Introducing: Mary Jane Watson

Okay my fellow NOCs, there are just a few truths we need to acknowledge when it comes to Spider-Man on the big screen. Out of five films, only one of them, Spider-Man 2, was any good. The rest were bloated messes that robbed Spidey of any and all joy. Tobey Maguire was a decent Peter Parker but not the best Spidey. Andrew Garfield was just the opposite. Spider-Man was done an injustice.

For the handful of minutes that Tom Holland was on screen, as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man in Captain American: Civil War, he was far and away the best who has done it. He had the right combination of angst, youthfulness, humor, and wide-eyed wonder and hero-worship that the budding hero needed. It was a revelation of a performance and I cannot wait to see Spider-Man: Homecoming four or five times.


While Homecoming won’t be out until next year, I’ve been scouring for any news I can find about the production. The casting news has been surprising, but right on. Like most Spidey fans, I’ve been dying to find out who the new Mary Jane Watson would be. When it was announced that it would be the mononymous, Zendaya, I was elated. I also held my breath for the racist fanboy digital tsunami of outrage that was sure to follow this news. I didn’t have to wait long.

I won’t reprint or link to any of the spew — no one needs that on a Friday. Or ever. But it has been really ugly, thus far. I cannot imagine how bad it will get closer to the release of the film.

Out of all the young stars that litter our popscape, I cannot think of a better Mary Jane Watson. Zendaya is smart, smart-alecky, flirty, and has a presence so far outside of her age. There are decade’s seasoned performers who don’t have an ounce of her charisma. Frenemies, KC Undercover, Zapped, and her turn on Dancing with the Stars you can see the kind of powerhouse she is. I remember seeing her dancing with Oakland, CA’s “Future Shock” dance troupe. Even then, you know she was going to be huge.

The only other young star I see remotely in her lane is The Thundermans’ Sydney Park.


But there are some more truths we have to acknowledge. Despite Zendaya being a young woman of color, aside from KC Undercover, she’s never really portrayed a person of color. She has, for all intents and purposes, been coded white or ethnically ambiguous enough to be read as white. Even though she admitted that she benefits from light skin privilege, many of the responses to this were less than enthusiastic or supportive. Do you remember the firestorm she endured when it was announced that she would be portraying the loved and revered singer, Aaliyah?

So here is my problem.

I think Zendaya will be a fantastic Mary Jane. I think she and Holland have enough individual charisma and charm to be the couple that young folks will try to emulate. They’ll make us root for them. I also think making Mary Jane a young woman of color speaks to Zendaya’s generation’s views on color/ethnicity, friendship, and inter-ethnic dating. I have cousins her age whose crews look and sound like a United Nations general assembly. This will be a contemporary relationship for our contemporary times.

My concern is what I am most happy about. Having Mary Jane as a young woman of color, especially a black woman, is revolutionary. But if this aspect is glossed over, coded out, or otherwise ignored, it will fall right in line with the erasure of blackness, especially of women who are in any way black. As we’ve seen, superhero flicks have done horribly by women. In particular, they’ve done crappy by women of color. And, no, Halle Berry in Catwoman doesn’t count. It doesn’t even exist.

While it won’t be necessary to emphasize Zendaya as a woman of color, it would be wonderful if this fact were brought up. There is a particular breed of internet idiot who thinks pointing out differences in race leads to more racism. I talked about rain all morning, and not a drop in dry ass Oakland. When did differences become a horrible thing? My wife and I both have one black parent, and we talk and race and ethnicity and culture all the time. It enhances our worlds. Maybe the bland potato salad class is flavorless and may feel a bit jealous of the flavorful people? Who knows?

Any way it plays out, I think we will all be in for a wonderful performance, in a film that is keyed up to be amazing. #TeamZendayAsMaryJane is a necessary update to an old classic.

Because we have to be frank. All Marvel (and DC) properties need to be modernized and brought into our contemporary moment.


