Meet Miles Morales, voiced by Donald Glover! (x)
Watched the clip.
"But you’re so young.”
Not “But you’re black.”
Not even “But you’re not me," which is what he first assumed.
Just “You’re so young.”
This is refreshing, for multiple reasons. First, the obvious: we’ve (rightly) established that Spider-Man himself doesn’t have any trouble or problem with a Spider-Man who isn’t white (unlike certain fans). He’s not even phased by it. Doesn’t give it a second thought.
Now, obviously, the creators weren’t going to be politically incorrect, but note that Peter isn’t even phased by the fact that the Spider-Man in front of him isn’t an alternate version of himself. They could’ve easily had Peter say, “But you’re…not me!” That would’ve been a politically correct way of saying, “But you’re black!” That statement wouldn’t have been overtly racist, but it would have implied that Peter, a very intelligent young lad, couldn’t grasp the idea that an alternate version of himself might be a person of color.
And yes, in a way, they are dancing around that conversation, still. But the way they’re doing it establishes a great deal about the character of Peter Parker. It establishes him as the Spider-Man I’ve always envisioned, and the one I’m always happy to see him portrayed as.
Because the second reason it’s refreshing is how true to character this conversation is: the first and foremost thing Peter thinks about his how young Miles is. Younger even than Peter when he first started slinging webs. Peter knows what a burden it is to be Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility, after all. Peter shoulders that burden while cracking jokes, but one of the reasons Spidey is often tagged as emo or whiney is because his life freaking sucks.
Peter was an outcast and a nerd before becoming Spider-Man, but he had a bright future and would have led a very happy life. Being Spider-Man regularly means sacrificing that future and that happiness. Being Spider-Man means taking a beating, being humiliated and hated, and still sacrificing friendships, opportunities, and general peace of mind. All for the greater good. All to live up to that sense of responsibility that comes with his power.
Peter wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all someone even younger than himself.
So the creative team, here, has not only avoided going with the obvious “But you’re black”/”You’re not me” reaction, but they’ve done so in a way that is consistent with the core of Peter’s character. Miles isn’t what Peter expected, and of course he notices the differences in physical appearance (in the clip, he has an initial, “Huh?!” when Miles unmasks). But the thing that occupies is mind, the thing that shocks and maybe even horrifies him to some degree (at least subconsciously), is how young Miles is.
It would be so easy to make a comical reference to race in this scene, even without referring to it. Maybe it could be interpreted that they are, with his little pause. But in one short clip, they not only avoid turning Peter into a racist, they reinforce his character’s nature. Moreover, since this is a kid’s show, they’ve subtly influenced the nerds of the next generation to have a similar reaction. Actually, they’re providing a number of positive influences to a number of kids in a lot of different ways, but I can’t go into them all.
All I know is that maybe, when this generation grows older, the idea of casting a black man as the original Peter Parker, we’ll get less outrage from overt racists and pedantic white nerds who are so caught up in the supposed sanctity of character design that they can’t even fathom the idea of changing a character’s race for a damn movie (even after it’s already happened, and rather successfully in Nick Fury’s case). Because seriously, that shit was depressing and embarrassing.
Those who aren’t hardcore racists have come to accept Ultimate Nick Fury, Marvel Cinematic Universe Nick Fury, and Ultimate Miles Morales Spider-Man. In comic books, we frequently mess around with alternate universes. The movies are no different; it’s just another alternate universe. So, as much as I love Miles Morales, why not a black Peter Parker?
I wish we were already to that point. Because Donald Glover would make a spectacular Spider-Man (reference only partially intentional). I’m glad he’s voicing Miles, here, but man…he would be a perfect Peter Parker.