Crazy fan theories. I love 'em. You love 'em. The internet loves 'em - especially Reddit. Another super-clever bit of speculation recently popped up in the Fan Theories forum, courtesy of Redditor hartijay, who has obviously spent a LOT of time pondering the mythos of Spider-Man. Specifically the exact meaning of the recurring theme of Peter Parker's life: "With great power comes great responsibility."
The canny guy has the idea that the villains in the theatrical Amazing Spider-verse aren't just "generic bad guys," but that each one "represents aspects of Peter's life." I see your blank stares, guys. Don't worry. I've gotcha.
At first I didn't see any kind of trend like this with the TASM villains, but then it hit me: the villains all abuse their power, but are also representations of the different responsibilities Peter has as Spider-Man. Instead of having a similar goal or interest to Spider-Man like in the Raimi films, these villains have their own goals but coincide with what Peter feels responsible for. Seen like this, the villains can be seen as a bit more interesting than just generic bad guys.
Basically, each villain represents the thing in Peter's life that he feels the most responsibility for at the time.
DR. CURT CONNORS/THE LIZARD
THE BACKGROUND: No matter what version of Spider-Man you've read or watched, the one event that kickstarts Peter's path to being the Spider-Man we all know is the death of his Uncle Ben. There are a few pivotal moments (read: tragedies) that define who Peter is as a man and a hero, but Uncle Ben was the first, and Peter carries the burden with him for the rest of his life. Hartijay speculates that the rise of The Lizard parallels that of Uncle Ben's killer in [The Amazing Spider-Man](movie:45497).
The Lizard in TASM parallels Uncle Ben's killer because:
a.) The Lizard and the killer are both allies (even if briefly) to Peter before committing acts of crime. b.) The Lizard's and the killer's crimes both involve Peter as he helped them start off.
However, the lesson was learned by Peter when the killer got away. His uncle's killer got away, and he was the one who helped him commit the crime that lead to violence. Peter also helped create the Lizard, and there is no way he's going to let others get hurt because of his mistake again. He's owning up and facing his problem -- the death of his uncle -- face-on.
TL;DR VERSION: The Lizard represents Peter Parker's guilt over standing by and doing nothing to disastrous results, especially the death of his Uncle Ben.
THE BACKGROUND: Another defining theme of the Spider-Man mythos is his endless struggle to find full acceptance in the eyes of the public. This is made more difficult by the fact Peter Parker has, for his entire life (at least until Civil War #2), kept his personal life completely separate from his public Spider-Man persona and never unmasked. Still, Peter has seen and will always see NYC as his city, and feels a responsibility to be a beacon of hope for it, no matter what is happening in his own life.
Now, as I said before, Electro represents Spider-Man's responsibility for people in general -- the general public, in other words. We hear the general public is debating about Spider-Man and whether he's a hero or menace. We see JJJ and the Daily Bugle despise him, and callers on the radio show that Max speaks on seems doubtful of Spider-Man's ability to help the city at all.
We see that Peter is frustrated by this. He tries to convince JJJ that Spider-Man is good, and tells Harry he likes to think Spider-Man inspires hope. This is more than just being the good guy for Peter, this is about being a SYMBOL for justice in New York.
So, to reiterate, Electro is a representation of the struggle Spider-Man has with his relationship with the general public. Electro foils Spider-Man in that while Spider-Man wants to be a symbol of hope, Electro wants to be an icon of fear. While Spider-Man is willing to risk his life to save others to become this symbol, Electro is willing to be a mass-murdering psychopath to become, as he puts it, "like a god".
TL; DR VERSION: Electro represents the responsibility Peter feels to be a symbol of hope for the people of New York City, despite the struggle he has with the public accepting him.
HARRY OSBORN/GREEN GOBLIN
THE BACKGROUND: As I mentioned before, there are a few watershed moments that have influenced the man Peter Parker became. The first was the death of his Uncle Ben, and the second was the death of Gwen Stacy. Gwen was everything that Peter not just wanted, but needed - his voice of reason, his balance, and his hope. The love that kept him going even when his fear of failure was all but crippling, in turn making keeping Gwen safe his number one priority.
Spider-Man kills Electro, Harry's "hope", so Harry in turn decides to take away Peter's: Gwen. Peter's indecisiveness about balancing Gwen and his superhero life leads to her death. Gwen's death parallels them breaking up earlier in the movie, where Peter is unsure of what to do with himself despite the lessons he's learned from Gwen.
Now that the nightmare has become true and Gwen is dead as a doornail, Peter needs to be the source of his own hope. For a time, he does mope, but he listens to Gwen's graduation speech and ultimately springs back into action to honor the lesson she had for him: to pursue to become hope, but to not be deterred by failure.
Peter was terrified of failure. Losing Gwen would be the ultimate failure, and he is so fearful of it that he lets it ruin his personal life.
The final fight between Spider-Man and Green Goblin is the mutual fear of failure taking from both of them: Spider-Man loses Gwen, and Green Goblin succumbs to lunacy. By the end of the film, however, Spider-Man finally realizes what Gwen was trying to say all along and bettering himself with it, while Green Goblin is locked away and plans his next move to destroy Spider-Man, lessening himself, proving once and for all that these two are arch-enemies.
