Last week a rumour was circulating that Queen Zendaya may be playing the much-loved role of Mary-Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming‘. Although ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ will be the first stand alone movie since Spider-Man made his move from Sony to Marvel, it wasn’t this fact that drew in attention, but instead that a mixed race actress would be portraying the character, typically described as having white skin and red hair. Tbh, we couldn’t be happier.
Zendaya has been confirmed as being involved with the ‘Spider-Man’ movie for some time now, however there was a lot of mystery surrounding who exactly she’d be playing. Her character was awarded the name of Michelle, prompting fans to believe she could be acting as Michelle Gonzales. However, this didn’t match up to the timeline in which ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is expected to take place, the character featuring further along in Peter Parker’s lifetime.
‘The Wrap’ came out with the exclusive we’d all been waiting for, though, announcing that two individuals involved with the project had reason to believe she would be playing none other than the iconic role of Spider-Man’s love interest Mary Jane, alongside Tom Holland as the superhero himself. The role of Mary Jane seemed far more fitting, as ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ brings us back to Peter Parker’s high school years, Zendaya of whom was tipped to have a ‘key role’.
With Zendaya being a generally pretty kickass lady, the news was met with a lot of virtual screaming — tweets stuck in cap lock, that is. And that was just us. The internet practically imploded with support for a fresh look on the familiar character of Mary Jane.
In an industry known for its careless white-washing, and many superhero films under its belt lacking in any real diversity, Mary Jane’s role being filled by Zendaya, a person of colour, will be a huge step in the right direction. One, many peope we think will agree, has been a long time coming. However, that didn’t stop a wave of ignorance from gate-crashing our party. Uh, rude.
There was a plethora of racist comments from so-called diehard fans of the comics. They felt it was an outrage and didn’t remain true to the original characterisation of Peter Parker and his love interest, Mary Jane, who, up until now, had been portrayed exclusively as a red haired white girl.
With Mary Jane’s shoes already been filled by the likes of Kirsten Dunst in the past, isn’t it time to make a new statement with such an iconic character? The very thing that keeps these superheroes alive is the way in which, time and time again, each new director takes the characters and their storylines in different directions. We’re not tired of Spider-Man yet, because each film has, for the most part, bettered its predecessor, adding a new side to characters we know and love.
What’s more, Mary Jane’s defining qualities aren’t that she’s a white woman with flaming red hair. Mary Jane slays because she’s fearless, strong and there for Peter in his times of need. She’s beautiful and to say a black woman, or any other actress that isn’t white, can’t play her is a completely narrow-minded point of view and, lets be real here, outright racist.
The backlash against the so-called ‘MJ controversy’ has been pretty gross, but our faith in humanity has been somewhat restored by the likes of ‘Spider-Man’ writer, Dan Slott and prominent figure at Marvel, James Gunn.
James Gunn, who unfortunately was unable to confirm whether or not the rumours of Zendaya playing MJ are actually true, made his own statement on the news:
“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. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics – she’s a tall, thin model – much more so than actresses have in the past.”
Dan Slott also posted a series of tweets in regards to Zendaya’s potential involvement within ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ as Mary Jane, absolutely wiping the floor with all the dirty haters that, tbh, we don’t got time for.
Characters featured in superhero movies, and indeed any film big or small, need to reflect the society we live in. Seeing Mary Jane portrayed as black, asian, or as a freakin’ eskimo shouldn’t be a concern to us, as long as the person playing her does the person she is beneath her skin pigment justice.
Heck, if a director out there wants to make Mary Jane a dude, we will be applauding madly from the sidelines. In fact, we’ll be screeching so loud only dogs will be able to hear, because who wouldn’t love Spider-Man to be portrayed as a homosexual man?!
Sexual orientation, race, or any other way in which we may choose to identify ourselves shouldn’t be a filter for who does and doesn’t fit neatly into the superhero qualities box.
So whether or not Zendaya is destined for her superhero movie debut as Mary Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ or not (and we really hope she is), this should be a message for everyone. We all have the potential to be whoever we want to be and anyone who thinks something as silly as skin colour changes that… Well, the 1950s called and they want their skewed social injustice back.
We love love LOVE the idea of black Mary Jane. We kind of can’t help thinking of all the other endless possibilities. A black Sleeping Beauty? An asian Cat Woman? Yaaas, give it to us right now.
Tweet us @maximumpop with your thoughts on a POC Mary Jane, representation in film and if you think Zendaya would absolutely kill it like we do? Tbh, we’re praying the rumours are true, because we absolutely need our girl to prove just how good she is.