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THE DEVIN'S ADVOCATE: WHY IS SPIDER-MAN WHITE?

post #1 of 444
Thread Starter 
Thoughts brought about by the Donald Glover/Spider-Man brouhaha.

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post #2 of 444
My parents used to get me cheap knock-off SPIEDERMAN comics, so I always thought he was Jewish.
post #3 of 444
Hahaha i love that the first commenter misses the point entirely.
"Why isn't he a horse?"
post #4 of 444
Really excellent Advocate. I was digging the idea of Glover as Parker for a while there. Had no idea the internet got all crazy about it.
post #5 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Ripoll View Post
My parents used to get me cheap knock-off SPIEDERMAN comics, so I always thought he was Jewish.
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/122574

http://www.aish.com/ci/a/48937112.html
post #6 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by idiot
Why isn't spiderman a horse? Because he's human in the comics. Why doesn't Spiderman have an incestous relationship with Aunt May? Because he doesn't in the comics.
wut?

EDIT: Spiderman gets fisted in the comics, as the Chud writers like to often point out, so I guess we better put that in the movie.
post #7 of 444
That's why I refuse to watch any of the Raimi movies. Get me a Coen brother, get me Jason Segel, I like my comic book movies to be accurate!
post #8 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tati View Post
Hahaha i love that the first commenter misses the point entirely.
"Why isn't he a horse?"
That comment speaks to something else that always bugs me, which is the literalism of many people, fanboys in particular. The kind of people who think that Blood Meridian could never work as a film because no actor resembles Judge Holden as Cormac McCarthy describes him.

I wonder if that's a wholly different issue, or if there is some overlap with the race issue.
post #9 of 444
Essential vs. Accidental properties. Thank you, remaindered copy of Plato and a Platypus Walked Into a Bar.
post #10 of 444
Fun Fact: The Astro City stand-in for Spiderman, Jack-in-the-Box, is black. He's essentially the same character, and it feels like a really natural fit to me.
post #11 of 444
Oh, and let me continue the love for this Advocate.
post #12 of 444
Devin, that was a really really great advocate. As time goes on and caucasians stop being the majority ethnicity in the US (isn't that quite close to happening soon anyway? Like, only a few years off?), that default lilly-white position film and TV comes from will look simply more and more absurd.
post #13 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Rain Dog View Post
As time goes on and caucasians stop being the majority ethnicity in the US (isn't that quite close to happening soon anyway? Like, only a few years off?),
Not just yet.
post #14 of 444
I'd say Peter Parker is white and nerdy for the same reason Bella in twilight is mopey and horrible, they're written to be relatable to the audience they're going after. So I think the sad thing is that the angry nerds can see a guy who is on every level the same as them bar one, and think "well how am I gonna relate to that?"
post #15 of 444
Great article. I don't think this is a situation where fanboys are racist as such (no doubt some of them are though), I just think they are idiots who don't understand their connection to the character. They may buy the comics every week but they probably have very little understanding as to why they actually liked the character in the first place.

The problem, for the most part is their media consumption. These fanboys (and I know I'm generalizing a little) are probably only reading (including novels) super hero comics. I can't tell you the amount of people I've met who joke that they don't need to read novels because they read comics. They probably don't think about the comic they've read beyond entertainment and that is why these characters are so superficial to them. I wonder if it goes back to the idea of comic books (single issues) being such a disposable medium.

So yeah, I think it goes a lot deeper than just being racist.
post #16 of 444
Sorry, bar 2 things (unless they happen to have been bitten by a radioactive spider also)
post #17 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
Sometime between 2042 and 2050 if Wikipedia is to be trusted.
post #18 of 444
"White by default" -- I'm going to steal that phrase.
post #19 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by DGHarm View Post
They probably don't think about the comic they've read beyond entertainment and that is why these characters are so superficial to them. I wonder if it goes back to the idea of comic books (single issues) being such a disposable medium.
Ironically, the ultra-fanboys are probably really really careful about keeping their comics in mint or near mint condition as opposed to treating them disposably. Which I suppose ties in better, since that type of treatment so that they stay unchanged is the type of pedantic treatment that they want in an adaptation.