TL;DR VERSION: Green Goblin represents the sometimes crippling fear Peter Parker has about failing and letting down those who are closest to him.
NOW, this is where hartijay left off, so I thought I'd try to guess what the rest of the confirmed Sinister Six villains might represent.
THE BACKGROUND: While there have been situations throughout his life where Peter Parker has been forced to kill when there has been no other alternative, this choice always fills him with grief. And even when Peter has killed, the deaths have usually been passive rather than active: Redirecting a missile fired at him, quicksand, knocking someone through a portal that accidentally opens up at a high point in the sky. Spider-Man, much like his DC counterpart Superman, is loathe to permanently end his adversaries' lives, no matter how much easier it might make his life.
We saw the results of Spider-Man's mercy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when Peter decides to simply contain Rhino in the middle of the city and pants him, leaving him comically exposed but otherwise unharmed. This comes back to bite Spider-Man in the ass at the end of the movie when Rhino reappears, but this time in cahoots with Green Goblin - and much, much more powerful, with a completely mechanized suit of heavy armor topped with machine guns.
Rhino is Spider-Man's opposite in that he has no qualms about killing anyone and everyone who gets in his way: Enemy or innocent civilian, it doesn't matter. He'll compromise his most basic morals in the most violent of ways in order to get what he wants. Because of this, he's a survivor and permanent thorn in Spider-Man's side, despite being dimmer than a half-dead lightbulb.
Peter, on the other hand, can't bring himself to actively kill his enemies, even when they're wreaking havoc on the city. Instead, he tries a better way, a nobler way because he feels a responsibility to himself and humanity to never turn to murder as a convenient option.
TL;DR VERSION: Rhino represents the moral responsibility Spider-Man feels to always figure out a way to bring his enemies to justice without resorting to killing.
THE BACKGROUND: Until fairly recently, Peter Parker spent all the years of his life keeping his Spider-Man superhero persona and his personal life as Peter Parker completely separated lest the knowledge of his true identity put his loved ones at risk of being harmed by his many, many enemies. This has always been particularly difficult for Peter, as J. Jonah Jameson has made it his life's work to discredit Spidey and paint him as a dangerous vigilante. Still, Spider-Man endures and keeps his true self hidden away from the world for the safety of those he cares about.
Like Spider-Man, Mysterio is an enigma who keeps his true self hidden from the public. Born Quentin Beck, the stuntman and special effects magician is the mirror image of Peter Parker in terms of his identity. Beck longs for the world to know who he is, but when his acting ambitions fail, he creates an alterego in Mysterio to hide his true self behind. Through that persona, Mysterio turns against the world that didn't accept him on his own terms, embracing villainy and a life of crime.
Peter Parker is also somewhat of a "loser" in reality, a nerd, constantly on the edge of being broke, juggling the various disasters in his personal life. But unlike Mysterio, who hides behind a persona in order to damage the world around him, Peter turns to his persona of Spider-Man in order to save it. Peter Parker refuses to reveal himself to the public not because he wants to remain so isolated, but because he's willing to sacrifice his own peace in order to bring peace to the city at large.
Mysterio embraces the anonymity in order to sow crime and discord. But Peter Parker fights against his anonymity every single day to ensure that he'll always be around to stop the plans of his enemies.
TL;DR VERSION: Mysterio represents the responsibility Spider-Man feels to sacrifice his own happiness and transparency in his life in order to protect the ones he loves.
SERGEI KRAVINOFF/KRAVEN THE HUNTER
THE BACKGROUND: Spider-Man is a noble superhero, but he's also very human. In the aftermath of tragic events, Peter Parker has occasionally been consumed with getting revenge on his enemies who have brought harm to his loved ones. Luckily, there's usually someone in his life who provides Peter with a bit of guidance at a time he desperately needs it, usually in the form of Aunt May. But in the rare times he's let his angry, vengeful aspect take over have led to a situation far worse than had he sought to accept things as they are and make peace with a situation.
Kraven the Hunter is an outsider like Spider-Man, a one-man show with a weird moral code. Kraven's Achilles heel is that he often becomes so singularly focused on his prey, so consumed by the hunt before him that it blocks out everything else. This single-minded desire, whether for vengeance or sport, brings tragedy to Kraven's life. When his obsession to beat Spider-Man is finally fulfilled, Kraven realizes the only thing that has sustained him is the hunt and he has nothing else to live for, and so he kills himself.
With the love of his life now dead at the hands of his former best friend, it's not a stretch to think that part of the next Amazing Spider-Man movie will address Peter grappling with his burning desire to seek revenge for Gwen's death. And it's also not a stretch to believe that this will only make things worse for Peter as he forgets that he's Spider-Man, better and nobler and stronger than vengeance.
But in the end, Kraven's scary fixation makes Peter take a good, hard look at himself and realize vengeance is not truly his personality nor a part of who he wants to be. He's always let go of his selfish obsessions for the greater good, even when it's been hard, because he knows there are more important things in the world than his own personal wants.
TL;DR VERSION: Kraven represents the responsibility Peter feels to not become so consumed with vengeance and obsessed with beating his enemies that he loses sight of the other things that matter so much more than revenge.