How do you make the next Spider-Man movie, the sixth in the series and the second reboot in just a few years, feel fresh? How can you honor the beloved (and frankly, excellent) origin of Spider-Man without making audiences feel like they've already sat through this movie twice before? How do you shake it up enough to remind people why Spider-Man, who was once the underdoggiest of all underdog heroes, was so unique?
Well, you could make him black.
According to The Wrap's Jeff Sneider that's just what Sony is considering with their new Marvel co-op Spidey movie. Talking on the Schmoes Know network Meet The Movie Press show, Sneider said:
"This is not set in stone guys, but I'm telling you right now: Spider-Man is not going to be white," he said. "I really feel strongly - Sony has an opportunity to beat Marvel and DC to the punch with sort of a major black comic book movie character. Like I mentioned last week, the [Sony] e-mails that leaked were perceived to be racist in some quarters. I really think that is going to play into things."
It's hard to parse out what is information Sneider has heard and what is speculation, but this makes sense to me. He went on to say that he didn't believe Spider-Man would be Peter Parker at all, but I kind of wonder if that's likely. Knowing who is working on this project at Marvel, and knowing their attachment to the character, I feel like the studio would really want a Peter Parker, complete with all his friends and foes, in their universe.
But why does Peter Parker have to be white? There's literally no reason at all. Nothing about Peter Parker is hard-coded as white, and changing his race changes literally nothing about his personality or his origin. It isn't like "Parker" is some kind of ethnicity-specific surname, and it isn't like Queens, New York (or even, more specifically the Forest Hills area where Peter is from) is some sort of whites-only enclave.
Making Peter black doesn't change anything about the character but it suddenly opens up a whole new sense of excitement about a hero we've seen again and again onscreen. At the very least the movie will be unique optically - we'll see a Peter Parker we've never seen before. But there's one more reason why I love a black Spider-Man: The Avengers.
I've written before that I want a very young Spidey because I like the way his youth sets him apart from the 30 and 40somethings of The Avengers. Having him be black is another great way of setting him apart, of reminding us that Spider-Man is, in every possible way, different from these guys. He's a black kid from Queens standing next to a trust fund billionaire and a god and a living legend from WWII (although it's worth noting that Steve Rogers, skinny kid from Brooklyn would probably feel more kinship with Peter than vice versa). I want Spider-Man to feel as unique in that gathering as possible, I want him to be as self-aware of the things that set him apart as possible.
That's in-universe. In the real world having a black Peter Parker would be about the most exciting way for Marvel to strike an amazing blow for progress. This wouldn't be a replacement black Spider-Man. It wouldn't be a new character in the suit. It would be the original character, just with a new paint job. It would be the most popular superhero in the world, changed to reflect more of the world than he had before. Us white folks had five white Peter Parker movies (and I think both actors were great in the role, in different ways). It's time to graciously step aside and share these toys with the rest of the world.
One last thing: everything I have heard is that Marvel is calling most of the shots on this new movie. There's been a lot of language in the press to help Sony avoid some embarrassment, to make this look less like admitting defeat. I think Marvel is savvy enough, plugged in enough and good enough at PR to at the very least have some black actors considered for the role. I wouldn't be shocked if some names got leaked in the coming months just to let us know that Marvel is at least considering a black Peter Parker, even if they end up going white again.