Hello interweb, Nate here. So the casting choices for Spider-man: Homecoming has became more and more clear that the main goal in said choices is to make Peter Parker’s high school as racially diverse as humanly possible in order to accurately present a modern day High School in Queens, New York City. Because of this, an actress named Zendaya – who apparently have so far made a name for herself on the Disney Channel which I do not watch since Cartoon Network has all my favorite shows (except Miraculous Ladybug on Nick) but that’s besides the point – has been casted to play the character “Michelle” according to the Spider-man: Homecoming wikipedia page. However apparently rumors are spreading all over the internet that the name “Michelle” is actually a cover name to hide her true character which is none other than the character Mary Jane (hence the title of this post). Of course Zendaya is half-black and half-white – but of course since this is the internet the main priority is that she is black – and Mary Jane is 100% Caucasian so people are throwing a fit on why our white redheaded character is becoming black (wait a redheaded Caucasian becoming a black character? This kinda sounds familiar…hmmm *cough*WallyWest*cough*).
So I really didn’t do any research in confirming or denying the credibility of Zendaya secretly playing Mary Jane but honestly that’s only partially of what I want to talk about here and even beyond that this is just a rumor so I thought I’d mainly focus in the subject of changes to specific characters with our black Mary Jane as a reference whenever necessary. However on the subject of Mary Jane being played by a black actress, what are my opinions? Well beyond the fact that I just happen to like redheads I really don’t care. No seriously, I really don’t. There’s really nothing inherently important about Mary Jane being a white redhead; and the only reason she is is because the writers wanted her to conclude the storyline where Aunt May is trying to put Peter on a blind date and Peter doesn’t want to because he’s worried Aunt May will hook him up with someone he doesn’t like only for him to find out that she’s the most attractive women he ever seen. To achieve that, the artist basically drew Ann-Margret from Bye Bye Birdie who happens to be a white redhead herself. So if they do follow that story line than the most important element for it is really for the actress playing her to be pretty and I’m not going to comment on that. Honestly when it comes to changing a character’s ethnicity I care much more about it when it’s happening in the actual comics then I do when it’s happening in an adaptation. I mean Liz Allen was Caucasian in the comics but in the Spectacular Spider-man cartoon she was Hispanic and in Homecoming she’s being played by Laura Harrier who is black. Also, this is confirmed casting unlike Mary Jane who is still a rumor. So where’s the outraged over black and Hispanic Liz Allen?
Now one thing that I have been debating with myself quite recently, to the point where I have noticed a slight inconsistency on this blog (sorry about that), is whether or not diversity is really as important as people make it out to be and if so then how far do we go to achieve said diversity. Now don’t get me wrong, as a white male I have countless characters that share my skin color and gender that I’m well represented within comics and comic book adaptations, and while I do feel like there are quite a few superheroes that are women, people of color, and sexual orientations, they’re not quite as common as those who are not. However on the other hand, I don’t like Captain America because he is a white male I like Captain America because of what he represents. Likewise with someone like Peter Parker, I don’t like him because he’s a white male I like him because of the idea that someone as nerdy as me could secretly be a really strong superhero capable of many feats (granted you could argue that I can relate to him more because I’m a white male but still). And those are just characters that are similar to me on a biological level, my favorite X-Man is X-23 who is a woman and I don’t like her because she’s female I like her because of her tragic back story (seriously, read X-23: Innocence Lost) and how her character has evolved since. My second favorite X-Men is Nightcrawler and I’m not exactly blue nor do I look like a demon.
So this does leave me torn. On one hand I can understand why women, POC, and LGBT characters would want more representation as seeing themselves in their favorite heroes I guess makes you feel good about yourself or something, but on the other hand if you’re favorite character is your favorite character simply because they have a biological trait that you have in common with them then that seems kinda shallow to me (IE I like Superman because he’s a dude and I’m a dude). I also understand the argument that changing established characters is more preferred to some people because making a character like Iceman gay is more well known and visible to the public than creating an original character like Wiccan and Hulkling, on the other hand having characters be established as gay from the very beginning like Wiccan and Hulking does mean that stories with LGBT representation are out there and you just need to look for them. For LGBT characters I have made the opinion – and to an extent still hold the opinion – that you can change a character’s sexual orientation if it makes sense in the context of the story since sexual orientation isn’t exactly as public as one’s gender or ethnicity. However at the same time, some characters just shouldn’t have their sexual orientation changed since it really makes no sense whatsoever for Peter Parker to be gay. Even then, some people may be against a character having their sexual orientation changed if it so happens to be their favorite character. IE I suggested once that maybe Wonder Woman could be bisexual since she lived on an island with no men until her 20’s but at the same time what if Wonder Woman is someone’s favorite character and they want her to remain straight since that’s how she has been for 70+ years?
Coming back to Zendaya as Mary Jane, I’m honestly way more flexible with non-white actors playing white characters simply because these are characters and if an actor can portray them well than their skin color shouldn’t be super important. Will Smith playing the traditionally white Deadshot? Sure, he did fine with the role! Samuel L Jackson playing the traditionally white Nick Fury? Dude that’s awesome! Now to be completely honest with you, having white actors playing non-white characters I’m fine with to so long as not being white isn’t a huge part of the character. The only problem with that is most non-white characters have the fact that they’re people of color as an important feature n their character. Luke Cage, Black Panther, and Static Shock are all black, Blue Beetle is Mexican, Miles Morales is half-black half-Hispanic, etc. Now this have gone into what people have called “white washing” which is seen as racist but honestly I feel like ethnicity is just becoming a bigger deal than it needs to be. Like there was a controversy over the casting of Iron Fist as Danny Rand, who is a white dude, is being played by Finn Jones, a white dude, in the Netflix series but people argued that an Asian dude should play him because of his ties with Asian culture. So we’re whitewashing a character who was white to begin with???? Also a follower of mine told me they weren’t going to see the new Doctor Strange movie because they made a Tibetan Monk a white woman (I think), and I’m not condoning them or anything since they can spend their money however they want and I’m not going to tell someone they’re wrong for spending their money that way, but it did make me scratch my head at just how seriously people take these castings and the ethnicity behind them.
Ultimately I just think that people are taking these things a tad too seriously. Overall I’m just kinda tired of worrying about this so much. Honestly the biggest worry I have with having the MCU Mary Jane black is that the comics will soon follow suite and make their Mary Jane black through some retcon. Cause that has been happening a lot recently. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver aren’t mutants nor related to Magneto anymore, the X-Men are dying because of Fox and Marvel’s pencil measuring contest, etc. And if Mary Jane does become black in the comics than…idk. Fans will get all pissy with Marvel again. Look guys can’t we just get along and stop making everything so PC and make every character’s biology such a big deal? Anyways, that’s my 2 cents on the matter. Bye.