James Gunn on the Reaction to the New M.J. in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
This week, details emerged that actress Zendaya would be playing an updated version of Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. While many people greeted this news with good cheer, a very vocal minority of people had some pretty nasty things to say about the changes made to their beloved character. Yesterday, James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, took to Facebook to share his nuanced thoughts regarding the controversy.
Many of Gunn’s thoughts are similar to those already shared by our own Matt Singer in his piece on why Spider-Man and racism don’t mix. While there are times when race or gender are an inherent part of what makes a character great, in the vast majority of cases, these characters were written decades ago and could stand for a little updating. Let’s be charitable and say that people were not writing to the same level of diversity in 1966 as they are in 2016. Times change, and characters should change with them.
I also like the distinction that Gunn makes between fans who may be exhibiting racism and fans who might just be stuck on old notions of adaptation. Whenever we engage in this type of debate, I always try to keep in mind that there are people who don’t object to gender or race so much as they object to change. In their eyes, adaptation is supposed to be as literal as possible, and it’s probably worth treating this as a teachable moment whenever possible (something Gunn has done very well in his post). At any rate, we’ve long appreciated Gunn’s candor as a director at Marvel. It’s great to see him speak out on issues like this.