Why Zendaya's 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' character is not your stereotypical female lead

Why Zendaya's 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' character is not your stereotypical female lead
Zendaya plays Peter Parker's friend Michelle in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.' Joel Ryan/AP
Zendaya plays Peter Parker's friend Michelle in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.' Joel Ryan/AP

Spider-Man will swing into theaters July 7 for the seventh time in 15 years. Now starring Tom Holland in the title role, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the character's first solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following a brief appearance in 2016's smash hit Captain America: Civil War. Starring alongside Holland is former Disney Channel star Zendaya, who plays Peter Parker's high school friend Michelle.

While it may initially appear difficult for Homecoming to differentiate itself from all the prior films starring Spider-Man, there is plenty to suggest the movie will be representative of the world we live in, and the movies audiences want to see. For example, though she is the film's female lead, Zendaya will not be playing a "damsel in distress" whose only purpose is to pine over Peter. Basically, she is not playing Mary Jane.

Zendaya recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly regarding her character, and discussed playing a female lead that is more layered than what we have maybe seen previously.

"I think it's just a nice change of pace, especially for a superhero movie," she said. "It changes the typical female character in a superhero movie which is usually like the damsel in distress, not super independent, doesn’t really have her own thing going on, her perspective constantly revolves around the superhero, right? So it's nice that I'm not the love interest, which means I'm not that girl."

Michelle is certainly not pining over Peter Parker in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.'
Michelle is certainly not pining over Peter Parker in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.' Marvel Entertainment

Further breaking from what audiences may expect from a classic superhero movie female lead, Zendaya's character does not necessarily act or look like those seen in previous films, and she likes it that way.

"I like that she's just different, and I think there’s so many different types of beautiful women out there, why not showcase different types of beautiful women?" she said to EW. "Because there's going to be so many young people I think that can connect to that and need to see that it's cool to be weird."

In addition to Homecoming abandoning the concept of the damsel in distress, the film does a better job than past productions at demonstrating how diverse a high school actually would be in Queens, New York, where the movie predominantly takes place.

"That was one of my favorite parts about this movie is the diversity of the cast," Zendaya told EW. "It's reflecting what New York looks like. It should be represented in that way, I think."

While fans likely didn't need many more reasons to be excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming, it is certainly nice to hear that the film will indeed be a better reflection of the world we live in, which should make the movie feel inclusive to an even larger number of viewers. And that's a good thing.

Source: Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

Spider-Man: Homecoming will be released in theaters on July 7.

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