Spiderman, Ho Hum
Published on Thursday, May 16, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Spiderman, Ho Hum
by Paki S. Wright

The newest summer blockbuster is here and it is -- surprise -- exactly like all the others you've ever seen. Here's the basic connect-the-dots, fool-proof (or proof of fools) plot formula: Young wounded male strikes out on revenge quest, is turned into a valiant warrior but unconsummated lover, and saves the (choose one) day, metropolis, planet, or, in really big-budget flicks, the universe. Usually single-handedly and certainly never with any (gasp, shudder, shriek) help from a female.

Special-effects techies and comic book fans can't seem to get enough of these stories. I have always wondered why when they're all the same. Clearly, though we all use eyes for vision, we see different things. Where fans see thrilling, high-resolution images, I see the institutionalization of physical brutality, revenge and violence as the solution to problems. Where some see harmless teenage fantasies brought to life, I see patristic cultural myths brainwashing yet another generation of impressionable minds. Where moviegoers see a mindless few hours at the movies, I see support of the dominator ideology that is destroying the planet.

Maybe I take things too seriously.

The most striking thing in "Spiderman," aside from its puerility, was the image of the Green Goblin's flying meanie machine hoisting him by his own petard, so to speak, and impaling the GG right in the -- oh, am I giving anything away here? The bile-green, gargoylish Goblin is played by Willem Dafoe, who is believable as an evil genius but utterly miscast as a corporate-scientist CEO. Dafoe is enough of an actor to give us a satisfying Jekyl and Hyde episode but he looks way too Hollywood (his hair is terminally blow-dried) to be a nerd.

The next most striking thing, obvious to feminists for many decades, is the gyno-phobia exhibited by the young hero. In the movie's main love scene between the hero Peter Parker (the first name and alliterative initials say it all), played by Tobey Maguire with a deer-in-the-headlights look, and his love-from-afar interest, the abused, helpless and bimbo-to-be M.J. Watson (Kirsten Dunst, who screams very convincingly while she waits, repeatedly, to be rescued), Peter confesses to being unable to grasp the reality of love. He admits -- in third person -- that while he adores her, he knows she (i.e., real love) is out of reach for him. This proves the crux of the movie, of superheroes in general, and of all too many warrior-types, including our entire war-generating culture. For to embrace the feminine, as in shared sexuality, is to surrender one's outer defensive shell and submit to softness, to openness, to tenderness, and this is what the warriors/superheroes must never do (because then they'd be out of a job).

So let's turn it around for a change and concoct a "Spiderwoman" fantasy. Instead of the Wonder Woman comic book heroine -- who appropriately enough became the Amazons' ambassador to the "Patriarch's World" but looks like a drag queen --she'd be powerful (certainly), she'd be beautiful (probably), she'd be compassionate (hopefully), and she'd look like an actual woman instead of a guy with breast implants.

Since Spiderman is already taking care of petty street crime, Spiderwoman would be taking care of major corporate crime, with a special emphasis on cleaning up the environment and making the world safe for its own children, since this is obviously not a high priority of mostly-male planetary rulers. She would do this not by bashing and crashing her enemies, but by spinning webs around them, keeping them from harming others -- or themselves -- until they transformed.

In Southwestern Native American lore, Spider Woman represents Thought Woman or Creation Thinker Woman. I see Spiderwoman as a sort of chrysalis-maker, turning grubs into butterflies. The analogy of the web, instead of being seen as something to ensnare (or as giant, building-binding bungee cords, though this did look like fun in "Spiderman") would be seen as something to connect us all to the web of life, with an animating spirit at its center radiating outward along all the infinite strands.

Where are the moviemakers -- female or male -- with the wit, verve, and snappy satire to challenge the depressingly-predictable same old same old stories we are being fed by the dominators? I know they're out there, and I know how hard it is to get funded, but they can't get here too soon.

Paki S. Wright's work can be sampled at www.radicaldeparturepress.net. She has just published "The All Souls' Waiting Room," an autobiographical novel about growing up Reichian in Greenwich Village during the McCarthy era.