Superficial readings, but strict adherence to the surface level.
post #20 of 444
I do think it's a mixture of people's racial stereotyping and the fanboys need to have every comic panel exactly replicated. However, the one thing that people always say when Daredevil comes up is "Kingpin isn't black!". Really? That's the thing that bothered you, out of all the garbage in that movie?

Actors like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte have done a lot for bringing strong, fully formed black characters to the screen, but you know who else I dug? The black military guy in the original Manchurian Candidate. He's not a major character in the film, but in no way is his race commented on or relevant to the story. Point being: It's good to have characters that show the differences between people from different backgrounds, but it's equally important to have characters that emphasize how much alike we truly are.

The fact that we have a black president in office is a sign of major progress. The fact that his race is the only thing that people seem to dwell on, on either side of the aisle, shows that we've still got a long way to go.
post #21 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by neoolong View Post
Ironically, the ultra-fanboys are probably really really careful about keeping their comics in mint or near mint condition as opposed to treating them disposably. Which I suppose ties in better, since that type of treatment so that they stay unchanged is the type of pedantic treatment that they want in an adaptation.

Superficial readings, but strict adherence to the surface level.
Good point. I should clarify that what I meant by disposable though was the idea that it takes about 10 minutes (if that, I don't have exact figures) to read a comic book. Once you're done, if you are a regular stack buyer, you then move on to the next one.

I wonder how many readers actually put a comic book down and contemplate subtextual ideas of the stories (to be fair, if they have any). I mean, I know people who go "wow I wonder what this means for next issue," but that isn't really the same thing.

If I know I am going to finish a novel on any given day while on public transport, I wont take another novel with me. It feels as if I am cheating the novel I have just read if I immediately begin another one.
post #22 of 444
Man, this reminds me of when the first Iron Man was out in theaters. A bunch of assholes in the top row blew their shit when Fury popped up after the credits. And it wasn't a joke either, they were hurling racial slurs at the screen like it was their civic duty to point out that the character was originally white (regardless of whether or not Jackson was more in line with Ultimate continuity).
post #23 of 444
Comics are a very visual medium. I suspect a lot of people fall in love with what they see as much as what they read and that is why they get attached to things that really have no actual connection to character (ie: clothes, race, hair color... whatever).

I would like to think that people aren't really up in arms about the color of Peter Parker's skin as they are the inaccuracy of that visual. Change Spider-Man's colors to black and green and you'll get the same kind of backlash.

That said, I'm sure there are many folks out there that are simply racist and have some sad issues with "them" taking everything over, which is a shame.

Mr. Burgess certainly isn't happy about the idea that's for sure.
post #24 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teitr Styrr View Post
Sometime between 2042 and 2050 if Wikipedia is to be trusted.
That statistic is sort of BS, though -- 2042 is when non-Hispanic whites are expected to become a minority, except by 2042, most Hispanic whites will be third, fourth, or fifth generation Americans, and will likely be as thoroughly Americanized as Irish- or Italian-Americans are today.

I literally wrote my MA thesis on that statistic and its historical equivalents. We keep making these predictions and we keep being wrong about them, because calling a group of people "white" is less about placing them into a clear-cut racial or ethnic category as it is an attempt to normalize them by placing them into the default category.

Anyway, continuing my musing on this topic from the other thread, it's interesting to see people try to figure out how essential race is to various characters. To side briefly with the naysayers -- and again, I do love the idea of Don Glover as Peter Parker -- I don't think it's terribly healthy to pretend that the race of a character isn't evocative to most of us in certain ways. Even white characters, used as a default, are evocative, in that they put most of us (who are, presumably, white ourselves) more at ease. It's not nice, it's not good, but I think if people are honest with themselves they'll find it hard to deny. Which seems to create a dilemma for artists -- do you exploit people's racially-based feelings and emotions when you're constructing a character or a scene or a tone, or do you handicap your work in the name of progressivism? And it is a handicap, it's not like we're blind to tokenism. Think back to those science textbooks with the rainbow coalition of happy students -- they're trying to be inclusive and race-blind, but it feels off, and somehow insincere.

