I’m going to try to get through this without posting too many spoilers. Most of these spoilers will be coming from previous Spider-Man movies so stop reading now if you think you will watch them from the beginning or if you want to keep the new Spiderman movie unbiased and untouched from terrible people who spoil movies and books like myself.
After hearing a lot of people give positive reviews about this movie; I really wanted to check it out. I used to watch Spider-Man cartoon on Fox Kids on weekday and weekend mornings. I really liked the classic roles of the characters. Even to me at the time, Peter seemed too old to be a student. Now looking back, I can see why they animated Aunt May to be so old. In the animated series she was having problems with paying her rent after the death of Uncle Ben and close to losing her house or retiring. He was finding ways to help out with the mortgage payments after finding out about Aunt May’s financial problems. This made sense because Peter was illustrated as and given audio and filial responsibilities to seem like he was more mature.
I was not a huge fan of the earlier Spider-Man iterations like the ones starring Tobey Maguire. However, when the Amazing Spider-Man came out, I liked how down to earth and closer to the original series the characters casted were. The role of Aunt May was played by the classic Sally Field. I felt that the previous Aunt May aka Rosemary Harris made it too stereotypical with the sweet old woman who cares about her nephew. While this stayed true to the comics and animated series, it seemed out of place on the screen. On the other hand, Field gave off the feeling that she cared about Peter, but as the viewer you could feel how there was a disconnect between Peter and his Aunt and Uncle. Peter missed his parents, but Aunt May and Uncle Ben were there for him, despite not being his true Mom and Dad. How about Uncle Ben? Martin Sheen played Uncle Ben in the Amazing Spider-Man. Again this is not to say that Cliff Robertson didn’t do a good job. Robertson had an incredible scene with Peter with the famous “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Despite lines like those, I could feel that it was more relatable and realistic with Sheen instead. Sheen came off as a tough-love kind of person, but he was still a caring Uncle.
In Spider-Man Homecoming, Aunt May comes across as the cool aunt who tries to help Peter, but there was a sense of disconnect in their relationship due to his problems with keeping his identity a secret and balancing being a teenager and keeping his school attendance up. They did a good job in the movie of showing how Peter wants to have a normal teenage life, but due to his newfound responsibilities, he is unable to do it all, and have everything be perfect. This can be echoed from Spider-Man (2002) with Rosemary Harris saying that he isn’t Superman.
In the current movie a character subtly corrected another character by stating that the correct terminology the first people in the United States is Native Americans instead of Indians. This made me really happy because I wrote about a similar situation in a previous article. This line and other cinematography within the movie gave way to something that is slowly happening, but is not yet finished.
The slow understanding that times are changing and the norms of the past that have been unfair, unjust, or unequal are coming to light. As a result, people are finding ways to undo stereotypes that just aren’t true about today. This movie subtly breaks preconceived notions of communities and language, orthodox villains and families, American war veterans, the definition of terrorism, racial stereotypes in the terms of criminal activity, bullying, academics, and attraction.
For the fans who wanted a different ethnicity for Spider-Man it didn’t happen. That’s ok though, they made the current Spider-Man a part of the community. He bonded with some characters in the movie over how each of them preferred their food from a local restaurant. They made Tom Holland somewhat bilingual because of his intermediate foreign language class in high school, where he was able to use it with others in his community. I noticed many ethnicities within his high school and neighborhood both as big roles and as cameos, yet at the same time; they were American. His love interest was a huge change from the classic series. They had multi-ethnic families. Their attention to detail in symbolism, cultural sensitivity, and the placement of different actors and actresses in key roles was noteworthy. I really enjoyed the placement of medals and honors that came from serving in the military, especially by whom they were received by. One of the criminals expressed the harsh reality of many American cities, which was that no one really wants to see their family or friends get injured, shot, or killed, despite what they believe they need to arm themselves with due to their specific geographic area. Yes there are many cities and neighborhoods that are safe. Yes the police department does their job and protects their citizens in some neighborhoods. The opposite can be said for areas that receive either a lack of law enforcement or an have a high occurrence of crime. They made an awesome antagonist be a person of Guatemalan descent. Initially people told me he was Indian, but when I did some research I was surprised to find this out as well as that he was an actor from one of my favorite movies. For the sake of not spoiling this anymore than I already have, I’ll let you all figure out who that is. All of this allowed them to make an incredible modern Spider-Man movie. Also many of the students in school displayed other qualities and attributes that aren't normally thought of depending on their race or cultural background.
That being said, things aren’t always perfect in how you want a movie to be. As I was writing this, I noticed that Yena Kim shared an article that pointed to Tom Holland’s ignorance when it comes to keeping a broad understanding that many actors, actresses, and TV personas around the world learn English as a necessity to be recognized or even break out in the entertainment industry. According to a video supplied by netshark.com in an interview with Eric Nam, Tom Holland made a pretty bad faux pas around 12:50 in the interview. Tom Holland was impressed by Korean American Eric Nam’s ability to speak English and asks the question “How did you learn it so well?” Never mind the fact that Eric Nam was named GQ Korean Man of the Year of 2016 and earned himself a seat in the Forbes 30 under 30 in Asia. It would be a good idea to do a quick Wikipedia or IMDB search for the person who is interviewing you instead of going in blind. At the very least have your agent or someone give you a little information prior to the interview.
After I watched the video I noticed again at around 22:10 Tom talks about how amazing it is that Nam is reading everything so quickly in Korean. This shows that Tom is either impressed in Nam’s ability to read Korean, he is trying to convey how impressed he is at Nam’s ability to master two languages, or he is just trying to smooth over what happened earlier in the interview. He asks the question “How many...so in England there’s 26 letters right? In the alphabet?” Then he watches Nam count the characters of the Korean alphabet on his hands and fingers and says “That’s a very strange way to count.” Nam makes a joke and says “I’ll send it to you (referring to the actual number of Korean characters [19 consonants and 21 vowels]) by carrier pigeon or something” as a way to say it’s not that important. At the end of the interview we find out that Nam was born in Marietta, Atlanta.
This generation is full of American born citizens that already have a cultural background that they bring with them. Unfortunately this background is seen as the only part of someone and assumptions are made about them. As Downey Jr. said to him in the movie, “If you're nothing without this suit, then you shouldn't have it." Just because Holland made a big movie and he has a suit on doesn’t make him charismatic and thoughtful. Holland is 21 years old and still has some things to learn about interview etiquette and speaking to people in general, but we were all at that age and had some things to work on. I know I did. There is hope, but at times it seems that we are moving two steps forward and one step back. I guess we have the few progressive movies that come out from time to time to help us along the way.