Zendaya

And so it begins — the great new excuse to call people “racist” for the next year.

News broke on Thursday afternoon that Zendaya will be playing the iconic role of Mary Jane in next summer’s latest Spider-Man movie, Homecoming.

The Wrap reported:

Zendaya will be playing long-time Spider-Man love interest Mary Jane Watson in next summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” two individuals with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Diehard Spidey fans have long speculated about whom the 19-year-old Disney Channel star would portray in Sony’s high-profile reboot of the superhero franchise, starring British actor Tom Holland as a teenage Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man.

Also Read: All 43 Marvel Movies Ranked From Worst to Best, Including ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (Photos)

At least one recent draft of the script has Zendaya’s character dropping several clues to her identity as Mary Jane, one of the most familiar love interests in the Marvel superhero’s universe — and played by Kirsten Dunst in Sam Raimi‘s 2002-07 movie trilogy starring Tobey Maguire as the webslinger.

Zendaya, the star of the Disney Channel series “Shake It Up!” and “K.C. Undercover,” was cast back in March to play a “key role” as a character named Michelle.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger has plenty of thoughts on Sony’s movie, but what concerns me most is the knee-jerk reaction by race-obsessed goons to label anyone who wants to see a beautiful redhead on the big screen as “raaaaaaacist.”

Peter MJ

One of the first race-runners out of the gate was Devin Faraci of the website Birth. Movies. Death. He worries about the “next racist fanboy outrage,” (because honoring source material is apparently ‘racist’ nowadays).

Devin Farac

The comments section of websites like The Wrap (You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) was just as bad.

Wrap comments Homecoming MJ

Ah, yes, all those “racist white nerds” who like their Blades and Rhodeys black and their Mary Janes white with red hair…they’re so weirdly racist!

The good thing about Sony’s habitual screw-ups when it comes to…pretty much everything…is that at this point fans only want to see a good movie. My prediction is that Zendaya — who is certainly beautiful  — will do just fine.

It’s hard to do a worse job than Kirsten Dunst, so as long as Zendaya captures the essence of MJ’s character then most long-time fans will forgive the studio’s deviation from the comics.

It is much harder to turn the other cheek, however, with writers who salivate at the chance to spit out charges of racism over the slightest disagreement.

What do you think of Zendaya’s casting? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think it was strange of Sony to keep it a secret for so long if the casting is not supposed to be a big deal? Let me know in the comments section below.

Update: Dan Slott decided to weigh in on the issue, and he was in rare form with his Straw Man arguments and specious claims. I cover it in the comments section, but decided to take a screenshot of the embedded tweets since he has a habit of deleting them when things get out of hand.

Dan Slott Homecoming Zendaya

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

38 comments

  1. If they’re making MJ black to be more diverse, I don’t understand why they don’t just use an established black character like Glory Grant to fill that role. Just like if they needed an Asian character, they shouldn’t make a character Asian, but instead use someone like Amadeus.

    1. “If they’re making MJ black to be more diverse, I don’t understand why they don’t just use an established black character like Glory Grant to fill that role.”

      Because then the people who are naturally inclined to scream “raaaaaaacist!” whenever someone disagrees with them will not have a moral pedestal to stand upon. They need an excuse to pat each other on the back and ridicule others. 😉

    1. Dan Slott is the king of misdirection and the Straw Man argument.

      In one tweet he says no character “HAS” to be white (all-caps Dan really means it when he hits the caps lock key). Yeah, no duh. There isn’t someone tribunal of creative judges who issue decrees on race. However, if someone has read about characters for years in the comics and they look a specific way, then it is 100% rational for that person to want to see an accurate representation on the big screen. That goes for James Rhodes, Blade, or Mary Jane. It’s really not that hard of a point to grasp, but Dan Slott likes to tweet things that make him seem like a really swell guy. “Loooooove me! I’m so progressive! Loooooove me!”

      I agree that it would be weird to change Luke Cage into a white guy — but poor Hispanic, Asians, and white people exist in urban areas. Dan’s argument is, once again, specious.

