"Spider-Man must be white and heterosexual!"
At least that is the story the mainstream media would have you believe based on recently leaked emails between Sony Pictures - the current rights holders to the cinematic Spider-Man - and Marvel, whom the studio has struck a deal with to share the character and allow him to appear in Marvel's own cinematic universe.
Even Breitbart is jumping on this misinformation bandwagon.
The problem with these headlines? Well, they aren't exactly true.
While recent emails between Sony and Marvel have mandated that Peter Parker be portrayed by a white actor, there is no mandate that the Spider-Man used must be Peter Parker. Much like many other characters in comics - such as Flash, Green Lantern and even Captain America - Peter Parker is not the only person to ever be under that web-spangled mask. There have been several characters to wear the Spider-Man mantle, and they haven't all been white.
[sharequote align="center"]Fidelity to the core of the character is important, and that's what fans will respond positively to.[/sharequote]
For several years now the Spider-Man of the Ultimate Marvel universe has been a black/Puerto Rican kid named Miles Morales. Marvel has even recently announced that after their current "Secret Wars" event, Miles will become the new Spider-Man of the main Marvel universe. The Spider-Man of the 2099 Marvel universe is Miguel O'Hara, who is half hispanic and half Irish.
There is definitely a history on non-white Spider-Men, and this caucasian mandate only applies if Marvel intends to use Peter Parker.
The other mandate that is getting a lot of media attention is that Peter Parker will not be homosexual. Again, this is misleading. The actual text of the mandate states that Spider-Man will not be homosexual unless Marvel has portrayed the character as having been homosexual in the past. Everyone seems to be glossing over that "unless" part.
The majority of misinformation seems to be sourced from a single Gawker article, which is completely laughable. The Gawker author doesn't even attempt to mask any sort of liberal bias or to report anything in any kind of eithical manner, resulting in hyperbole and making statements without any evidence. Even though this article seems to be the only place where you can see actual screeshots of the emails and their exact wording, the author continually asserts things that are contradictory to the emails. The entire thesis of the article seems to be predicated on the idea that since Peter Parker and Spider-Man aren't real, well then filmmakers should be free to do whatever they want, even to the point of making the character unrecognizable.
Many fans disagree with this sentiment. It seems to be a current trend in Hollywood to cast traditionally white characters with actors of color, from Perry White in "Man of Steel" to Iris West in "The Flash" television series and even Jimmy Olsen in the upcoming "Supergirl" television series. Even some actors of color are starting to say enough is enough.
From the mandates Sony put forward, it seems that their only intention is to make sure the character stays true to the comic books, whichever Spider-Man that may be. So if Marvel wants to use Miles Morales, Sony requires he mirror the comics. If Marvel wants to use Peter Parker, same deal. And this is definitely an important and significant stand for Sony to take.
There are many times when it is necessary to make changes from the comic books to film. No two forms of media are exactly the same, and any good filmmaker knows this. As much as many fans think they want it, you can't put Hugh Jackman in the traditional Wolverine costume from the comics. Some characters can translate verbatim, some can't. Much like Superman and Captain America, Spider-Man is one of the characters who can be translated almost verbatim from the comics to the cinema and in a world where gender and race bending is becoming almost arbitrary, Sony just wants to make sure that integrity is maintained.
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This could end up blowing up in Sony's face - especially if the social justice media is successful in their smear campaign - or this could end up working out in the best interest of the fans. This could set a precedent for more studios to stand up for the integrity of their characters in the future.
The mainstream media would have you believe that the current backlash over the Fantastic Four reboot is all about the race of the character playing the Human Torch, but it really isn't. Fans look at the trailer and that isn't the Fantastic Four they know on the screen, and they reject it. Comic book fans are a very hard audience to please, and most people who have played in this sandbox will tell you that's true.
Comic book fans are a powerful lobby, and Sony recognizes this. While the majority of the movie-going audience might not care one way or the other, the fanboys can destroy your movie if they don't think it's up to their expectations. As GamerGate has shown, fans are rebelling hard against the social justice movement. Just coming out of a failed Spider-Man franchise, a reboot the fans never wanted in the first place, Sony is understandably reluctant to do anything that might upset the hardcore fanbase.
One thing is for sure, superhero movies and television shows don't seem to be going anywhere for a while. They're lucrative and they're popular. The best way to make sure they don't go anywhere is to keep staying true to the characters. When it comes down to it, race isn't important.
Fidelity to the core of the character is important, and that's what fans will respond positively to. Sony is just trying to walk a very tight line right now, hoping not to tank another Spider-Man reboot, and no one should blame them for wanting to play it safe. Right now, a safe Spider-Man is a Spider-Man who mirrors the Spider-Man in the comics in every way possible, whichever Spider-Man that may end up being.
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