Thursday, June 3, 2010

A BLACK Peter Parker!?!?!

Sometimes, the fanboy culture is really embarrassing.

So, a young, up-and-coming actor with a popular TV show has floated that he would really like to audition to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the coming Sony Pictures "reboot" of the franchise...

(Let's not even touch that Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were fantastic, and the series would need no "reboot" if Sony would just let him handle the character correctly...another rant, that.)

Not an uncommon turn of events, most TV actors know that a big-screen franchise can be a quick ticket to the A-list. Totally understandable that a young actor would see this as an opportunity...

Except, see...the actor in question is Donald Glover of TV's Community.

As you can see, Donald Glover is black.

This is where my embarrassment begins. In a turn of events that, in a world where something as bone-headed and simple as the color of a character's boots can inspire a wave of outrage that outpaces that of the average American in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, ought to surprise no one, the online "fan community" has jumped on this. There's plenty of places to find commentary on this.

Now let's be clear about one thing off the top. Sony Pictures didn't float Glover as an option, nor director Marc [(500) Days of Summer] Webb. Glover responded to a fan posting on his twitter page that he liked the idea. That's it. There's nothing more to this story than that. Top that off with the financial reality of the situation, as Drew McWeeny explains pretty clearly in the blog I linked to above, and the odds of Donald Glover as Spider-Man are pretty extremely small.

Of course, when did reality ever get in the way of Fanboy outrage?

Let's start with something that's not unique to fanboys, this "I read it on the internet" disease. I got a lot of shit from people because I refused to take a report on the TMZ website as proof that Michael Jackson was dead. I wanted to hear it from someone other than an internet gossip rag. The internet is like a hair trap on a drain. All that crud that you don't really want to deal with gets caught there, and some idiot will deem it important just because it didn't go down the drain. Except these days, NOTHING gets down the drain. You're wallowing in innuendo and opinion on the internet, and the sooner you just realize that, the better.

So, yeah...first off, CHILL THE HELL OUT, FANBOYS!!!!


And this is where I really get embarrassed...

Some of you out there need to understand that society is progressing. You need to understand that there are many, many different kinds of people in the United States, Black, White, Latino, Gay, Straight, Overweight, etc...and when you're dealing with a character that's is, was, and always has been designed to be an everyman, that gives you a lot of leeway to play around with details. Up to and including race.

One of the sheer genius things about Spider-Man, on a design level, is the costume. Specifically, the mask.

It's a wonderful extrapolation of Stan Lee's "everyman" idea. The costume, the mask, it hides all. Spider-Man could be you, me, or the grocer down the street. By removing any defining characteristics of the person under that mask, Lee and artist Steve Ditko tapped into a basic psychological hook that almost always snares a comic book fan.

Spider-Man could be YOU.

That was even a marketing line Lee used for the book. I even remember a story, forgive me, I can't find any panels on-line, where Peter rescued a racist, and then explained that he could be any color under that mask. He might be one of THEM.

Making Peter Parker a teenage kid, just like the the vast majority of his readers, was not a whim. It was a calculated choice. It was also a choice being made in 1963, and it's simply the financial reality of that time that Lee and Ditko could not have made Peter Parker anything but a Caucasian kid. That is no judgment on them on creators, it should not be, but on the reality of the publishing world/market they were creating in.

I hope, I pray, that wouldn't be the case now. There's really no story reason why Peter Parker, a teenager in Queens, NY, couldn't be black, white, latino, asian, etc. It's New York, fer God's sake. I'd challenge anyone to tell me why he couldn't be.

The only, and I mean ONLY, response is that Peter is traditionally white. Believe me, there is no concept more powerful to a comic book fanboy than tradition. They're more mired in "the way it's always been done" than my grandparents were.

I understand that. I have to admit, I'd have to adjust to the idea of a black Spider-Man, I have 40+ years of comic books that showed me otherwise. I certainly wouldn't have been open-minded enough to come up with the idea of color-blind casting. That's me being honest (and kudos to those who are that open-minded), but I also can see, inherently, that they're no reason he MUST be white.

There's also a far cry from that and this:

PETER PARKER IS F**KING WHITE! Have people lost their minds? Peter Parker is as white with brownish red hair as what Wally West is to The Flash. This is racist!!! Leave it to Floppywood and the whole Obama log sucking crew. In the comics Peter is white and white only. It's defying the nature of the comics.

Why don't we make Jonn Jonzz the Man of Steel for that matter. How about the the blue guardians of OA as Batman. The race factor will destory man untimately on planet Earth.
Thanks for that little meltdown, "Cory."

And I wonder if that's the legacy of the fanboy community.

Look, part of my love of superheros and pulp fiction characters is the values they taught me, and frankly, one of those core values is the equality of all. Superman, Spider-Man or Batman would NEVER judge a person by the color of their skin, but by their actions. Likewise, an actor should be judged by their performance, not by the color of their skin. Sometimes I wonder how the lessons that I found so pure, and clear, within these stories can be so bastardized, so ignored.

These heroes, like all good folk tales, were supposed to encourage us to be better. To look forward, to take their examples and use them to make ourselves, and to make our world a better place. To see people, with whom I'm supposed to share this connection, act in such a vicious and disgusting way is hurtful to me.

So, why not let Glover audition? I know, in my heart of hearts, that their are plenty of fanboys who will judge him not by his color, but by his ability to moth off, and deliver clever quips, during battles with the super villains.

Which is something Raimi, bless him, never really got right.


  1. It gets back to the weird formulation by which "everyman" somehow has to mean "white." Universal stories can be about anyone, and should be. "Fences" is a play with as much universal resonance as "Death of a Salesman." I've never seen a Donald Glover performance, but he sure looks like he could get the "nerdy young Peter Parker" thing with no trouble at all. So why not let him audition, and let America prove that it's mature enough to accept that anyone can be a hero.

  2. Unless there is a specific reason for a character to be cast as an ethnic type... it shouldn't be.
    Meaning- if the writer is dealing with a condition best evoked by characters of a particular ethnicity- then fine. The character ought to be that ethnicity.
    Otherwise... the role should be open to anyone. White should not be the default, but rather suitability to the characteristics at hand. Even Stan Lee has come out- recently- in favor of giving this guy a chance. For much the same reasons we're all discussing.