Today started like most days do. I woke up at 4:15am, knocked out a brisk 30km fun run and ate 35 pancakes.
But then I climbed into the Internet and I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were so many articles talking about how there was a new Spider-Man movie trailer and how incredible it would be. And when movie trailers are described as “epic” in article headlines, I know I’m in for a serious treat.
Then I watched the trailer.
It was okay. Jake Gyllenhaal is in it and I loved The Ice Storm, so that’s something. And the effects looked pretty decent.
But the whole time I was kind of looking around and thinking, “Um, why is Spider-Man white?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against white superheroes. In fact, some of my favourite superheroes are white. But the thing is – and I’m sorry if this is upsetting to anyone - Spider-Man is half-black and half-Puerto Rican. His name is Miles Morales and he lives in Brooklyn and he’s at the centre of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of the best movies of 2018 (in the comics, Marvel killed off Peter Parker and replaced him with Morales).
He is a kid trying to find his way in the world. He speaks unsubtitled Spanish with his mother and he loves hip-hop and appreciates graffiti art, like a lot of native New Yorkers. It just makes sense. Plus, he’s a great superhero. He gets along with his parents, he’s really smart and he wants to be a better person.
So who the hell is this new guy? Peter who? He’s from Queens, one of the most diverse places on the planet and it seems like most of his friends are people of colour – but he’s a white guy? And he just happens to be a superhero? Is that realistic?
Look, I understand. White people need heroes too. But do we have to change the identity of already established superheroes just to accommodate political correctness? I’m sorry but I just feel like this is identity politics run amok and, frankly, it’s divisive.
I know what you’re saying. There aren’t that many white superheroes out there and it’s hard to make a brand new one popular. Making an established one white, rather than just creating some new character, is a practical way to get better representation.
Well, I think that’s a bit of a slippery slope. If we make Spider-Man white, who’s next? Jesus? The Indian guy in Short Circuit? Al Pacino? Ghost in the Shell?
Take Aquaman, for example. Could you even imagine him as white? It’s so weird!
I’m sorry, but I know Spider-Man as Afro Latino. Asking me to think about him as a white guy is like asking me to drown my dog. I’ll do it. But I won’t like it.
Of course, I would like to be sensitive to the representation argument. And I agree that it’s important for white people to see themselves onscreen – for white children to have someone to look up to. But at what cost? Do we need to sacrifice Miles Morales? What did he ever do to anyone? I don’t want to be all like, “Get your own superheroes, white people!” But I don’t think you can just claim superheroes that are already black / Puerto Rican.
After all, some things are sacred, especially the race of our precious, precious superheroes. They give us a reason to go to the movies and actually spend time with our families. They teach our children right from wrong. But if we keep changing things, altering our iconic heroes, well pretty soon we’ll have cultural anarchy. And no one wants that.
But here’s the bottom line: We’re all just people and it shouldn’t matter what Spider-Man’s race is. First of all, he wears a mask a lot of the time so it could be anybody under there (though we all know he’s half-black / half-Puerto Rican). Also, I’m pretty sure we decided that racism is over. I mean, not to get too political, but Donald Trump is the president of the United States. If that’s not an argument for the fact that white people are doing just fine, I don’t know what is.
Here’s another bottom line: If you change the race of superheroes, you might as well be playing God. And that’s wrong.
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