Spider-Man's new identity
It wasn’t just the (literally) life and death drama surrounding the Spider-Man Broadway musical that people were gossiping about this year, but its upcoming celluloid cousin – a reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise that re-imagines the possibilities of a Marvel universe with a non-white Peter Parker - was also a source of chatter around the Internet water cooler amongst Marvel, sci-fi, and oddly enough Donald Glover fans. The “Community” actor, rapper (Childish Gambino) and comic led the grassroots campaign to advocate Sony to at least give him an audition for the superhero role. The role ultimately went to Andrew Garfield, who earned himself the goodwill of Spidey fans with this stunt at Comic-Con, which also went rapidly viral around the “Web” (HA!). Nonetheless, Glover at least got Marvel writers and executives to ask themselves why Spider-Man couldn’t be African-American, because the qualities that made him so popular and relatable have nothing to do with the color of his skin. As i09 wrote, “He’s defined by the people he cares for, by his career, by his identity as a New Yorker (incidentally, one of the most diverse cities in the world) – as too many good people died to prove, a man is defined by his choices, not by the color of his skin.”
Once he’s in costume you can’t even see his face, let alone his skin color. The counter-argument that “well, Spider-Man has always been white” is an apt example of where “whiteness” becomes the default racial selection, as it was during the era when many of these superheroes were created, which is a really subtle, but insidious institutionalized form of discrimination. This is something that I think still strongly plagues Hollywood with their casting decisions. Yet taking a step in a positive direction, following these conversations Marvel introduced Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Hispanic kid who becomes our favorite web-slinging hero.