all just Americans, why can’t a black guy play the part of an American everyman?
Furthermore, superhero movies are no strangers to switching around the races of characters. Nick Fury, a regular in many Avengers-related movies, was white in the original Marvel comics. Nevertheless, Samuel L. Jackson plays the character in the films. And just last year, the Green Lantern movie came out. Many know the lastest incarnation of Green Lantern as a black man, but in the film he was white.
The rationale is often given that film studios are simply “appealing to the majority” with the interest of making more money. Never mind the fact that such a practice is unfair, cynical and effectively excludes the approximate fourth of America made up of minorities. Do studios think that a white male audience can only relate to white male characters? It is insulting to the intelligence of the viewer.
The struggles of human heroes and villains reach much deeper than the color of their skin. So come on, why not Gambino?
— Martin Hogan is a senior from Smyrna majoring in cognitive science