Spider-Man first appeared, this month, 54 years ago in 1962. Do we really need to revisit the racial attitudes of the times? We were still four years away from Kirby and Lee’s Black Panther. So of course all the heroes, their love interests, and their archenemies were white. But in the early 21st century, they don’t have to be. If a young, lower-middle class white dude, from Queens, NYC, was to date in his neighborhood or high school (or his first year in undergrad) the chances of his dating a young woman (or young man) of color is pretty damn high. If our fiction, especially our superhero/science fiction is meant to reflect the times — despite taking place in the realm of the phantasmagorical — we need to let it do that and not hold onto our crippling (racism influenced) nostalgia. And what better place to start than with one of the most beloved superheroes of all time?

#TeamZendayaAsMaryJane #TomHollandIsTheBestSpidey

27 thoughts on “Introducing: Mary Jane Watson

  1. was i the only one who read the article or is everyone just glossing over it lol. the article (from the wrap not from marvel) says and i quote “there are hints in the script that she is mary jane”. red flags everywhere.
    1. the director and original casting said she is michelle
    2. how did they get their hands on the script
    3. scripts have characters’ names. it would read “mary jane drinks a glass of water” not “character hinted at being this other character drinks glass of water” lol
    4. no official word from

    lets look at the facts and live in reality people. when its official and she is mj, great for you. when its official and she’s not….what then?
    i personally wanted her for felicia hardy. not only because i love black cat but zendaya is all kinds of awesome, sass and sexy. in fact she is the only reason my eyes have been on this project. no damsel for this girl. and who better than a dancer and a actress who has played a kickass spy for two seasons to be a feline badass? she needs to be kicking butt and taking names! i get it marvel is afraid of women of color superheroes for some weird reason but i dont care thats what i wanted but i’ve accepted that’s not who she will be. michelle is still a great character and though not a super hero she is not a damsel and eventually becomes a police officer. misty knight lite works for me! all that matters is my girl is doing great things and im happy for her career.

  2. A well-written piece. Zendaya has yet to wow me with her acting. However, Natalie Portman’s a good actress, but she has been terrible in both Thor films, so I’m more than willing to see what Zendaya can do.

    By the way, Spider-Man 2 is my favorite film in the franchise thus far. I also agree that Tom Holland has given us the best version of the web-slinger on the screen so far. Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man…a travesty. 😑

  3. Let’s face it, thanks to hair dye anyone can have red hair. I like the idea of Zendaya as Mary Jane Watson. But, I do see her casting as courting controversy on both sides of the equation due to her racial ambiguity and light skin. Let’s see how it goes!
    Alexandra Shipp was a better choice to play Aaliyah because frankly, Zendaya does not resemble Aaliyah, who had a very distinctive face shape and her hue was just a little bit more more cafe than au lait.
    I also think the actor who is playing Barack Obama in that new movie coming out is too dark to play him but he has everything else down pat.

    1. I think her racial ambiguity adds to the character she’s Mary Jane Watson her ethnicity is not an important part of her character than let’s say Daredevil whose Irish roots add to his character but as Shawn said it wouldn’t hurt for her to say she is of a certain ethnic background briefly. As a person who has a dual heritage I agree with the sentiment above in most our major cities you are likely not always but the chances are higher that you will date someone of a different ethnic background.

      I often ponder our current world views I think it’s a good thing to have urban fantasy, comic books reflect our world as is it currently is. Would a superhero like Superman who is from another planet be racebent? I imagine ethnicity on Krypton wouldn’t be the same as it is on our world and I also imagine Kryptonians to be a kind of post racial society that you find people with different phenotypes.

      1. Mary Jane Watson is a character that really not beholden to any particular ethnic/racial roots. Some would say that’s arguable due to her red hair and freckles in the comics. But, people of mixed race can easily have naturally red hair and freckles, too and frankly anyone can be a redhead thanks to a bottle of hair dye. So, who says Mary Jane Watson has to be a straight up white girl? NOBODY.

        To me, her race is a non-factor.

