Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t care about superhero movies, you know there was a major announcement about the Disney actress, Zendaya, and next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming film.
— Nerdist (@nerdist) August 20, 2016
As reported by The Wrap, Zendaya, whose character was previously named “Michelle” in the cast sheet, is playing Spider-Man actor Tom Holland’s love interest, Mary Jane Watson.
“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,” the article wrote before confirming, “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.”
This, of course, led to a blow-up on social media because Zendaya is obviously not the same ethnicity as the white, red-haired girl the character has always been portrayed to be.
“This isn’t about race.” Please tell me why you’re complaining about Zendaya playing Mark Jane Watson again? pic.twitter.com/0zjYD96c9E
— Tristan Baez (@TristanLBaez) August 19, 2016
The term “race swapping” immediately became a hot term that many found to either be racist or a real issue when it comes to recasting diversity in comic book movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming.
I think Zendaya will do great. But I’m not sure how I feel about race swapping or “re-skinning” these days. https://t.co/112E0tJZse
— Blerdman (@Blerd_Man) August 19, 2016
But is it race that’s the issue or is there something deeper? While Zendaya is of mixed race, it’s not far-fetched that she could pull off red hair, which is really the core characteristic of the Mary Jane Watson character. In fact, there are several photos of Zendaya with red hair on the internet, and her appearance is pretty close to what Mary Jane would look like despite the mixed ethnicity.
— Hanna Flint (@HannaFlint) August 21, 2016
Some Spider-fans simply felt her acting prowess did not entitle her to such a pivotal role in the film.
this year. zendaya was cast in the new spiderman movie…im shook
— isaiah (@lilcozyboy) August 10, 2016
the new spiderman movie is gonna be so trash zendaya is such a bad actress rip
— Neely (@_Neelz_) August 20, 2016
Why couldn’t Zendaya play as White Tiger in Spiderman? Why Mary Jane? No resemblance whatsoever, just as bad as Human Torch in F4
— JT (@Royal_Zoo) August 19, 2016
And it was that sentiment surrounding her acting chops that prompted Grunge to post an article prior to the Mary Jane casting announcement that insinuated something far more sinister afoot regarding Marvel’s parent corporation, Disney. Did they actually pull strings to not only get Zendaya into Spider-Man: Homecoming but to be cast in such an iconic way for their own gain?
“As a Disney Channel mass-manufactured media-friendly mini-star, Zendaya is inexorably propelled by overeager Disney execs towards her next endeavor, so they’ve insinuated her into Marvel’s blockbuster Cinematic Universe. She probably didn’t earn this role for her acting talents; she’s there because she’s a product to be placed. It’s not long before we’ll get to experience The Suite Life of Hulk & Cody.”
While the theory is merely speculative, it’s not something to overlook. Marvel’s main competitor, DC, saw Warner Bros. put their stamp on the direction of several of their movies after Batman V Superman went bust. Could Disney be reaching their tentacles into the golden goose that is the Marvel cinematic universe to boost their profits in other divisions?
Well, yeah. Considering Marvel’s last three movies have generated more money than several small countries combined, and corporations always have a habit of intervening into the businesses they own, this is not only entirely possible, it’s entirely plausible. And the real concern then becomes, if this is true, to what extent will Disney continue to intervene in the growth of the Marvel cinematic universe down the line.
For now, let’s simply hope Zendaya was cast because director Jon Watts saw something in her. And let’s hope that she will indeed have red hair.
What do you think? Did Disney pull strings to get Zendaya cast as Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Homecoming? And how will she fare in the film?
(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SiriusXM)