Diversity, Movies, Opinion, Race

Why I’m Boycotting Spider-Man: Diversity Isn’t a Trend, It’s a Reality

Yesterday we learned that Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man film had officially found its friendly neighborhood web slinger…and once again it’s a white straight male. Oh and there’s more! The director is–wait for it–a white dude!

Let’s go back and reminisce about how this all came about, shall we? Remember last year in an interview with IndieWire when, asked if  Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, Spider-Man 2099 Miguel O’Hara, or clone Spider-Man Ben Reilly might make an appearance in any future Spider-Man films, Spidey producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach said the following:

Tolmach: “No.”

Arad: “No. The one thing you cannot do, when you have a phenomena that has stood the test of time, you have to be true to the real character inside – who is Peter Parker? What are the biggest effects on his life? Then you can draw in time, and you can consider today’s world in many ways. But to have multiple ones… I don’t know if you remember, but Marvel tried it. And it was almost the end of Spider-Man.”

Remember in another interview last year with /Film, Arad talked about the inevitability of more diverse superheroes appearing on the big screen and this was his repsonse?

Arad: “I think, one, we do have diversity, finally. Because when comics were written, late ’50s, early ’60s, the comic book universe, or for that matter the country, didn’t know there were anybody but white people here. [Laughs] And they’re all white. We had a couple of black characters, which were in the Daily Bugle. The editor-in-chief is a black man. And we have some great stories between him and his son because the son is dealing with not knowing where he belongs, really. But I think we are finally becoming more of one world, and you’re going to see more and more diversity in the selection of characters. That will be — it’s about the actor, it’s about the audition. It’s not about saying, ‘Well, in the comic he was white, so he cannot be…’ You know, Nick Fury was white… It’s all going to change. I think sometimes we consciously look at it. We would love to have a superhero, we would love Marvel to create a superhero — We can create villains, but we’d love to have a Chinese superhero with something that is really interesting and how they got here, and what is their issue, and so on. But it’s coming. And it’s inevitable. It’s really inevitable. But it didn’t come naturally to comics in the days that no one was aware that there were actually other countries and other people.”

Remember last year one of the revelations from the Sony hack was that Marvel and Sony had contemplated working together on a new Spidey film? When it became official, Marvel pushed back the release dates of Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Thor: Ragnarok.

Remember not too long after this, we learned that, although Spider-Man was going to be Peter Parker, Marvel wasn’t ruling out casting a more diverse Spider-Man? And then remember when that little light of hope was snuffed out when Marvel’s and Sony’s short list to play Spider-Man was released? And then remember very recently the emails from the Sony hack that revealed the legal licensing agreement between Sony and Marvel which stated that Peter Parker and Spider-Man must be heterosexual and Parker must be Caucasian which all resulted in yesterday’s official announcement?

***HULK HEADDESK***

Look, I love Spidey. I’ve been a fan since I was introduced to the character as a kid via the 90’s animated series. I’ve enjoyed all of the five films that featured straight white dudes as our web slinging hero and now that it’s been announced, yet again, that our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will be a straight white dude, I’ve had enough. I’ll be boycotting this film.

We live in a world where superhero films are hitting the big screen more than once a year and it’s an exciting time. I’m enjoying watching these characters that I’ve read about in the pages of the comics come to life. What I’m not enjoying is watching a white straight male majority portrayed over and over again. It’s becoming bland, dull, and a bit insulting.

For all the praise that it gets, the MCU has had eleven films with another five coming that have featured straight white dudes as the lead. What’s infuriating is that out of the upcoming films, they pushed back the two films which will feature a black guy and a woman as the leads, for another white straight Spider-Man film! In addition, all of these films so far have or will be directed by–you guessed it–white dudes (though rumor has it that Selma director Ava DuVernay is in talks to direct Black Panther)!

I’m so tired of this, I really am. For all the crap that it’s been getting, I’m more excited for the DC Cinematic Universe. You know why? Because so far it’s more diverse in its casting and directing choices than Marvel has been. Sometimes the “best guy for the job” isn’t a white straight dude. Sometimes it’s a woman, a person of color, someone who is LGBTA+, or someone who is all three of these!

In a world where people of color are the ones who frequent the movies the most, I say the following to Hollywood and the world at large: DIVERSITY ISN’T A TREND IT’S A REALITY.

We want to see ourselves behind and in front of the camera in non-stereotypical roles. We want to see ourselves in characters who are fleshed out, complex, and flawed. Stop making excuses as to why it’s okay to whitewash a character of color. IT ISN’T OKAY. Stop making excuses as to why it’s not okay to racebend a character. IT’S DEFINITELY OKAY. Stop making excuses, period.


Poet and publisher Talisha Harrison participated in our 2013 Race and Gender in Comics Roundtable. Find it here
  1. Felipe

    June 25, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Yes! Yes! AAAAND YES!
    After reading all your support links and seeing through this mess, my mind has noticed something… and it’s not going to be nice…

    I think that all this bullshit about “white, hetero/cisgender and middle class urbanite male” is coming straight from the mouths of the biggest visual machine the 20th+21st century has known.
    Yes, I’m talking about DISNEY. Their CEO’s, Exec Producers, et al.

    I truly, duly, really believe they’re not evil overlords but man are they as cultural progressive as a snail is a marathon runner. ¬_¬* I do believe that without more pieces like yours we would be stuck&stagnant into the “universal narrative” that fears the increasingly solid structure that diversity is gaining through social media. And I do believe that they don’t get that hey, if you wanted to have a Global Village, get ready to know the *real* voice that permeates it, savvy?!

    Keep. On. Pushing.
    Keep. On. Building.
    Keep. On. Creating.
    Keep. On. Sharing diversity.
    Keep. On. Recycling&Reusing&Reshifting abandoned projects.

    Also, an idea to strengthen this representation of diversity…
    Let’s push for initiatives regarding being Black or AfroLatin or AndeanLatin or LatinAsiatic and WORKING inside an industry that has it’s head so up their asses that they can’t fathom change is key to survival. Any kind of workshops (well cooked, none rare!), any kind of abandoned or failed KickStarters/et al that seem worthy. Let’s get things moving again. 😉

    So there. Those are my 2 pieces.

    Gr8 work Talisha, keep it up!

    1. Talisha

      June 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Danny Rodriguez

    June 29, 2015 at 12:49 am

    As a “person of color” I disagree with article. I could could not care any less if spider-man is white or if the director is white. All I care about is if the story is good, that all that should matter. Anything else is tokenism. Even Martin luther king jr said that tokenism constitutes a minimal acceptance of people of color to the mainstream of U.S. society.

    1. Claire Napier

      June 29, 2015 at 7:26 am

      For your sake alone, Danny, I truly hope that the newest retelling of the Spider-Man origin is good, as a story.

    2. Wendy Browne

      June 30, 2015 at 11:49 am

      I agree regarding tokenism. I’m not a fan. But in this case, they could easily have gone with a long established (since 2011) Spider-Man who’s now a part of the main Marvel canon. Why do we need another Peter Parker at all–white or otherwise? Marvel had a great opportunity here to give us diversity that isn’t simply tokenism, but once again, let down.

      Hopefully the story they present will be a good one, but that doesn’t remove the fact that we need far better representation on screen.

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