        Same cannot be said for Idris Elba playing 007/James Bond though. If Idris played Bond now for this time period–great non-issue. But, no Black actor could have played Bond back in the 1960s the way Sean Connery did due to the racial discrimination that existed during that time. Just wasn’t happening. Elba as 007 could not move through society the way Connery did during that Cold War period.

  4. So, they made Mary Jane biracial. I hope her parents are portrayed as interracial. Years ago, when Smallville started airing on the CW (nee WB), I commented that Kristen Kreuk clearly looked Eurasian, and wouldn’t it be better to have one parent be Asian. I was attacked over the suggestion. People said it was bad enough they cast a visibly “Asian-looking” actress in the role. I think Zendaya’s MJ should be portrayed as biracial, and not black. Meaning, if they show her parents, one should be white. Mixed people exist, and Zendaya looks biracial.

    1. I see no harm in that at all. Zendaya is mixed race and half Black. So why couldn’t Mary Jane Watson? I heard all hell broke loose on the Internet about her casting. Why? Andy Weir the author, stated that Mindy Park from The Martian was meant to be Korean but she got cast white/Caucasian in the movie version.

      As to Kristina Kreuk, she is Canadasian and Hapa. Her nationality is Canadian. Her ethnicity: Mom is Chinese and her dad is White and Dutch. She looks white to me, but as someone with Asian roots, I can see the Asian in her, but it’s not so overwhelming that her race/ethnicity has to be explained, in my opinion. In other words, she does not look like Ming Na Wen or even Kelly Hu or even Maggie Q. She looks more like a Lindsay Price or Olivia Munn-type.

  5. Plenty of mixed race people with naturally red hair, blond hair, blue eyes. I mean these are fictional characters I think anyone can play around with them a bit make them white, black, Asian, red, yellow whatever! But the backstory should be nearly the same all around with different takes on it that’s the beauty of it. Queens NYC currently is the most ethnically diverse place in the ENTIRE country a white kid like Peter Parker is most likely like Shawn said going to date someone of a different ethnic racial group.

    Definitely about Elba, I’m always critical of period pieces there are places a POC would not be caught during a certain time period unless they are historically fiction but POC did exist in Europe WAY back to the times of Ancient Greece some ethnically white people have been surprised they have a little something in their ancestry. To me it comes down to the actor there are actors who you envision totally for a certain role I think Elba would be a great Bond, he could be originally from East London add Elba’s own origins to the role.

    1. You know what though Martin? I think Tom Holland looks too young for Zendaya, but did you ever see that Hugh Grant film, “About a Boy”? Nick Hoult liked a chick that was older and physically bigger than him.

  6. I love that they are doing this, Zendaya is a very talented beautiful young lady and I feel doubters and haters should just see the film before you rage. You would think the film being done justice would be the most important thing to worry about rather than changing the race of MJ. Times are different and IM glad more roles are being given to POC lord knows they have been side line enough. There is next to none backlash when a white actor or actress is given a POC role but its a big deal when its trhe other way around. As long as the film is done right than IM good and I have been following the cast close enough lately to know that Tom Holland and Zendaya will have great Chemistry.

  7. Yeah. WHERE the hell was all the GD backlash when Emma Stone got cast as Allison Ng in “Aloha”? We trashed it—-afterwards, but no one said a damn peep when Hollywood snuck in that casting.

    Also–there are so many interracial couples and families now so it would really be in keeping with the times.

    1. There wasn’t any backlash to this degree because Aloha isn’t a household name Marvel Movie…

      1. Not everyone is into super hero movies, either but the target demographic (Fan Boys) is very vocal about casting, of that you can be sure.

  8. I think eventually the superhero genre will decline in popularity it’s always like that society’s tastes always are in flux I think in my opinion science fiction will be the next big thing with planets being found all the time I think it intrigues minds about far off worlds, beings who live under another star. In my mind if Aunt May can be an attractive 40 something woman then MJ can be a POC.