      Dan on whether or not it’s okay to make Luke Cage white. Dan doesn’t even know what “racist” means. His definition of racism boils down to, “Anything that makes some minorities mad that I happen to agree with.”

      More of the classic Dan Slott Straw Man on display:

  2. I’ll reserve judgment until the final product is out, but I can’t help but feel some skepticism. This is probably due to how poorly Marvel has handled “diversity” in recent years, but to be fair, the MCU has pretty much stayed away from that kind of thing. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

    1. I’ll reserve judgment until the final product is out, but I can’t help but feel some skepticism.

      You feel skepticism because the guy’s working for Marvel act like disingenuous tools. Did you see James Gunn’s tweet? He wrote: “If you’re complaining about the ethnicity of Mary Jane your life is too good.”

      James Gunn, the guy who has essentially dedicated his life to playing make believe, only tells people “your life is too good” when they disagree with him. If someone has read comic books for years and once to see their favorite red-haired character portrayed with red hair on the big screen, there is nothing wrong with that. Merely criticizing an editorial decision does not constitute “your life is too good.” If someone were obsessed about it, then sure. But what guys like James Gunn do is try to shut down any criticism of their decisions with “You’re a racist…you’re a sexist…you’re privileged.”

      Shut up, James Gunn. You’ve dedicated hours of your life to creating “Groot.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t go acting like a big jerk because someone wants movie-MJ to look like comics-MJ.

  3. I heard about this the other day and was hoping you’d blog about it. I love how race is “essential” to characters like Luke Cage but according to the Dan Slotts of the world there’s “nothing about Peter and MJ that HAS to be white.” It’s ridiculous. That’s basically that white characters can be replaced but don’t you dare try and change the race of a minority character. Can you imagine the outrage if they cast Jason Shatham as Luke Cage?

    I’d like to reserve judgement until the movie hits theaters next year, but I can’t help but feel they’ve done this on purpose so they’ll just have an excuse to call fans “racist.” It’s really no different from what the comics division has done in recent years. I honestly thought the people in charge of the MCU were better than that.

    As for Devin Faraci, that guy is a clown. He’s also on the lookout for controversy and calls fans “racistsexistprivilegedbigoted” (one word) whenever something like this comes up. I remember reading somewhere that even his neighbors don’t like him and have called him a “bully.”

    James Gunn’s Tweet is just idiotic. What’s he trying to say? Is this some kind of veiled “your’e privileged” argument? If so, it doesn’t fly with me. You’re not going to shut people down with those arguments, Gunn, and the whole “privilege” thing is a bunch of malarkey if you ask me since I’ve never been privileged at any point in my life. You don’t want to tell me, the guy who used to be bullied for having Asperger’s syndrome and for having a deeper voice than most of his classmates (among other things) about “privilege.” Where was my so-called “privilege” when that happened? It sure wasn’t there.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but these people should focus on what they’re good at: playing make-believe, and leave the politics to people who actually have a clue.

    Sorry for the rant, Doug, but the lack of professionalism among people like Gunn and Faraci pisses me off.

  4. And for the record, I also think that Zendaya is beautiful, and I hope that she does well in the role. I just don’t like the SJW wing of the internet and how quickly they are to dismiss legitimate criticism as “racist.”

    1. “Regarding Slott, seems like he should be writing The Amazing Straw-Man, instead.”

      Zing!

      Side note: I’ll be working up a new YouTube video on Dan Slott for later tonight.

      Since I know you’re reading this: Hi Dan!

  5. It isn’t racist when most of the audience doesn’t care too much about the race of the character anyway, if the actor hired does a great job, and the over-all movie is good. Those are the three ingredients. Nobody much cared if they made Nick Fury black, Samuel Jackson did a fine job with the role, and Avengers I was great. Hence, not racist. If Superman was a B-list character, the Hispanic or Asian guy they hired knocked the role out of the park, and the movie he was in blew your socks off, no racism (or the bleats of racism would be ignored)

    1. “It isn’t racist when most of the audience doesn’t care too much about the race of the character anyway, if the actor hired does a great job, and the over-all movie is good.”

