Spider"Man"?

STORY BY James Sullivan

Published: November 11, 2013

When he suggested that they explore Spider-Man's bisexuality in the franchise's upcoming sequels, with the Mary Jane character being a man, and the object of the notorious web-crawler's affections. I think I wasn't alone in acting not only surprised but also to some extent annoyed by this suggestion – not necessarily what one might attribute to some kind of homophobia, but generally an annoyance with the direction in which the rebooted franchise, revived five short years since the reins were taken from Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire, has been headed. It is as though the creative team at Sony saw how much money Nolan's Dark Knight franchise was making and decided to go with a darker spin on the Spider-Man mythology, not because it's in his character or the source material of course, but simply because it sells.

I'm not at all against exploring the character, but rather than build from what Peter Parker was, a hapless, detached nerd, they made him into an emo kid – as though for the reboot they just decided to make it seem as if the boy was always the character he was in Spider-Man 3, a change that in no way could have coincided with the last of the Twilight franchise being released into theaters. I'm not sure if Garfield was just doing this for the fans and what traffic it might catch on Twitter, or if he was actually speaking out against this particular trend – making the romantic subplot being something safe, that would catch a huge demographic when he said this – i.e, the crowd that would otherwise be watching Twilight, which is substantially larger than what was the turnout for say Brokeback Mountain.

However, I soon found myself questioning his suggestion, and if there will ever come a time at which it is deemed appropriate for a superhero to have a same-sex love interest in a mainstream released film. I suspect the time may not be far off, as we've had something of a break since Batman & Robin and the revivedX-Men franchise is again taking off, with Bryan Singer, who had been credited with using X2 as an allegory for the experience of homosexuals being integrated into society – showing a world where mutants are not only despised for their abilities, but persecuted by their own government.

Even before the writing of the X-Men comic strip, had been the long running speculation that Batman and Robin were gay, further fueled by an Oct 1954 issue in which they are seen sharing the same bed. Although Schumacher, also a homosexual, directed comic book movies just as Singer's career was taking off, unfortunately, their bright neon sets and suits with nipples (coupled with crotch shots), just served to reinforce negative stereotypes rather than advance gay causes.

Even The Last Stand, which kept up the themes of X2, did in a much less subtle way than Singer's films – and this was largely because its director Brett Ratner merely picked up where his predecessor left off, but with little insight into what being gay in American society was like. Both franchises (DC and Marvel, respectively) were comic book movies, but X-Men is much weightier in the way of its messages and themes. I think that if a superhero franchise were to tackle a same-sex love interest, it would have to be with characters that demand a more serious and subtle approach, in order to get the acceptance it deserves.

Other Stories by James Sullivan
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