Spider-Man has always been a bit more...flexible. The famous web slinger has been played by three actors over the last twenty-something years, has had two different characters under the mask, and has filled many roles in the Marvel universe across page and on screen.
One of the first superheroes to get their own film adaptation, he still peaks in popularity contests alongside icons like Batman and Wolverine. He has also notably been one of the characters at the forefront of social progress. The comic is always chock-full of strong women shaping Peter Parker’s life. Miles Morales, Peter’s protégé and successor after Peter dies in the Ultimate universe, is a young, Afro-Latino superhero inspired by Barack Obama and Donald Glover who has his own movie coming later this year. And in the not so distant past, Spiderpool fans petitioned so hard they got a Deadpool/Spider-Man team-up comic dripping in queer subtext, including assorted covers with the two heroes acting out famous kisses.
But with all that good stuff said, there have been some rumors flying around that, if you connect the dots, Andrew Garfield (the popular British actor who played the second version of big-screen Spidey) was fired for pushing to make Peter bisexual.
While this is definitely some piping hot tea, exactly how likely is this all to be true? There were a lot of factors that went into recasting Peter Parker, with the first and foremost being the absorbing of Spider-Man (originally licensed to Sony) into Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney, as on-brand as ever, wanted a fresh Spider-Man for their movies, even if they are technically still sharing the rights to him. (And let’s be honest…The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t exactly a hot ticket.) But following all of this gossip reveals some bigger, more concerning things about the state of queer representation in Hollywood.
Here’s what we know:
Andrew Garfield was outspoken about wanting Peter Parker to be bi and had the The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb on his side. He even had a boyfriend picked out (fellow actor Michael B. Jordan, who has gone on to star in Marvel’s Black Panther as Killmonger).
Since ending his role as the web slinger, Garfield has spoke often about wanting more queer representation in Hollywood. After the first Entertainment Weekly interview where he first mentioned the idea of a queer Spider-Man, Garfield clarified in a statement to Comic Book Resources that proves he is just as much Spider-Man as any of his co-Peters:
"It was just more a philosophical question, and what I believe about Spider-Man is that he does stand for everybody: black, white, Chinese, Malaysian, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender…but he represents the underdog and those marginalized who come up against great prejudice which I, as a middle-class straight, white man, don’t really understand so much. And when Stan Lee first wrote and created this character, the outcast was the computer nerd, was the science nerd, was the guy that couldn’t get the girl. Those guys now run the world. So how much of an outcast is that version of Peter Parker anymore? That’s my question."
Comic book legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, however, was NOT down for it. At all.
When asked about the idea after Garfield's EW interview, he said "He’s becoming bisexual? Really? Who have you been talking to? I don’t know…seriously I don’t know anything about that. And if it’s true, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls. I figure one sex is enough for anybody." He later went on to say he’d make some "calls” and that maybe Garfield was just saying it to "create a controversy" and that he hoped this "doesn’t hurt him in anyway."
Ewwwwww, Uncle Stan.
Then along comes 2015’s leak of Sony e-mails, and it was revealed that there is a contractual obligation that Spider-Man be white and heterosexual.
So was Garfield fired after pushing for a bisexual Peter Parker? It’s likely a lot more complicated than that. But no matter how you slice it, Marvel’s many on-screen offerings are sorely lacking when it comes to queer representation, with this year’s Deadpool 2 finally being the first to broach the subject at all. (It’s 2018, you guys! Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her GF are completely adorable an all, but there is no good reason for it to have taken this long!)
Of course, Spider-Man is now played by the wonderful Tom Holland, who is bringing a new, fresh energy to the role, and with progress always moving forward, who knows what will happen? For the time being, it looks like Spidey's queer fans will just have to keep doing what they've always been doing: waiting patiently to see what goes down.
Why can't this iconic web slinger can't swing both ways?!?