      The thing that annoys me about guys like Dan Slott, James Gunn, and others is that they use random Twitter samples and then hold that up as proof of whatever point they were trying to make. “See! See! I found two dudes on Twitter who said something racist…so that means that anyone who criticizes this decision must be racist. See!”

      They basically just use Twitter to fish for compliments. You did it, Dan. You created your own little echo chamber, where the vibrations constantly massage your ego. Sad.

  6. I know Slott loves to make a scene and throw his beliefs and views in people’s faces, but I honestly don’t understand why he felt the need to weigh in on this one considering he doesn’t even like the character in question. His reaction to all of this at the most should’ve been “meh?”

    1. “I know Slott loves to make a scene and throw his beliefs and views in people’s faces, but I honestly don’t understand why he felt the need to weigh in on this one considering he doesn’t even like the character in question.”

      I’ll be doing up a YouTube video on that question tonight, dkamphaus! 🙂

      Short answer: He needs someone to feed that ego. It feels so good on the scars of self-loathing. That’s what you need to do when you go around telling everyone that white privilege exists, but yet you refuse to give up your cushy job to a minority writer. Dan doesn’t want to lead by example. What a surprise…

  7. I want to see MJ in the MCU somewhere along the line, given that she’s one of my favorite characters in the “Spider-Man” franchise, preferably as a faithful recreation of the “Ultimate” version of the character and the related setup (girl-next-door personality, best friends with Peter their whole lives and in love with each other, etc.). Time will tell if they do use MJ or not and what characterization she has.

    Given that the MCU has had generally impeccable casting in the past, I’m inclined to trust that, whomever Zendaya is playing, it will prove to be a good decision.

    I’m suspicious that she’s not playing MJ, given that A.) it seems like a click-bait rumor run wild more than anything, B.) there doesn’t seem to be any real motivation to keep her character identity a surprise (much less a logical way to pull such a surprise in-movie, a la Khan in “Star Trek Into Darkness”), C. Zendaya’s character already has a name (Michelle), and C.) the MCU has, overall, kept the major characters faithful to their original racial backgrounds (even Nick Fury, since he’s based on Ultimate Fury, not the 616 Italian-American character called Nick Fury).

    For what it’s worth, if they did cast Zendaya as MJ and she dyed her hair red or used a wig or something, I can kinda visualize her playing the character, so I’m not sure if it would be as jarring a change as some people think it might. However, I’ve never seen Zendaya in anything, so I can’t say that for sure until the movie comes out and we see how she is onscreen (regardless of whether she’s MJ, Michelle, or someone else).

    P.S. I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you on the opinion that Kirsten Dunst left a lot to be desired with her turn as MJ in the original movies. I thought that she did a decent job performance-wise and will argue that her MJ is one of the best-written love interest characters in the Marvel movie franchise to date, certainly in regards to being a fully fleshed-out character. I do recognize, though, that that’s an unpopular opinion, and, as with everything in art, your mileage may vary. It just strikes me kind of funny that you found her to set a low bar, while think she actually set a pretty high one. Guess it goes to show how stuff speaks to people in different ways.

    1. “I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you on the opinion that Kirsten Dunst left a lot to be desired with her turn as MJ in the original movies. I thought that she did a decent job performance-wise and will argue that her MJ is one of the best-written love interest characters in the Marvel movie franchise to date, certainly in regards to being a fully fleshed-out character.”

      There is a distinct difference between the script she was given and her ability to bring life to character. Her acting was, to put it nicely, wooden.

    2. “There is a distinct difference between the script she was given and her ability to bring life to character. Her acting was, to put it nicely, wooden.”

      I agree with you on Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. I watched her act on the recent season of “Fargo” and thought she did a decent job, which made me wonder why she didn’t pour her all into playing MJ. Maybe she’s improved since then, I don’t know.

  8. “There is a distinct difference between the script she was given and her ability to bring life to character. Her acting was, to put it nicely, wooden.”

