Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why it’s so fantastic that Zendaya will play Mary Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

Image from Refinery29

For the first time in the character’s 50-year-long history, Spider-Man’s long-time love interest Mary Jane Watson will be portrayed by a black woman.

The Wrap reported that actress and singer Zendaya would be playing Mary Jane in next summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise helmed by both Marvel and Sony that would bring the adventures of Peter Parker into Marvel’s already sprawling cinematic universe.

Even though she’s often written as being Peter Parker’s damsel in distress, Mary Jane is as important a part of Spider-Man’s mythos as the radioactive spider that bit him or even Uncle Ben. Mary Jane isn’t just the girl that Peter has a crush on—she plays a key role in binding together the friends and family that he holds so dear and ultimately becomes one of the first people to discover his secret identity.

Flash Thompson, Peter’s high school nemesis, Ned Leeds, Peter’s best friend, and Liz Allan, another of Peter’s love interests, are all traditionally white characters who will be played by actors of color in Homecoming. After years of depicting Peter Parker’s Queens neighborhood of being a bubble of lily-whiteness, Sony’s finally decided to better reflect the actual communities that Spider-Man defends, and that’s a very good thing.

Zendaya’s casting as Mary Jane makes it abundantly clear that, for the first time ever, there’ll be a series of Spider-Man stories that doesn’t focus solely around the lives of white people. That’s incredibly important, because a story of great power coming with great responsibility means so much more when you can see yourself in it.

Actors Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya at Marvel's San Diego Comic-Con International 2016.
Image from Fusion

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