To use a less controversial example, I just watched the trailer for the Karate Kid remake. And the tone of it is completely different because the main character is black. Make him white, and you've got a Last Samurai situation, where the whole story has uncomfortable imperial undertones. When he's black, you don't feel quite as strange about a newcomer coming into China and beating the Chinese kids at their own game -- after all, African-Americans never fought in an Opium War. On one hand, artists should strive to be colorblind, but on the other, an artist ignores these things at his own peril.
post #25 of 444
I'm glad that Devin mentioned some fan boy's obsession with detail. I do believe that for some people Peter's ethnicity is as important as the design of the suit and I would hope that those people would feel the same if, say, a white actor was cast a Falcon or Blade. There are, though, folk have a more malicious view on it and that's ugly.
post #26 of 444
The Last Airbender 'race-bending' issue (or 'issue' for most of the folks around here, no contempt meant) made it all the way to the local Minneapolis paper today. I realized reading that, then Devin's article that I could be considered a hypocrite for supporting a black Spider-Man while being incensed by a bunch of white people playing pretend, alternate universe Asians. Does this equate me to these people that can't handle their favorite white comic book character as black?
post #27 of 444
And mulling for a bit on my earlier point, even if race is sometimes used as a dramatic shorthand, I think Peter Parker's status as an iconic figure actually makes his race less important.

If you have a character whose past is largely unknown, changing that character's race is going to effect -- maybe dramatically effect -- your expectations regarding that character's upbringing, behavior, whatever.

But that's not the case with Spider-man. Make him whatever color you want, you can still safely assume all the details are in place: nerd, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Mary-Jane, radioactive spider, and so on. So much of the character's history is already locked in, the suggestive power of his race is greatly diminished.

So basically... hey, Sony, hire this guy.
post #28 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe Powers View Post
The Last Airbender 'race-bending' issue (or 'issue' for most of the folks around here, no contempt meant) made it all the way to the local Minneapolis paper today. I realized reading that, then Devin's article that I could be considered a hypocrite for supporting a black Spider-Man while being incensed by a bunch of white people playing pretend, alternate universe Asians. Does this equate me to these people that can't handle their favorite white comic book character as black?
I really think it depends on your motives. If you're seeing it as Hollywood whitening up what should naturally be Asian characters out of racism, I don't think that makes you the same as these crazed fanboys.

If you're incensed because it isn't exactly how the cartoon was designed and/or you're racist towards white people, then it might make you similar.
post #29 of 444
I just find it funny that non-American Whites i.e. Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine and Eric Bana playing Hulk; people don't say shit. Isn't the new Thor being played by a non-American as well? White Power indeed.

Shit. If it were up to me, I'd make the new Spider-Man Indian and/or Chinese. I'm going where the money's at. The haters can eat a dick whilst I'm counting the green. The only skin color that truly counts.
post #30 of 444
Great, thoughtful write-up. Not totally sold on Glover in the part (I kind of think he's too handsome to pull off a total nerd, even if he really was one growing up), but if it would get more people to watch Community, I'd happily put Chevy Chase in the tights.
post #31 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teitr Styrr View Post
Sometime between 2042 and 2050 if Wikipedia is to be trusted.
So around 2042-2050 the "White Shaft", "Latino Lando" and "Asian Zorro" campaigns can start? (i kid, i kid)

Asperger is now an insult/dig? You learn something everyday.
Good advocate, but I'm going to be the jackass who cant help but wonder if black people in Spider-man's casual audience actually give a crap if Spider-man is black/white/asian/gooback for heaven's sake.
The "black" Superman in Morrison's "Final Crisis" shows that its the costume and spirit/characterization of a character that usually makes him iconic, not it's race....then again, there is the the whole "roots" of the character to think about.
post #32 of 444
Those comments... Jesus Christ

Quote:
Originally Posted by Speeder Man
WHY IS SPIDER-MAN WHITE? Because he is in the comics. Why isn't spiderman a horse? Because he's human in the comics. Why doesn't Spiderman have an incestous relationship with Aunt May? Because he doesn't in the comics. Where does it end?
It's like some dipshit at the Family Research Council saying, "If we allow Gays to marry, soon we'll have people wedding dogs and... and their own mothers!"

If a black guy's playing Spider-Man, before you know it, he'll be horse screwing Aunt May! Have any of you people considered that!?
post #33 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sphere_Monk View Post
I really think it depends on your motives. If you're seeing it as Hollywood whitening up what should naturally be Asian characters out of racism, I don't think that makes you the same as these crazed fanboys.

