Two words with little direction and little context were our instructions for this week’s process post, which sent me scrambling with confusion. I generally do not work well under vague expectations, as I want to make sure that everything I’m doing is up to standard. Perhaps that’s due to the classroom structure I’ve been taught under in the past with heavy criteria sheets or project descriptions. All this considered, I tried to do my best to come up with a creative post to produce this week.
While I do not have the talent or technology to remix video or audio clips, I have often used photoshop to create photo edits in the past. Knowing this was my best option, I decided to create a photo mashup or “makeover” for this week’s process post. The subject of the photo edit is not really relevant to any of my previous content on this blog (or future for that matter) but it fits in with my interests and passions.
For some context, Marvel is releasing a new Spider-man movie adaptation this July featuring an entirely new cast to tell the tale of Peter Parker (and his pals). I have never mentioned it on this website before, but I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and often make GIF or photo edits for some of my favourite films/characters. However, it was a certain “controversy” which inspired me to create the photo edit featured in this post.
One iconic character in the Spider-man universe is Mary Jane Watson, a witty and charismatic female lead written as a long-term love interest for Peter Parker. Similar to nearly every other comic book character created circa 1965, Mary Jane is white. Previous film and animated adaptations of the character have followed along with this original illustration.
However, it is 2017.
And by that I mean it isn’t the 1960s. Isn’t it about time to finally see a diversity of cast members in media production? Especially if these new movie remakes are catered to the younger generation. Unlike important characters of colour in the Spider-man universe like Cindy Moon and Miles Morales, Mary Jane’s ethnicity is not a vital aspect of who she is as a character. The fact that she is white makes no difference to her story, and really the only physical attribute which plays a part in the storytelling is her bright red hair (often thrown in when describing her aesthetic beauty). So, when the new film adaptation entitled Spider-man: Homecoming directed by Jon Watts cast Zendaya as a mysteriously unknown character with simply the first name “Michelle” on IMDb, rumours began to fly that she was in fact going to play the iconic role of Mary Jane Watson.
This rumour made me elated. Others, not so much.
Immediately, a slew of racially biased hatred washed over social media and created a large debate about who should really play the famous character. Primarily, those against the announcement argued that Mary Jane Watson should be white in all iterations.
Technically, some Twitter users argued that she should have “red hair” (in a self-defense attempt to negate any claims of racism), but these same people did not have much to say when in response to their “The actress should be a natural redhead” complaints, a variety of users fired back that both Kirsten Dunst and Shailene Woodley – the actresses who have played the previous film adaptations of the character – are not naturally redhead and in fact used hair dye to change the colour of their locks.
Even though the casting decision is not final, and is still just a rumour, I am in complete support of the young actress Zendaya playing Mary Jane Watson. And while I really don’t think it’s necessary for her to change her hair to play the part (I guess I’m not a die-hard loyal comic reader who needs to see a girl with red hair in the role), I think she’d look great with it anyway and decided to prove the point by editing a photo of her with that very look for my remix post this week.