Yesterday saw a rumor hit the net stating that Zendaya is actually playing Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which has caused a lot of uproar.
Personally, I’m from the school of thought that they should just create new characters instead of replacing already existing characters, and that goes for all characters of color and creed. For instance, I wouldn’t want a white, chinese or latino Luke Cage or Black Panther or John Stewart, and I wouldn’t want a male Catwoman or Harley Quinn.
However, right now it’s “cool” to be PC, and if you disagree, you’ll be labeled a misogynist, a Trump supporter, bigot, racist etc. You’ll also see the studio (or whoever) state, “well, ahem, we just went with the best person for the job,” which is a laughable statement.
Likewise, you’ll also be told to get a life if you happen to care that a character’s core is changed so much. You’ll be called names and belittled for caring about a fictional character, a character that you shell our your hard earned cash for, a character that makes these guys millions and billions of dollars, a character that some people have made or do make their living from, and a character that may have impacted your personal life.
Regarding Mary Jane, I always thought she was a rather unique character. She’s a red head, which only makes up 2% of the population. I felt Peter Parker was darn lucky to have a girlfriend like that.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn took to his social networks to voice his thoughts, like he often likes to do, on the fan reaction to Zendaya potentially playing Mary Jane (Gunn says he doesn’t know who she is playing). Gunn took to Twitter to state that if your are a complainer, you basically need to get a life as well. Gunn then expanded upon his thoughts on Facebook stating that if the color of Mary Jane’s hair is the major attribute of the character, then that character is “shallow and sucks.” You can read Gunn’s full thoughts below.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has a July 7, 2017 release directed by Jon Watts starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, with Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr.
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Marvel Studios’ “Captain: Civil War,” begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging superhero in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this. There are movies I dislike because I think there’s a basic misunderstanding of the story or the character when the comic is transferred to film (I still hate how in the first Batman movie the Joker was revealed as the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, for instance.)
That said, I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. When Michael B Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm I didn’t understand the uproar. The primary characteristic of Johnny was not, to me, that he was white, or that he had blonde hair, but that he was a fiery, funny, big-mouthed braggart of a hero. I was happy that he was going to be played by one of the finest and most charming young actors out there.
Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the Internet (again). I tweeted that if people find themselves complaining about Mary Jane’s ethnicity they have lives that are too good. (For those of you who think this means I’m confirming that Zendaya IS playing MJ, realize that although I’ve read the Spidey script, and I’ve met the actress in question, I have no idea what her role is. There’s a good chance someone told me at one time or another, but, if so, I can’t remember. I’m going to find out when I go into Marvel this afternoon, but I feel free to speak until that time because it’s about the concept about a black woman playing Mary Jane, not the actuality or hypothesis of it.)
I got a thousand or so responses to my tweet. Most of them were positive. Some folks disagreed – they thought the character should look like what she looks like in the comics – but were thoughtful. And a handful were flat out racist.
I can’t respond to the racists – I’m not ever going to change their minds. But for the thoughtful majority of you out there:
For me, if a character’s primary attribute – the thing that makes them iconic – is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics – she’s a tall, thin model – much more so than actresses have in the past.
Whatever the case, if we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be – and often are – happily surprised.