NYT Op-Ed Laments ‘Deep Structural Flaw’ In ‘Spider-Verse’

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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A New York Times op-ed, published Monday, decries a “deep structural flaw” in the most recent animated addition to the Marvel Comics Universe — “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.”

Author Lawrence Ware, who serves as co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University, touted “Spider-Verse” as the best of the Marvel films to date but worried that it presented a roadblock in his efforts to raise “woke” kids.

His children loved the movie, he explained, and that was problematic because that made it more difficult for him to use it to teach a lesson. Ware only hinted at what that lesson might be with references to more obvious offenders such as “Pocahontas” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” with its racially indelicate portrayals of black people in the form of the Skids and Mudflap characters, was an easy fix: I took away the film. They have not watched “Pocahontas” yet because the movie’s whitewashing of American history is too much for me — and, thankfully, the movie has not been requested.

We’ve discussed why films like “Revenge of the Fallen” and “Pocahontas” are a problem, and when we talk about the kind of racial stereotypes those films present (the ghettoized machines of the former, and the noble Indians vs. the violent savage dichotomy of the latter) they usually shrug their shoulders and move on to the next toy.

But when Ware’s children, ages eight and ten, both loved “Spider-Verse,” he saw a dilemma which he partially explained by saying, “Miles Morales, the first Afro-Latino Spider-Man, was the focus for the first half of the film, but, thereafter, he became a Spider-Man among Spider-Men. He was no longer the focus, and that puts me in a tough place as a father of young children.”

Ware’s main issue appears to be the fact that, in a movie built around a diverse cast of characters — two female spider-people, two male (one being Miles Morales) and Spider-Ham — and the concept that anyone could be a spider-man, the Afro-Latino character that he specifically identifies with doesn’t get the whole film to himself.

And because his kids loved the film so much, Ware says, “I have decided to lay aside analysis and allow them to love this movie … in spite of its flaws,” and resigns himself to letting his children “love imperfect things.” (RELATED: Stan Lee Has A Message For Fans In One Of His Final Interviews)

We cannot expect kids to be as woke as we are. When I was younger, my mother let me love imperfect things. I loved the second Indiana Jones film despite the racism. I loved the “The Bad News Bears” despite the racism and sexism of the character Tanner Boyle, a player on the team, and I loved “Dumbo” despite the jive-talking crows. With that in mind, my kids can love this Spider-Man film.

“What makes you different is what makes you Spider-Man,” the tagline’s obvious nod to diversity, apparently didn’t go far enough.


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