Should Spider-Man be gay?

Spider-Man kissing dudes upside-down, sans rain. Photo by Philip Bonneau, stolen from Project Q Atlanta.
Spider-Man kissing dudes upside-down, sans rain. Photo by Philip Bonneau, stolen from Project Q Atlanta.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than watching right-wingers lose their shit over people NOT treating homosexuals as eeeevul deviant pre-verts, except perhaps watching an entire media’s fandom lose their shit over an idea for injecting novelty into their favourite franchise that involves, you know, actually changing it. This is one of those rare celestial alignment type coincidences that is probably pretty unlikely to happen again any time soon. We should take careful note, and savour it for all it’s worth.

Andrew Garfield, star of the current iteration of Spider-Man movies — a franchise that, full disclosure, I absolutely love, and for which I found the Sam Raimi movies underwhelming at best — has suggested to the director, then publicly, that he sees no reason that Peter Parker shouldn’t be gay, exploring his sexuality in a rebooted universe where it turns out MJ is a guy.

Right-Wing Watch reports that this has majorly rustled the jimmies of Charisma’s Jennifer LeClaire:

Really? Don’t we have enough gay comic book heroes? About this time last year, DC Comics outed the Green Lantern. When he’s not wearing his neon-green garb and accomplishing superhuman feats, the chiseled Green Lantern enjoys kissing his new boyfriend. As I noted in my column last year, perhaps DC Comics was trying to compete with its rival, Marvel Comics, which announced just days earlier that it would host the first gay wedding in the June 20 issue of Astonishing X-Men #51.

Of course, Marvel Comics has long proved more progressive on the gay superhero front. Northstar, an X-Men character, became the first openly gay superhuman in American comic book history way back in 1992. Around that same time there was also speculation that Batman was about to come out of his caved closet, which would confirm decades-old rumors that Batman and Robin are much more than friends in tights.

Garfield’s push for a gay Spider-Man weaves a wicked web that could help deceive a generation. Make no mistake, same-sex marriage is not God’s plan.

DC is nowhere near as actually progressive as Marvel, it’s true. Which Green Lantern do you figure they made gay in the mainline universe, folks? Hal Jordan, of the recent movie foray? John Stewart, the black architect and ex-marine who starred in the Justice League cartoons? Guy Gardner, the uber-macho Lantern nobody actually likes because he’s like Duke Nukem with LESS class?

No, Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of the silver age, when GL was a magical superhero instead of a sci-fi-heavy space cop. They created a new parallel universe continuity for New 52, where that Green Lantern is a gay man named Alan Scott. They didn’t have the guts to change a current iteration hero.

It’s because of all this that I’d really like to see what might happen in a situation where you flipped the sexual proclivities of an established hero, in a domain where we’ve already established that there’s a multiverse inhabited by the same sorts of heroes over and over again, with subtle variations.

I’d like to point out that the current iterations of Peter Parker in the comic book canon are:

A) In the mainline universe, brainjacked — possibly permanently — by Doctor Octopus, who pulled a Mentok the Mind Taker with him, then KILLED the Peter Parker inhabiting Otto Octavius’ body. Meaning unless the writers pull some kinda reboot-of-the-mainline, or some sorta stupid rationalization for Parker re-emerging in his own brain, Peter’s not going to be exploring life, much less sexuality, any more.

B) In the Ultimate universe, he’s outright dead — replaced by a 13-year-old half-black, half-hispanic boy, over howls of protest by the usual “stop messing with our canon” assholes.

C) In the movie universe, rebooted twice with no continuity to the other comic lines, and consigned to a fate of being played as a relatively self-assured geek with a skateboard and zero “great responsibility”.

