Monday, July 13, 2015

Spiderman Thoughts

Spiderman, Peter Parker, was the first teen-aged superhero—in a genre aimed primarily at teens—that wasn’t a side-kick to an adult hero. Thus his didactic slogan that was retroactively applied: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

But he isn’t JUST lessons and morals. In fact his story hardly seems to be all that much of a parable. There is a lot of teen wish fulfillment. Everyone complains about the repeated origin stories told for Spiderman; and his does get told and retold in the comics even more than usual for a superhero. (Sony’s decision to reboot the series so quickly after introducing him to cinemas didn’t help. And I will be amazed if Marvel manages to completely avoid his origin for long.) However, the reason that they keep going back to the start is that that is where the kernel of wish-fulfillment and joy is found in Spiderman. The nerd gets his revenge. Once you get to the “power and responsibility” message of the character, all you have is a guy who can’t win for losing.

He has to keep his identity secret. He is always seen as a bad guy by most of the authorities. He lives from pay check to pay check, and he doesn’t have a steady one of those. And, his “responsibility” ensures that he never will.

It begins to feel as though the writers derive perverse pleasure in making this guy suffer. And after a while it ceases to be entertaining. There is even a convoluted (most of these comic stories end up being convoluted but this one is crazy) storyline that forced Peter’s marriage to become undone in a literal rewrite of the universe. They really don’t want Parker to have any happiness.

Maybe they are confusing responsibility with suffering. Sure, responsibility can be hard, but growing up involves learning to manage responsibility and gaining an awareness of our limited capacity. Perhaps Uncle Ben should have said, “with greater power comes a greater need of understanding our limitations.”

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