The concept of a secret identity has been around for as long as superheroes; going all the way back to Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, the person behind the mask (or, uh, eyeglasses) is just as important as their crimefighting persona.
But the #MarvelCinematicUniverse long ago abandoned the idea that its heroes need secret identities — specifically when Tony Stark blurted "I am Iron Man" back in 2008:
Since then, it seems to be common knowledge in the MCU that Steve Rogers is Captain America (there's a museum exhibit about him!) and Bruce Banner is the Hulk; Thor doesn't bother pretending to be Dr. Donald Blake like in the comics. Over in the Netflix shows, Daredevil keeps his identity secret, but Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are just "Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage."
Perhaps it's very difficult to keep a secret identity in the modern world of social media and live streaming videos, but it also could be that these characters are older and haven't got as much to lose as Peter does.
Why Spider-Man Needs To Keep His Identity Secret In Homecoming
In the comics, Peter Parker goes to great lengths to protect his secret identity; he's even gone so far as to make a deal with the devil to wipe out all knowledge of his double life. Nowadays, Peter runs his own company, Parker Industries, and tells people Spidey is his bodyguard (as Tony Stark initially did in the Iron Man comics).
While the comics feature an older Spider-Man who is making his mark on the world, the #MCU's version of the wall-crawler is still in high school and relatively new to the superhero game. As a result, I believe it's vital that Peter's identity remains a secret to the public.
After losing his uncle Ben and learning that "with great power, there must also come great responsibility," Peter realizes that he has to protect his nearest and dearest. He elects to keep his superhero exploits secret from his loved ones in order to keep them out of harm's way; he fears that if his enemies find out his identity, they could use this against him.
Over the years, a great number of villains have learned who Peter is under the mask and used it to their advantage — none more so than Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. I'm sure I don't need to remind you that in Amazing Spider-Man #121, Osborn kills Gwen Stacy.
Peter Revealed His Identity In The 'Civil War' Comics — It Didn't Go Well
During the Civil War event in Marvel Comics, Marvel's heroes were required to reveal their identities to the public; Spider-Man revealed his in a televized press conference. This was a really big deal, as a show of support for the Superhero Registration Act.
However, as the story progresses, Peter begins to regret his decision — and puts his family into hiding to protect them. He fights against the Superhero Registration Act in the end. Peter still had a great number of enemies who all wanted to know who he was.
Tony Figured Out Peter's Identity In The Movies, But Will Anyone Else?
In Captain America: Civil War, Tony Stark recruits Peter Parker to fight on his team supporting the Sokovia Accords. It's here that we get arguably the best representation of Peter Parker we've had on the big screen yet. Tony asks Peter why he puts on a cheap costume and goes out fighting crime, and Peter's response is absolutely perfect:
"Because... because, I've been me my whole life, and I've had these powers for six months. I read books, I build computers, and I would love to play football, but I couldn't then, so I shouldn't be able to now ... but I can't tell anybody that, so I'm not. ... When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you."
This exchange fully explains Peter's feelings about revealing his abilities to those closest to him. Though we've discovered from the #SpiderManHomecoming trailers that his best friend, Ned, discovers his abilities, I hope that remains the only person who finds out. We don't need a situation like in the #Arrowverse where every superhero has a team behind them.
There also remains the question of whether Aunt May should know that Peter is Spider-Man. This version of Aunt May is quite different than any previous version, being much younger than the others. She'd have to be suspicious that Iron Man turns up to her house and quickly whisks her nephew off to Berlin, but I'd hope that she would keep Peter's secret.
We saw Sally Field's Aunt May was aware of Peter's double life in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — she actually gave him an inspirational speech that caused him to don the mask again after Gwen's death — so perhaps we'll have a similarly supportive situation in the MCU.
Either way, I have faith that Marvel Studios will keep Spider-Man's identity a secret from the public for now. The simple fact is, Peter Parker is just as important to these stories as Spider-Man — and that's why people love him!
Do you hope Spider-Man's identity remains secret? Let me know in the comments!