*spoilers for Zendaya’s role in Spider-Man: Homecoming ahead*
19 year-old Zendaya may be playing Mary Jane Watson in the newest Spider-Man film, to be released by Marvel July 2017, a rumour that has gotten the internet all a-flutter.
The biggest complaint? Well, Mary Jane’s red hair and skin color, of course. Thankfully, the voices of those with race-based issues have been overpowered by the numerous supporters of the casting choice (which hasn’t been confirmed by Marvel, but it sure hasn’t been denied, either). The loudest and most sane voice? James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, who posted a pretty powerful statement on his Facebook page August 19. Portions of the statement are in quotations below, but to read the entire thing, go to his FB page.
People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this. There are movies I dislike because I think there’s a basic misunderstanding of the story or the character when the comic is transferred to film (I still hate how in the first Batman movie the Joker was revealed as the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, for instance.)
That said, I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin.
Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the Internet (again).
I can’t respond to the racists – I’m not ever going to change their minds. But for the thoughtful majority of you out there:
For me, if a character’s primary attribute – the thing that makes them iconic – is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work.
Whatever the case, if we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be – and often are – happily surprised. -James Gunn
To quote Gunn–“for the thoughtful majority out there,” in my humble opinion, this casting is kind of perfect for the new, improved MCU. Zendaya is has great comedic timing–I love her on Disney’s “Shake it Up”, her character is hilarious. She also is conscience and proud of her blackness–see the dozens of comments she’s gotten about her hairstyles at award shows and her consistently thoughtful responses. She also has pretty great chemistry with Tom Holland, the actor who played Spiderman in Cap 3 and who will take the title role in the re-reboots. Spiderman: Homecoming is the MCU flick I have been least excited about–the reboots have tired me out–but I’m actually starting to get excited to see what this film will have to offer.