Superheroes are the idols of children everywhere, and for good reason. They fly at the speed of light, leap from the tallest buildings, and own the coolest gadgets, all while fighting crime and restoring justice to the world. It's no surprise that kids look up to and emulate their favorite superheroes.
It's also no surprise that so many people find the lack of diversity in the superhero line-up troubling. After all, if these global movies are spanning continents and audiences, shouldn't they represent those individuals a little more accurately?
PolicyMic pundits have covered some of these topics, from the casting of female superheroes to be skinny, not strong, to the (slowly) changing racial norms in the industry, but actor Andrew Garfield wants to take the next step: he wants to make Spiderman gay.
As the latest actor to play Spiderman in the 2012 blockbuster hit The Amazing Spider-Man, which grossed over $700,000,000 worldwide, Garfield is already gearing up for the first of multiple sequels. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Garfield was commenting on how open to interpretation the Spiderman story is when he mentioned that he had suggested to the director and producer that Spiderman's love interest Mary Jane, who is often referred to only as "MJ," could be a guy. "Why can't we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality?"
In other words, why can't Spider-Man be gay?
Re-booting Spiderman as gay wouldn't impact the actual storyline at all. Being heterosexual is no more crucial an aspect to Spiderman's exploits than being white. At the end of the day, Peter Parker is tasked with saving humanity and occasionally saving MJ, and neither that sense of justice nor that love is applicable only to one sexual orientation or one race. In fact, by making a movie in which Spiderman was dating a guy, without making that attraction the focal point of the movie or even a topic worthy of justification, the entire industry would be taking a huge step forward in making homosexuality a common, accepted fact of life.
Nonetheless, there's been much outrage and commotion over Garfield's casual comment. In the comments section of the EW article, which hardly ever sees debate more significant than which Desperate Housewife is the cattiest, an intense debate on portraying race and sexual orientation has ensued. The most-liked comment states this:
"Its getting exasperating with all these movements — feminists, gays — who want to usurp these film/comic franchises ... Leave these icons alone. These franchises are not here to promote an agenda."
Here's the problem though: Nobody is trying to promote any sort of "agenda." Superhero movies are watched by kids of every color and background, but most were originally created in the early to mid 1900s, which is why so many of them feature a certain type of white male character. What is the point of a re-boot of a superhero if we can only keep replaying the same old tired theme? Why is updating the characters and the situations to reflect today's freer world considered an "agenda?"
There is a time and place for nostalgia, but that does not include cementing this generation's idols in the past. Superhero movies force us to ask the question: who is allowed to be a hero? The correct answer is anyone.