Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Andrew Garfield on Spider-man, me on Garfield's portrayal of Spider-man

This is what Andrew Garfield recently said about Spider-man and how he needs to be updated in order to remain relevant. Good points, all of them:
"...what I believe about Spider-Man is that he does stand for everybody: black, white, Chinese, Malaysian, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. He will put himself in harm’s way for anyone. He is colorblind. He’s blind to sexual orientation, and that is what he has always represented to me. He represents the everyman, but he represents the underdog and those marginalized who come up against great prejudice which I, as a middle-class straight, white man, don’t really understand so much. And when Stan Lee first wrote and created this character, the outcast was the computer nerd, was the science nerd, was the guy that couldn’t get the girl. Those guys now run the world. So how much of an outcast is that version of Peter Parker anymore? That’s my question."
If you've read my blog at any length, you'll know that I'm in complete agreement with a lot of this. The superhero-as-outsider metaphor has always been a bit of a stretch, given that most of the heroes are themselves white men, and that the outsider who identifies with Spider-man or the X-Men is often still white, male, middle-class. But it's become additionally problematic recently, what with the mainstreaming of super-hero culture and the generally increasing economic and political clout of geeks.

In short, Spider-man's ability to represent the underdog or the marginalized, while always a bit suspect, has become pretty much an impossibility.

The irony in these comments, of course, is that Garfield's Spider-man is probably cooler and less marginalized than any other version we've seen in the comics or movies. This is a Spider-man who skateboards, who is snarky rather than awkward, and who just oozes hipster cool. If he's an outsider, it seems like he's an outsider by choice. So even if Garfield's words ring true, his performance seems to be moving in the total opposite direction.


Vivien said...

I haven't seen the new Spider-Man yet so I can't comment - but I wonder how much say Garfield had on the ultimate portrayal? In the end, he's an actor who has to follow the director and the movie studio's vision, and in the end, the film editors have a lot of say over which Take is use!

neilshyminsky said...

I'm sure that's true. But I'm also sure that he contributed a lot to the general sense of cool that emanates from the character.