    True on the first. Still not so sure on the second. I’ve seen the movies a lot, and while there are some bits and pieces that I wish had been reshot or tinkered with (and what movie doesn’t have those?), I can’t really find anything wrong with Dunst’s performance. At any rate, she doesn’t seem any worse than the rest of the cast. I have looked at reviews and opinions online — both from the time the movies were released and after the fact — and have found that opinions on the performance vary from positive, negative, to mixed (including some professional reviews that were generally positive in this regard.

    But, like I said, it’s all subjective (and I do understand I’m in the minority), so if you don’t agree, fair enough.

    (Actually, of the casting for the original “Spider-Man “movies, I think James Franco’s role as Harry Osborn is the one that’s really hit-and-miss. That’s my candidate for the most wooden character.)

    1. I like the original Spider-Man movies (except for the third), but I’ve always thought that Tobey Maguire’s Spidey was kind of a whiny baby at times and rarely if ever made sarcastic zingers at criminals he fought.

  9. I hope she is a worthwhile Mary Jane, I’ve hear a lot of rumours that she’ll start off very nerdy and only appear as her bombshell self in the closing minutes of the movie, I’d be down with that too, I was a big fan of MJ’s portrayal as the nerdy best friend in Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, even if some accused that version of being a red-headed Gwen (where as Gwen was more of a problem child policeman’s daughter in USM)

    Minor gripe, but why did you have to use the “Peter”/MJ kiss from Issue 700? That’s not even Peter she’s kissing, it’s Ock, and MJ was on stupid pills in that issue not being able to see that

    1. “Minor gripe, but why did you have to use the “Peter”/MJ kiss from Issue 700? That’s not even Peter she’s kissing, it’s Ock, and MJ was on stupid pills in that issue not being able to see that.”

      I searched “MJ” in my photo library and that came up. I don’t even remember issue 700… If I would have remembered, then I would have chosen a different picture.

    2. “Hey Doug, here’s one you can use.”

      Nice. I may plug that in there. Thanks!

      “And don’t worry, Slott’s work is very forgettable, I maybe remember 1% of his work. not counting Renew Your Vows, which is the only one I remember in it’s entirety that and issue #5 of his Spider-Man and Human Torch mini.”

      In this case it was just one of those things where if I search my photo library, then I’m not always going to think, “Wait…I think that is panel 23 from ASM #700 in 2012. That’s Ock!” It’s not happening…especially if I’m writing a blog post after work. 😉

  10. What gets me is all the crowing about Zendaya being a black actress. It’s like everyone conveniently ignores that she has a white mother. But we can’t talk about that because, somewhere in our “culturally diverse” society, white people like me have all of a sudden become unimportant. I’m not a minority so it doesn’t matter if I want my traditionally white iconic characters to be white. But dare I think a white man would make a great Black Panther, and that just can’t be done! It’s essential to the character! OK, Slotts of the world, so a character who’s been white for over half a century can just be changed all willy-nilly? In truth, a lot of people who beat their chests about diversity are incredibly close-minded. They don’t like to see any other point than their own and aren’t worth trying to convince because it will never happen. Could Zendaya be a great MJ? Maybe, but it’s going to be disappointing not seeing her start out as a redhead. And that’s even assuming she is Mary Jane. I still don’t quite believe it as fact given the dubious reputation of the guy who reported it. Plus I could have sworn their were reports from Comic Con where those who saw the teaser said the character was referred to as Michelle during the footage, so if the MJ rumor turns out to be true, is she being renamed as well? I don’t want a “Robin Blake” reveal for this movie. That would be horrendous. If you’re going to make her mixed race, fine, but give her the red hair and the name Mary Jane Watson. Otherwise why even use the character?

    1. “What gets me is all the crowing about Zendaya being a black actress. It’s like everyone conveniently ignores that she has a white mother. But we can’t talk about that because, somewhere in our ‘culturally diverse’ society, white people like me have all of a sudden become unimportant.”

      What gets lost on all the social-justice obsessives out there is that white guys like yourself get sick and tired of hearing that you’re the root cause of all the problems of the world and that your opinions no long matter because “privilege” (never mind the fact that they know nothing about your upbringing). There are a lot of really smart white dudes in the world, so it’s probably not a great idea to make them into adversaries just because … “white guy.”