I see absolutely no reason, to Garfield’s point, why Peter Parker’s heterosexuality is a fixed point in this multiverse. Nothing ELSE about Peter Parker is sacrosanct! Very recently, in the mainline universe, they rewrote the entirety of the relationship with Mary Jane Watson as a result of Parker’s deal with the devil, to try to keep Aunt May alive. All so they could open Peter up to the possibility of relationships besides Mary Jane — like there’s no way a person might get romantically involved with someone else after having gotten married! And that’s also ignoring the fact that Ultimate Spidey passed on Mary Jane, the undisputed love of Parker’s life, in order to pursue a relationship with Kitty Pryde, of all people. So tell me again why we can’t mix that one thing up.

Oh, right, because of entitlement. Because “how dare you make the character I love look less like me in order to give people who are underrepresented someone who looks more like them”. As though there’s some kind of dearth of straight white men in comics! And yet these entitled douchebags flip the hell out any time something is changed. As though flipping Johnny Storm’s race to black, or Starbuck’s sex to female*, or Peter Parker’s sexuality to gay, makes anything else about those beloved characters different except that they now look that little bit less like you.

Honestly, that’s where most of the pushbacks against inclusivity come from, in every domain — yes, including movement atheism and skepticism. It’s the thought — the FEAR — that you might have to make specific changes to how things are done or said to benefit people who are slightly less like you. It’s the thought that something might break your monopoly stranglehold on the ideological purity of what you believe is your vested interest in the specific thing you love so dearly. It’s that it belongs to you, and how DARE someone try to change it so someone else might enjoy it too?

And that goes double for the bible-thumpers, who are astonished that anyone would challenge the established canon of their own particular fandom. Never before has the similarity between comic-book nerds and religious folks been so clearly defined. Because MY god says it shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be! How dare YOU defy MY god? Who believes what I believe? Who gave ME a society built the way I say it’s built, engineered by HIS hand to work exactly the way I expect it to?

This sort of ridiculous hyper-entitlement would be hilarious, if it didn’t have such wide-reaching social ramifications. It’s the single thing we honest rationalists have to fight hardest against — that entitlement that says “how dare you change something that I think belongs to me and me alone”, when that something is actually something we all share.

So, should Spider-Man be gay?

Why the fuck not?

* I know, BSG is not a comic, but sci-fi is nerd fodder nonetheless. Same deal.

Should Spider-Man be gay?

19 thoughts on “Should Spider-Man be gay?

  1. 1

    I found it weird, despite the well documented tendencies here, no one flipped out about Perry White being black in the current Superman movie universe, at least not in a highly visible way or about Jimmy Olsen being heavily implied to be gay in the previous movie. Do bigoted geeks just not care about Superman’s supporting characters? I know they care about Superman himself because there were highly publicized concerns that Bryan Singer was going to gay-up Clark.

  2. 2

    As though flipping Johnny Storm’s race to black, or Starbuck’s sex to female*,

    I am kind of annoyed they didn’t also make Susan black, really. As far as BSG goes, while you did get a gender switch for Starbuck and Boomer, there was a massive amount of whitewashing that went on relative to the original one.

  3. 3

    @Ace of Sevens

    I definitely saw a fair amount of freaking out over Perry White. Generally from the same crowds who were freaking out over Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Thor, but it was present.

    Also, for the record, I’ve been reading Spider-Man comics for over 20 years and I think a gay Peter Parker is a cool idea. It might actually add a new dimension to the character. Hell, replacing Peter Parker with Miles Morales in the Ultimate Universe turned out to be one of the smartest moves Marvel has ever made, despite the protests over that.

  4. 4

    I’m totally on board with making Spider-Man gay.

    I mean, just so long as we don’t change something important about the mythos.

    Like giving him organic webshooters. What a disaster THAT would be! Thank god nothing like that has ever happened.

  5. 5

    brizian: Donald Glover for Spider-Man. (Relevant bit starts at 1:05)

    By the way, I know I’m the token defender of copyright on here, but this is a great example of why the Public Domain is so important. Superheroes are modern mythology, and the ability to remix and retell those stories the way we do with fairy tales and ancient myths is vital for the growth of culture.

