About a year ago, there was this big rumour that the then-newly cast Zendaya was going to be Mary Jane Watson in the then-upcoming film Spider-Man: Homecoming. As if by coincidence, nearly a year ago was the last time anyone wrote on this blog and we wrote about from where the racist outcries might be coming in a post about why and how Mary Jane Watson is a walking talking fetish.
The then-upcoming film Spider-Man: Homecoming is the now recently released film Spider-Man: Homecoming and now we finally know whether Zendaya was cast as Mary Jane Watson.
The answer is sort of.
She’s a character named Michelle who, at the very end of the film, tells all her new friends that she prefers to be called MJ. So she is MJ but she isn’t Mary Jane Watson and that’s very frustrating.
If we take her at face value and choose to accept her as Mary Jane Watson, at least insofar as her proxy, as I believe we’re supposed to do, she’s actually a really neat interpretation. She’s this witty, sarcastic, artist-type with few friends and that’s a really clever inversion of the stereotypical Mary Jane Watson character. She isn’t played as the inherently desirable babe that the comics and the previous movies paint her as and it’s kind of refreshing to see Mary Jane Watson as an actual human with quirks and idiosyncrasies and various other monikers and expressions that might be considered an actual personality. She isn’t the love interest, she isn’t the centre of Peter’s world, she isn’t the girl next door, she isn’t the damsel in distress, and she isn’t the object of affection by the male gaze.
I really liked this interpretation but I’m really annoyed that she is explicitly referred to as Michelle instead of Mary Jane. Because I know she’s supposed to be Mary Jane, because why else would she be given that line about being called MJ by her friends? Right? You don’t draw that parallel so explicitly unless you, you know, want to draw that parallel. But then why so equally as explicitly name her something that is specifically not-Mary Jane if for no other reason than to distance this character from Mary Jane Watson? Her name being Michelle isn’t just a change from the canon – because who really cares about a change from the canon – it’s such a specific change from the canon that it communicates something very clearly:
This is not Mary Jane Watson. This is Michelle. She is like Mary Jane Watson, so we called her MJ, but we called her Michelle in case we need to replace her with a white girl who we will then call Mary Jane Watson making her the real MJ and this the fake MJ but until we do that this is the real MJ but not the real Mary Jane Watson she’s Michelle she’s like Mary Jane Watson but just her proxy, you can call her MJ but she’s Michelle, not Mary Jane Watson, but she is MJ.
And this frustrates the shit out me! They completely broke down and rebuilt Flash Thompson and gave us someone unrecogniseable as Flash Thompson – but they kept the name and asked us to accept this new Flash Thompson as the Flash Thompson. Aunt May was a departure from the ineffectual and inept old lady type of the previous two attempts and complete unlike audience expectations and we were asked to accept this new May as the May.
But with Mary Jane Watson they gave us a choice.
and as far as i’m concerned that means the racists on twitter won.