Marvel's newest superhero film features an aggressively diverse cast of characters. Critics still have a bone to pick with the movie.
The new “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is so woke it stings.
Only it isn’t enough. Anyone shocked?
“Homecoming” stars two white actors in critical roles. Young Tom Holland is the new web slinger, and Oscar-nominee Michael Keaton checks in as the villainous Vulture.
The rest of the cast? It’s aggressively diverse by most measures.
Spidey’s love interest, school bully, nerdy sidekick and future love interest (is that you, Mary Jane)? All actors of color. Rising stars Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) and Bokeem Woodbine (“Fargo“) also get serious screen time. Woodbine, so very good in “Fargo’s” second season, might get a franchise encore given his colorful moniker. He’s listed in the credits as both Herman Shultz and The Shocker, the latter one of the hero’s classic villains.
The diversity parade doesn’t stop there.
The Queens, N.Y. school where Peter Parker flirts with cute students? Those scenes reveal a diverse array of students and teachers, befitting the actual east coast neighborhood.
That super-woke mentality doesn’t stop there. One character reminds a peer, and us, that slaves built the Washington Monument. Keaton’s villain goes sour, in part, thanks to a beef with the one percent.
So, we finally have a big screen blockbuster that can avoid those “problematic” think pieces, right?
Salon.com gives the film an “A” for effort but complains that “Homecoming” didn’t stick the progressive landing. Here’s the article’s sub-headline: ‘The film’s multiethnic cast holds promise, but — as some have pointed out — old problems persist.’
Symbolism matters, as the mere existence of superhero films demonstrates. It is therefore both simultaneously inspiring that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” contained a cast of unprecedented diversity and disheartening that, despite the progress which was made, the producers were clearly too timid to go even further.
TheRoot hit harder, lamenting the film is “an utter fail for Marvel diversity.”
It’s nice that Spider-Man comes home to a nongentrified neighborhood, but the movie goes out of its way to let you know that white guys are still running things.
Even casting not one but two women of color as Peter Parker’s romantic foils leave this critic sour. Why? The actresses aren’t dark enough, apparently.
Arguably the biggest fail in Spider-Man: Homecoming are the two female leads: Laura Harrier as love interest Liz, and Zendaya playing red-headed Daria-esque “Michelle”—who comic fans think might be you-know-who from the Spider-Man canon. While some people praise the casting of two women of color in Peter’s life, it’s actually still faux diversity and re-enforcing the status quo…In Hollywood, comic book films’ diversity still means giving white guys their choice of mixed-race or light-skinned, Hollywood-approved women of color as love interests.
The Oregonian got some licks in as well.
All of the people of color in “Homecoming” are relegated to side roles. Next to Holland, Michael Keaton gets the most screen time and Robert Downey, Jr. also has an outsized role as Tony Stark.
Note: Downey has very little screen time.
The big problem with the new film for these critics? Spider-Man remains white, and the film franchise hasn’t adopted the mixed race Miles Morales character as the franchise’s Spider-man. Morales is the current Spider-Man found on Marvel Comics store shelves.
Even a half-black, half-Latino star in the blue and red tights may not satisfy The Oregonian.
Why not make him Asian? Or Middle Eastern? Maybe Native American? Peter Parker’s ethnicity was never a major factor in his experience as Spider-Man.
But what if the Marvel Cinematic Universe listened to its Social Justice Warrior critics? Imagine a black or Latino actor as Spider-Man. That would yield a new set of problems.
- He’s not empowered enough
- He’s too weak/he’s weaker than the previous, white Spider-Man
- Why did you make the character subservient to his aunt/the principal/the villain/J. Jonah Jameson?
- Why did the film make him black, when he could have been Asian? Or Middle Eastern? Or Native American?
For those new to the culture wars, no action is enough for SJWs, no gesture can prevent more and more complaints.
Diversity, on paper, is a good thing. Hollywood hasn’t offered enough opportunities to date for people of color. Seeing Peter Parker in a setting that accurately reflects the tale’s New York roots makes sense. And audiences are clearly relishing the new “Spidey” adventure given the robust ticket sales so far.
They aren’t complaining about the lack of super-duper diversity. And that’s what matters most.