Is the World Ready for a multiethnic Spider-Man?
The new ethnically diverse version of Spider-Man, met with a lot of negative feedback, is the wake-up call that prejudice is still far too prevalent in today’s society.
The above image shows the commonly Caucasian superhero Spider-man, portrayed as a Black man. The tone of the image is rather dark and it appears that he has just come from a fight because his costume is tarnished and his mask is missing. The teenage superhero also has his backpack draped over his right shoulder. Although it is nighttime and he is in the midst of the city, Spider-Man has a calm expression on his face.
The interpretation of this image is far more complicated than the surface analysis because of all the social implications of the portrayal of Spider-Man as a black man. Based solely on my knowledge of pop-culture, I know that the man in the image is the comedian/actor/rapper Donald Glover (or Childish Gambino). Furthermore, I know that this image has been altered and that the original is from the recently released “The Amazing Spider-Man” starring the White British actor Andrew Garfield. This image comes from an online campaign to make Donald Glover the new Spider-Man that started mostly as a joke. However, around the same time the “Ultimate Universe” comic company released a series of Spider-Man comics featuring a half-Black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man. The combination of the online campaign and the growing popularity of the new Spider-Man comics resulted in a surprisingly large and vicious backlash. In his stand-up routine, Donald Glover plays the negative response for laughs, musing at how people can still be so prejudice and so outraged over something so simple as a superhero comic book. And as Childish Gambino, Donald Glover addresses the negative response as a real problem as he angrily raps about the overwhelming amount of negative emails, tweets, and letters he received. Even in the mainstream media there has been some derision. Glenn Beck, notoriously conservative talk radio host, denounced the change in the comic calling it “stupid.” Meanwhile Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post gave perhaps the most insightful statement about the controversy: “the response to the new black Spider-Man shows why we need one.” (abrestholcek444)
The fact that changing the race of a beloved superhero sparked such a controversy demonstrates that we have not fully erased prejudice from our society. Many people know that prejudice still exists, but sometimes it takes an issue as silly as this to remind us just how prevalent it really is.
abrestholecek444, “All New Multiethnic Spider-Man.” Nuke the Fridge. nukethefridge.com. Web.
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