Well here’s something super progressive.
According to a leaked agreement between the Sony and Marvel studios that share film rights for the Spider-Man franchise, the Spider-Man character and his alter ego Peter Parker can only be portrayed under the strictest terms. Most of these terms are par for the course for Marvel films, which have historically frowned upon portraying their characters killing for fun or expressing pedophilic desires. However, in addition to these stipulations, there are some other interesting ones in the contract. Notably the last one in this excerpt.
So Peter Parker cannot be poor, must be white, and…must be straight. Great.
When Gawker broke the story, they indicated that the contract between Sony and Marvel forbid Spider-Man from being any race except Caucasian and from expressing same-sex desires. That is not true. Peter Parker must be white and straight. Then again, I highly doubt that Marvel or Sony would make a Spider-Man film using another alter-ego such as the black Miles Morales out of fear of confusing the general audience who only knows Spider-Man as Peter Parker. Thus, while Gawker did sensationalize their claim to some extent, closing the opportunity for a studio to change Peter’s race or sexuality is tantamount to ensuring that we do not end up with a movie featuring a black or gay Spider-Man.
In the past, Marvel has demonstrated that they are willing to race-bend characters such as the traditionally white Nick Fury. At the time, it was heralded as a great movie for representation in the predominantly white Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Nick Fury was, up until recently, never really considered an A-list hero, thus minimizing Marvel’s risk. It’s unfortunate that film studios still appear to be unwilling to take the plunge and truly commit to creating a more diverse looking cinematic landscape.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.