If you're incensed because it isn't exactly how the cartoon was designed and/or you're racist towards white people, then it might make you similar.
Right on.

Fantastic Advocate. These things just lead right into another!

And once again, what it comes back to for me is that having a black Spider-man has nothing to do with why I would want Donald Glover to get a chance at the part. He's a talented guy that seems like he would do a great job in the part.

And when it comes to The Last Airbender... there's a lot more shenanigans going on there than white people taking all the parts. That, and the fact that it's actually a done deal. Glover as Spider-man is simply a really cool wish.
post #34 of 444
Derrick Comedy should put together Donald Glover's Spider-Man audition video. Dominic Dierkes and D.C. Pierson can play street thugs, Meggie McFadden can play Mary Jane and Dan Eckman can direct.
post #35 of 444
What would be hilarious is if Glover's final punchline to this experiment is a horribly embarassing audition video.

It'd be streets ahead.
post #36 of 444
Im going to try my hand at a dickish comment play-play here:

"Devin HATES Superheroes, so he would feel different if this was about shoving PC in a franchise he actually loved. Why cant Kirk be Black and Uhura Asian, eh? Eh? How about making the Apes in POTA into Cats, eh? Why do they have to be Apes, justs because they were so in the book? Thats being shorminded and an Speciest! WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF "PLANET OF THE CATS"? WOULD YOU?"
post #37 of 444
Outside of your typical Tea Party people hate black people comment (which could be true to an extent isn't overall and paints a brush as retarded as the fanboys racism you so expertly pointed out oh don piano the irony but so very human) this was a great read.

Pretty much sums it up perfectly I think. I must admit that I was someone (not a fanboy because I didn't read the comics much) that thought Wolverine should be shorter than Jackman but i've come to realize that stuff* doesn't much matter.

I would hope the fanboys who aren't total ignorant racists would understand that stuff like organic webshooters or ethnic people playing white superheroes also doesn't matter as long as the spirit of the characters stays the same.

* Sidenote after walking out of a midnight screening of Iron Man (original) my friend who is Latino says" what the hell why was Samuel Jackson playing Nick Fury he's white in the comics? "(obviously never saw the Ultimates version) I was disappointed and didn't have the heart to get into it with him but felt the way Devin does here that we still have a long way to go.
post #38 of 444
I knew this was coming. =) Anyway, I can only beat my original point (from the other thread) to death, and even if I could do more I really should work on going to sleep now, so I'll just mention this: It was either a documentary or an article, but I very much recall Stan Lee claiming that Spider-Man was created with every kind of kid in mind. In costume you couldn't see any of his features so that allowed the reader to place themselves behind the mask w/out any kind of incongruity. Anyone can be Spider-Man. Now, Lee could just be talking, as he is wont to do, but whether that was the intent or not, the idea that he at the very least can appreciate that aspect of the character's appeal is interesting to me.

That being said, whatever Lee's intention, Spider-Man doesn't spend 100% of his time in costume, and what you're left with is a character who, to a great extent, was not made to buck tradition or rock the boat as it were. Therein lies the rub.

On a personal note, as someone who grew up reading superhero comics, I have to say I never imagined myself as one of them, perhaps because I'm a DC guy, and with those characters, you're more of a spectator in an Olympian soap opera.
post #39 of 444
I'm afraid to actually scroll down through the comments, but has anyone actually given a reason why Spider-Man has to be white besides 'he's not a horse'?
post #40 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Daywalker View Post
Outside of your typical Tea Party people hate black people comment (which could be true to an extent isn't overall and paints a brush as retarded as the fanboys racism you so expertly pointed out oh don piano the irony but so very human)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFc9Buyul6w
post #41 of 444
About fifteen years ago, I think after Val Kilmer announced he wouldn't play Batman again, I suggest Denzel Washington as his replacement on rec.arts.movies and got to see an early (and probably smaller) version of this freakout. I actually like this choice less now - Denzel is simply a different type of actor than he was then - but I got a lot of the same reactions.

Ultimately, as long as the character's ethnicity isn't an important part of them, and especially isn't clearly defined, I see it as potentially mutable. When it is defined, it's a different story. Regarding comics, that means mainly changing the vague-probably-WASPs that are about 95% of characters created prior to 1980 or so.