      “OK, Slotts of the world, so a character who’s been white for over half a century can just be changed all willy-nilly? In truth, a lot of people who beat their chests about diversity are incredibly close-minded. They don’t like to see any other point than their own and aren’t worth trying to convince because it will never happen.”

      Rule of thumb: The people who shout the loudest about their “tolerant” nature are usually the most intolerant. 😉 “Diversity” is usually defined as, “some arbitrary and shifting standard that I decree and you agree to without question.”

  11. Douglas, I’m still hoping we’re being faked out in some way. Like maybe this was a planted rumor and “Michelle” is supposed to be Mary Jane, but then someone like Angourie Rice shows up late with blazing red hair and delivers the famous “jackpot” line. It is interesting that we’ve seen several pictures of Zendaya on set, looking nothing like MJ, but zero of Rice or others. I don’t believe the “leaked cast list” either because any idiot can write names down, take a picture and post it online. I find it ridiculous to think that Marvel would finally get their prized property back, only to think they need to change absolutely everything when they knew this was the one that needed to be adapted well after all the damage Sony did. If they’re really going a complete re-imagining route, then they’ve lost their collective minds.

  12. What gets me is how everyone acts like black people and minorities cant be fanboys (or girls) and still demand source material accuracy like other fans. Why is it always “white nerds”.?? that itself is a racist stereo type..
    I am black..and grew up diverse… perfectly happy reading comics featuring white and black characters because it reflects the world i live in. Sure, i am proud when a black character is popular, well written and non steretyoical. but I dont need iconic characters to be changed just to make me feel good. People who think that’s diverstity are just trying to cover up their own racism IMO.
    I was always a huge spidey fan and MJ was always one of my favorite female marvel characters..both for her looks and what she represents…nerdy guy getting the hot mode gfl! And her look is as iconic as black widow and jean grey.
    I hated kirsten Dunst because I don’t think she embodied the character (616 version anyway). Also hated famke jansen as jean grey….neither are true red heads or looked the part with bad dye jobs and I also didnt care for their performances.
    They were white..but didnt fit..so in that sense..race doesn’t matter. U can be white and still be a bad casting choice .

    Just because we want our movie characters to look and act like comic versions..and the bad casting happens to be a minority…that doesn’t make us all white, privleged or racist. Black fanboys also want accuracy. And why not? It has served the mcu well so far! (Except Cheadle…see, don’t just cast any old black person to fill a black role either!)

    I also disageee what some are saying..that unlike spidey and MJ…that black characters are actually defined by their race …that just seems like an ignorant statement and kind of racist in itself. No person real or fictional should be defined by race. That is the problem with our country! However one cant deny the social significance of such characters, so no one would dare change Cage or tchala!

    Also white people, please stop saying “biracial” as if that makes someone not black. Unfortunately the world we live in…you are black as long as you look black and have any black parentage!..or if you dont look black but identify as black. Otherwise ,because race is just a label, there is no real way to define if someone is black or not so just stop it!

    Back to my point….comic artists cant just change the social context and physical appearance of a character on a whim..and neither should filmmakers. If a character is depicted as white in the comics that is just as relevant as is they are depicted as any race….and changing that also does change the social context! For example…Black Kingpin(daredevil movie) never worked for me..because white kingpin was a mob boss above the law… and a black crime boss just seemed lik3 a. A stereotypcial to have a black criminal badguy and b. not as realstic…black criminals in real life dont get to rise above on the law, own everything, buy off police and prison guards and get off scott free like Fisk can. It just made less sense and was unnecessary.

    One good exception is Electra from the Netflix show …even tho the actress is not european or greek…she still looks very much like the character and she still embodied the essence even though her origin was changed slightly. But she can still be of greek nationality because no country today is made up of only one ethnicity.

    So…as long as it makes sense and they look the part…it.can work… If Zendaya is indeed MJ..and has bright red hair..and acts and looks like MJ should..ok…argument won. but i have doubts. I rather they not cast pop Disney actors and stick to people who are proven solid. But oh well. We’ll see! She IS hot

    Just dont call me white or racist if shes awful!

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