    1. Great analogy, and I do take your point. However, I do think Aunt May as played by Marisa Tomei was playing an attractive 50-something. (She is 51 going on 52 in real life.) Casting Zendaya as MJW does not require any suspension of disbelief.

      Speaking of science fiction (of which I am a total fan) recall when Ronald D. Moore’s version of Battlestar Galactica changed not only the races/ethnicities of key characters (Starbuck/Kara Thrace; Adama and Tighe) but also the gender and in some case, both (Boomer).

      I’m all the way down for sci-fi. I do check out superhero flicks but I’m not all in. My fave was the Captain America franchise with Chris Evans. I did like Chris Nolan;s version of Batman. I also liked Man of Steele but only because of the kickass SubCommander Faora Ul and Mike Shannon’s General Zod was so good, too! Henry Cavill is handsome but wooden as an actor and Amy Adams was not a good Lois Lane.

      I will check out Jason Momoa as Aquaman and hated the Wonder Woman casting but will see it nonetheless.
      I think it;s telling that HughJack says he will play Wolverine one more time and then he’s done.

      Problem with most superhero movies is that they are too formulaic and rely too much on CGI and other S/FX V/FX.

  9. She looks good for her age! I wonder who they might cast as Uncle Ben?! Probably Matt Damon or Brad Pitt!

    High Fantasy and Science fiction are my two favorite genres and scifi in particular I think is so inclusive in that in most things I’ve seen so far we’ve had these many different characters of racial backgrounds in futuristic space stations because race in the future wouldn’t be the same topic as it is now a post racial society if you will.

    I don’t blame him for one he’s not a young guy anymore he’s been Wolverine for 16 years now many professional actors prefer not to be remembered for just one role in their entire career. I remember Jet Li saying he might do very little martial arts films in the future because he’s not as spry as he used to be.

    Michael Shannon’s Zod was a truly wonderful villain in that he didn’t want to conquer the Earth but protect his own people at ANY cost including killing innocents due to his own predetermined role in life something he could never get away from no matter how much he wanted too.

    1. Yeah, Tomei has held up well. Did you see her in The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke?

      I like Matt Damon until he goes off the rails sometimes, but he’s a bit overexposed. He was a perfect Mark Whatney in THE MARTIAN but he sucked in Jason Bourne and he really showed his age in that movie.

      Yeah, Brad Pitt could play Uncle Ben…LMAO! BTW, I truly detested Andrew Garfield as Spidey and Peter Parker. UGH!

      I’m a big Michael Shannon fan and he brought so much to that Gen. Zod role and Antje Traue was phenomenal as SC Faora Ul. Jeezus was that ever a lark in Dawn of Justice how they used his body/corpse in the movie. I really thought Antje Traue should play Wonder Woman if they were gonna cast a foreigner. She has the look and the physicality and the strength. This stick chick um, Gal Godet is not WW in my book. WW was an Amazon of Amazonian stature and physique, etc.

      I hear that Mike Shannon doesn’t really like playing villains though because people come up to him and say crap to him about it. He has such a phenomenal screen presence, I love to go see any movie that he’s in and hell maybe he could play Uncle Ben? LOL

      I am not so much into Fantasy genre except for Game of Thrones. Like I was never really into Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and stuff but it’s funny and ironic to me how this fantasy genre just replicates these patriarchal societies with white men on top and everyone else subservient or on the bottom. GoT, included. Where’s the Asians? Where’s the Blacks? Where’s the LatinXs? C’mon, now.

      1. I have it’s a great movie, really a good portrayal about wrestlers after fame many end up back as very normal people living very normal lives many times worse for wear.

        Or sure even Mike Shannon as Uncle Ben!

