Jan 30, 2020
“I’m not saying Spiderman can’t be black or Hispanic, or whatever...BUT”
There’s always a “but” with some opinions.
“You don’t turn your back on something you’ve built for decades and throw it away”
So...differences equate to trash. Got it.
The nature of our podcast means that Anthony and I are at risk of being behind the latest controversy, and Miles Morales’ introduction is no exception. We missed the drama. On one hand, thank goodness, but on the other hand, I wish we had the same voice when this all went down a few years ago. There have been myriad remixes to characters in fiction. Why was Miles a lightning rod? What does disdain for him say about his detractors? Why is a psychiatrist spending spare time defending a person that doesn’t exist? Let’s dive in.
Uno: Miles is talented
So far, we’ve seen that Miles has his own interests, regardless of what his parents or uncle wanted for him. Add superpowers to the mix and you have someone who has potential to do great things. That makes him a target; he doesn’t necessarily want that. He wants to be a kid. Can’t fault that. In fact, the comic...nay, the entire entertainment industrial complex has made it’s bread on this backbone. Nothing wrong with that.
Dos: Miles has style
Okay, I’ll forgive the misstep of a uniform too close to the original. But the black base/red web look? That’s stellar. That’s sleek. AND camouflage/”invisibility?” Come on, man! How can people not love this!
Tres: Miles is biracial
let’s try again...Tres: Miles is Black and Latino
Well, what I (less threateningly) meant to say is Tres: Miles isn’t Peter Parker
Well, is that a problem? (Hint, it clearly is, for some)
There’s a common thread that a person will gravitate towards someone that represents them. Peter Parker represents underdogs, wisecracking industrious everymen, nerds, geeks (there IS a difference), and those who have lost someone close to them at a pivotal moment. Those are amazing things! But...that’s not the same thing. I’ve done my best in my life to uphold the idea that people can be colorblind. And yet...here we are. Let’s go over what I just wrote, with one obvious substitution:
Miles Morales represents underdogs, wisecracking industrious everymen, nerds, geeks (seriously people, there IS a difference), and those who have someone close to them at a pivotal moment….and he looks like me!
Is that supposed to be a big deal? Maybe not. But it’s more powerful than some people realize. Reading comics, I used to scour for old Power Man issues because I wanted to see a strong black guy considered a super hero. Blacksploitation at it’s finest when he was portrayed as a hero for hire. War Machine...aww man, why does he have to be an “Iron Man” knock off? (No, that’s not my description. That’s a quote from MODOK in the cartoon). At least Marvel was trying. DC? Oh dear, that was barren for a while. At least, that’s the way it seemed. I loved Blade. I fantasized about being someone like Black Panther before I knew Black Panther existed. But the overall lesson I learned in my youth was that a black character will NEVER be in the marquee. I’m thankful that we’re almost at the point of making that sound preposterous (almost…) but that doesn’t change the historical narrative.
So when a character like Miles comes along, and I soon read some of the comments above online by random people, I grow angry. We’re expanding the known cultural availability of our most upstanding icon and touching them in a way they may never have been before, and some people want to crush it before it starts? Is this what Lin Manuel Miranda had to endure when he pitched the musical Hamilton? Did studios and theaters balk at “The Wiz?” What am I missing here? I tend to finish my rants with “what have we learned” but I’m not sure what that is. I’m asking everyone else because I don’t have an answer. Really what I’m saying is, why can’t I love Peter and Miles and Spider-Gwen and Venom and anybody else I please without feeling like I’m picking a side?