Zendaya’s Role in Spider-Man: Homecoming Revealed and Some Are Not Having It
Are you freaking out? Because I'm freaking out.
In the wake of Larry Wilmore’s sudden departure from late-night television, I come bearing good news for my fellow geeks of color—and everyone else for that matter. Zendaya’s key character in Spider-Man: Homecoming has reportedly been revealed, and it looks like she’s no longer playing a character named “Michelle,” as was hinted at first. Instead, she might be stepping into the shoes of an iconic character, previously played by Kirsten Dunst on the big screen.
The Wrap is reporting that Zendaya will now be portraying Mary Jane Watson in the reboot. They’re citing several sources close to the project and a few hints dropped in a recent draft of the script. There is the possibility that this may not be true, since no official confirmation has come from either Sony, Marvel or the K.C. Undercover star.
Still, the idea that Zendaya could play our beloved MJ is too much to bear for some fans, who have argued that this is a horrible call since she is not a natural redhead. Setting aside the thinly-veiled racism for a moment (which also reared its ugly head when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot), let’s remember that you don’t have to naturally look like the comic book character in order to do the role justice. Just ask Scarlett Johansson, who wears a red wig for Black Widow, or Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Nick Fury (a character that was canonically white in the comics before Jackson came along).
— #FreeBreshaMeadows (@ILLCapitano94) August 19, 2016
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) August 19, 2016
But let’s be honest, those who are angry about the potential casting choice have a hard time swallowing a black Mary Jane for the same reason that just as many Potterheads were up in arms over a black Hermione in The Cursed Child. It’s not because “she’s just not right” or “she doesn’t have red hair” or “we’re going for accuracy.” If we get down to it, the people making these arguments are the same people who are used to having stories told from a white point of view, in that the movie or comic revolves around a white protagonist that they somehow see themselves in. So a POC taking that spot sends their world into chaos.
@JamesGunn Why? I’m a racist because I want a long standing Marvel character to be played the way she’s portrayed in the comics?
— Nevins 3 Moons (@Nevins77) August 19, 2016
Since Mary Jane is being played by a Black woman, can MLK be played by a White man in a next movie about him?
— Jason Bergkamp (@keksec__org) August 19, 2016
— White Wolf (@vf1878) August 19, 2016
We’re so used to seeing white actors dominate the screen that they’re even able to play different races or nationalities (see Argo, Doctor Strange, Aloha, The Last Airbender, Short Circuit, Warm Bodies, basically every Hollywood movie set in Egypt, and more) and anyone who speaks out against that is bitter, racist or just looking for something to complain about.
Some have asked, what about the flip side? What if we cast a white actor to play the Black Panther? I hate to burst that bubble, but white people have been overly represented in just about every form of media there is. So, taking away T’Challa’s blackness is entirely different, because there are so few black heroes represented both in the comics and on film, which makes it necessary for the ones that we do have to remain that way. They prove that we, people of color, exist and are just as intelligent and powerful as everyone else, despite what society tells us. If that sentiment makes you feel uneasy, just imagine living in a world that doesn’t cater to your personal comfort.
So yeah, Zendaya possibly playing Mary Jane is a big deal. It gives a group of people who are often marginalized a spot right at the center of the story. It’s about time Hollywood started recognizing that not everyone who goes to see a movie in theaters is white.
Also, Zendaya is amazing and deserves to be in all of the movies. The end.
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