        I can forgive GOT in those respects considering it’s supposed to be an analog to medieval Europe with Westeros as a giant British Isles. I think in recent seasons POC have been getting more exposure as we see the different nations like the Dothraki, Dornishmen and Valyrians, I know Sothyrios is supposed to be the analog to Africa seen by those in Westeros as dangerous and a very mysterious place according to the books in that continent lives King Kong like creatures, vampire bats that can really kill humans, dinosaurs. There’s talk about a spin off I think it would be cool if there’s a Marco Polo esque character who travels to these far off lands and explores the different cultures and peoples.

  10. I still like GoT but I notice that the focus typically does not feature PoCs unless they are slaves or subservient. The ones in their own kingdoms are on the margins of the story. It’s on its way out, but I always thought if it’s such a fantasy show there could be PoCs in true Power for sustained periods of time. The Dothraki are played as mere savages.

    1. I see where you’re coming from. Despite the obvious savagery there’s a complexity to Dothraki society kinda like our own.

      1. I disagree. I mean the Dothraki males treat women on/in GoT like mere cattle and sex objects—I guess it’s the same thing. Dany is just lucky that she has those Dragons and can walk through fire and resist getting her skin and hair burned so that brings the oafs to their knees out of fear. Fast forward to U.S., at least women and Blacks can work and own property and vote now. In no way are women or PoCs truly equal in today’s society despite the doing a way with de jure discrimination. I do not count the exceptions like pro athletes and entertainers like MLB players and LeBron and Beyonce and JLo all they get special status for having the ability to play ball and sing and dance and run up and down a basketball court and otherwise “entertain” the masses.

        Now, The late Prince Oberyn of Dorne and his ilk are people of color and have a sophisticated kingdom but they are merely on the margins of the GoT story. They are plot devices. They are not full players in the game.

      2. Fear of outsiders has always been pervasive in America, it was founded by WASP’s if you weren’t a WASP northerner in this country once upon a time you didn’t get very far. My great grandmother on my mother’s side was Irish people didn’t like the Irish very much still don’t.

        That storyline pissed me off they really let the Dorne storyline stagnate the Martells were used as a way to prop the Lannisters.

    2. Since we’re all speaking about racebending and what not. I was just pondering if iconic characters like Batman and Superman could be racebent. Let’s take Superman for example he’s not human, he is a being from another world who happens to resemble a Caucasian male could he be? Dean Cain was a successful Superman and he was written as ethnically ambiguous, I think Superman could be made racial ambiguous. The Wayne family is depicted as old money as in Colonial times, He could be biracial in the future.

      1. Kal-el for sure could be race bent because he’s not even human and he’s not from Earth. I don;t really see Batman as being racebent or bi-racial but one can always suspend their disbelief.

        What about sexual orientation bent? There was talk of making Peter Parker gay. I just think that runs counter to the canon of Spiderman.

        You might see how Wonder Woman could be a lesbian since she came from a single sex society (apparently she sprang from Zeus, her father, but had no relationship with him). I don’t know how the other “reproduce.” Her sexuality might be fluid—going for men since they would be so exotic to her (Steve Trevor) but also falling back to an attraction for women in certain situations.

        It might be good to also show some asexual superheroes like, ultimately…. Dr. Manhattan and The Hulk.

  11. You make good points tracey I was just thinking about this quote, we are limited by our time just like Howard Stark said and I think that rings true because our views on the world are always changing. You know decades ago what might be considered right and wrong but would be barbaric today many of history’s heroes did some awful things in the name of nation and people.

    I think Kal El should be racially ambigous I imagine ethnicity on Krypton would be considered moot they would a true post racial society I mean even MOS Krypton most of them had dark hair and dark eyes. That’s another thing that annoys me when aliens are giving a human appearance. Taking convergent evolution into account aliens might not look like us you have to factor in weather conditions, gravity, luminosity of their host star, terrain, climate stuff like that.

    Zeus was a notorious womanizer as shown in Greek Mythology he has children spread out Ancient Greece. She said in the movie trailer she had no father I think she meant her father was not there to raise her. I wager Diana is young even by Amazonian standards she sees Steve as this exotic thing I think ultimate Steve serves as a reminder not all men are evil.

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