  6. 6

    I’d prefer a bisexual PP, the Gwen/ MJ/ PP love triangle would have an interesting slat on it.

    Also, I’d like to see a bi guy in geekdom who isn’t omnisexual. (Looking at you, Jack Harkness!)

  7. 8

    I consider it a sign of progress that this isn’t even the first lead actor in a comics-based movie to suggest that his character could or should have a male love interest. We’re moving towards the point where the angry fans who consider it a big deal just won’t be a major consideration to anyone.

  8. 9

    I’d prefer a bisexual PP, the Gwen/ MJ/ PP love triangle would have an interesting slat on it.

    Hmmm, it could become a Gwen/MJ/Peter/Flash Thompson (or Harry Osborn) love rectangle! Oh, the possibilities!

  9. 11

    I agree with several of the others that the outrage over changing the canon of an established character is starting to change. Yes, there are those that still are upset when a character they love is altered in some way, but what I think is important is how that change is handled; meaning is the change bringing a new depth to the character, and is it done in a way that doesn’t insult the idea of that character. Goodness knows I had read enough story comic book plots where the bad guy was now a good guy or vice versa…some done really well and others that I thought could have been done so much better.

    In the end we follow our beloved heroes (and even our beloved villains) because of the interesting things they do and experience. Each thing they do has be different than the thing before or the reader gets bored. And, as a gay geek myself, I have to say that the people responsible for creating the sci-fi and comic content that is loved so much are coming to the realization that it is not just a heterosexual white males genre…there are people of ALL backgrounds that enjoy these characters. And just because a character may have an aspect that is different from you doesn’t mean you can’t still relate to him or her. You don’t have to be bald to like Professor X or black to like Bishop.

  10. 12

    Ing@10: Corrected myself — I basically stopped reading sometime before One More Day in the mainline 616 universe, and so I was conflating his relationship with Kitty Pryde in Ultimate and the events post marriage retcon.

    SEE? This is all so fractious already! NOTHING should be set into stone tablets in this multiverse of continuities!

  11. 15

    And actually, Peter Parker is usually portrayed with this awkward high school outcast thing going on, which I think would go well thematically with being gay. (Or rather, bi, considering we’ve already seen him with Gwen Stacy – and bi people are even less represented than gay people, so even better.) I was already a big fan of Andrew Garfield in the Spidey suit – finally, my favorite wisecracking New Yorker actually sounds like a wisecracking New Yorker. That fandom just went up three points, just because Garfield had this idea.

    So far, though, Marvel’s experimentation with alternate sexuality has been very careful, restricted to obscure characters (would anyone even know who Northstar is if he wasn’t gay?) new characters (Wiccan/Hulkling ftw) and characters who nobody really liked and had no hope of interesting romantic chemistry with anyone anyway (Ultimate Colossus wtf). So I really doubt they’re going to let teh ghey infect an established, popular character that they could instead trivially have kissing girls. The only alternate sexual orientation Spider Man is going to have is upside-down.

  12. 16

    @brizian: I’m not sure it’s far to sat BSG had a lot of whitewashing. Tigh is the only character who changed from black to white. Boomer changed black to Asian and Athena changed white to Asian.

  13. 19

    Marvel has a long tradition of making alternate versions of their characters gay, anyway. More than one of the Exiles has been gay where the mainline counterpart was presumed straight, and there was a bit of a stir when the X-treme X-men Wolverine turned out to be gay, and actually have a pretty well-written relationship with his universe’s Hercules. And… Okay, I’m best at obscure trivia from X-continuities. I feel like I’m missing non-mutant LGBT alternates. The X-men are actually one of the more diverse angles, if not always well-done. Karma, Anole, Mystique (bi), Northstar, Shatterstar (bi)… Deadpool’s bisexuality is pretty well established, come to think.

    Anyway, movie Spidey is just one more iteration.

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