When a character does have a distinct ethnic identity, one that's an integral part of the character, it's a different story, of course. I think the only race change that was ever proposed that I had the slightest issue with was the Thing, and it's because he has a very specific, and explicit, New York Jewish identity. Kingpin, on the other hand, had absolutely nothing. Spider-Man's got no real ethnic identity to speak of, so I'm okay with it.
post #42 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Daywalker View Post
Sidenote after walking out of a midnight screening of Iron Man (original) my friend who is Latino says" what the hell why was Samuel Jackson playing Nick Fury he's white in the comics? "(obviously never saw the Ultimates version) I was disappointed and didn't have the heart to get into it with him but felt the way Devin does here that we still have a long way to go.
A minor detour. His screen time is brief, but SLJ is terrible in the role. He actually sucks at playing a character that was modeled after him. That's something of an accomplishment I think.
post #43 of 444
I don't see skin colour I just see a good actor.
post #44 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Allen View Post
I'm afraid to actually scroll down through the comments, but has anyone actually given a reason why Spider-Man has to be white besides 'he's not a horse'?
The usual "because thats how he was created in the first place" and "stop shoving PC into everything" arguments have been made.
Okay, once again, not being a dick here, but I cant help imagine that most of the persons out there who support "black spider-man" are probably not black themselves.
post #45 of 444
A comment actually gave me pause, a) because the poster wondered how people would react to a female spider-man, and b) because a comment would be worth reading. I don't see how a black, asian, Indian, whatever spider-man changes the internal dynamics of the character itself. But, and I'm kind of worried that I have this reaction, a female spider-man might. But it all depends on execution, really. But still, I might be closer to those mouth-breather aspies that we all love belittling so much than I thought.
post #46 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ali View Post
A comment actually gave me pause, a) because the poster wondered how people would react to a female spider-man, and b) because a comment would be worth reading. I don't see how a black, asian, Indian, whatever spider-man changes the internal dynamics of the character itself. But, and I'm kind of worried that I have this reaction, a female spider-man might. But it all depends on execution, really. But still, I might be closer to those mouth-breather aspies that we all love belittling so much than I thought.
Hell, screw this black/asian/latino Spider-man bussiness, i want to see Aspie Spider-man now.
post #47 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by ryoken View Post
Im going to try my hand at a dickish comment play-play here:

"Devin HATES Superheroes, so he would feel different if this was about shoving PC in a franchise he actually loved. Why cant Kirk be Black and Uhura Asian, eh? Eh? How about making the Apes in POTA into Cats, eh? Why do they have to be Apes, justs because they were so in the book? Thats being shorminded and an Speciest! WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF "PLANET OF THE CATS"? WOULD YOU?"
DOGS AND CATS, LIVING TOGETHER. MASS. HYSTERIA.

Also, female spidey would totally kick ass. I'm down.
post #48 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Savage View Post
I don't see skin colour I just see a good actor.
As does Kenneth Brannagh. If I can beat my "I heart Idris Elba" drum again, that was inspired casting. It was an example of the actor matching the character so perfectly that his ethnicity didn't matter.
post #49 of 444
post #50 of 444
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ali View Post
A comment actually gave me pause, a) because the poster wondered how people would react to a female spider-man, and b) because a comment would be worth reading. I don't see how a black, asian, Indian, whatever spider-man changes the internal dynamics of the character itself. But, and I'm kind of worried that I have this reaction, a female spider-man might. But it all depends on execution, really. But still, I might be closer to those mouth-breather aspies that we all love belittling so much than I thought.
Women, generally, are not men. There are actual physiological differences between them. Black guys and white guys are... pretty much the same. There may be societal differences between them, but that's it.

And to me that's the big difference. I'm all for more female heroes, although I would like to see women writing them, as men tend to write them as guys with tits. But the reality is that a black guy and a white guy raised in essentially the same socioeconomic setting will have essentially the same experiences.

There's a weird contingent online (ie, racists) who don't get this, who seem to think that blackness isn't just a color, but it's a literally different race. I mean, there are cultural things, just as there are cultural things I carry as an Italian. But I think in the end those cultural things are minor, and there's a spot in the modern black experience where a Peter Parker could fit in.
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