Anyone can be Spider-Man under the mask. That’s always been the appeal of the character — the fact that under that stylish webbed red-and-blue costume, #SpiderMan could have been anyone. In the 1960s, Spider-Man was a teenager in an age where they were largely considered sidekicks. Today, Spider-Man is black in an age where white protagonists dominate the entertainment industry.
Last week, #SonyPictures announced that the newest Spider-Man to come to the big screen would be #MilesMorales, the black Latino superhero who took the world by storm in 2011 for breaking diversity barriers in comic books. As much as I would love to say that this is another win for minorities, I can’t help but feel like it is a lackluster one, especially with these three thoughts in mind.
This Spider-Man Does Not Exist In The MCU
There's very little that we know about the Miles Morales-featured film, except for one thing: It’s an animated Spider-Man movie, which means that it will not be part of the MCU.
What does that have to do with anything? Before I answer that, think about the full scope of what the MCU Spider-Man is given. The #MCU Spider-Man has:
- A chance to star alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and many, many other superheroes.
- His own solo movie, and more than likely a sequel.
- A solid inclusion in the future Avengers movies.
- The merchandise, advertising, and toy lines to go along with all of the above.
As we’ve seen from previous films, a chance to star in the MCU is not just another role — it is a massive career opportunity, one that pays off for a very long time.
Now, look at the upcoming animated Spider-Man film. This Spidey will get one, maybe two films before being thrown under the bus for the next superhero outing. Yes, you’ll have the toy lines and the merchandise to go with their releases, but this Spidey doesn’t have the MCU to back him up. There will be no #CaptainAmerica, no Iron Man, no #Avengers, and only slight possibility for expansion beyond his own films. What you see is what you get with this Spidey, just like the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man movies.
What that’s indirectly implying is that a black Spider-Man isn’t good enough for the MCU, whereas a white Spider-Man is. It’s small and subtle, but it's important to recognize. After all, over 1,000 fans signed a petition to have a black Spider-Man in the MCU. They thought Miles Morales was good enough. Why didn’t Sony?
Miles Morales Is Not Likely To Get A Live-Action Debut Anytime Soon
You're probably wondering why the aforementioned petition was never strongly considered by Marvel. It's because per a contractual agreement with Sony, Spider-Man has to fit specific traits for his live-action representation, according to a document obtained by WikiLeaks. These characteristics include his alter ego being Peter Parker, male, heterosexual, living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and he has to be Caucasian.
These descriptions speak to larger problems than just representing diversity on the big screen — it also speaks to where Spider-Man can be featured as well. Disregarding Miles Morales, there are plenty of Spideys out there that are looking for a big-screen debut, all of whom will not meet it because of Sony's requirements: The female Spider-Gwen. The Indian Pavitr Prabhakar. That one time where Peter turned into a pig called Spider-Ham (hey, have to sneak one in there for PETA).
There are all kinds of different Spider-Men out there, each with their own unique vision and stories to tell. Sony doesn't want anything to do with them, including our own Miles Morales.
Now don't get too discouraged. It's entirely possible that we'll see a live-action version of Morales at some point in the future, whether it's on television or on his own #Netflix series. However, it's highly unlikely it will be in the movie theater, and even if it is, it will be overshadowed by Peter Parker's presence. A solo outing for Morales isn't looking bright in the near future unless it's in animated form, which as we've already discussed, is not enough.
Minorities Are Still Underrepresented In Mass Media
Here's the kicker about the Miles Morales announcement. Are you ready for this? It doesn't matter. Yep. You read that right. Since 1966, over 60 superhero films have featured white, heterosexual, male protagonists. Think about that for a second. Think about all of the different kinds of citizens living in this country, all around the world: Men. Women. White. Black. Mexican. Asian. Indian. Straight. Gay. Lesbian. So on and so forth.
The diversity has expanded in comic books too. Iceman recently came out as gay. Ironheart is a 15-year-old black girl. Ghost Rider is now Mexican-American. The more recent incarnation of the Hulk is Korean. Ms. Marvel is Muslim. Should I continue? The world and comic books are both brimming with diversity. Yet, the only one we seem fully confident in representing is the straight, white male action hero.
Now don't get me wrong, there are still diversity wins in some areas. Next year's Black Panther will be the first MCU film to have an African-American in the lead, while the following year's Captain Marvel will be the first to be lead by a woman. Those representations mean something, however small they may seem.
That's also not to take away from the MCU's success or Tom Holland's. Spider-Man has always been a voice for the young of heart, and Holland has brought that back for all of the true believers out there, but Spider-Man can be a voice for so much more. There are all sorts of communities out there, communities who have been ignored for a long time now. I can't think of the last superhero movie to have a latino, an asian, or an Indian in the lead, and I can't think of any superhero movies that has a homosexual lead (Get out of here, Wade, Deadpool doesn't count.)
Miles Morales coming to the animated big screen is a win for us all; it's just not a big enough of one.