Spider-Man’s a good guy, right? He’s always trying to save people, and he has that code of ethics about power and responsibility, so he must be a good role model.
Except, of course, for all the times he’s just a colossal jerk. When he’s not using his powers to show up other heroes, he’s treating all the women in his life like garbage. Being one of Spider-Man’s friends is probably more trouble than it’s worth – here are some of the worst times that Spidey’s been absolutely awful to the most important people in his life.
Just for the sake of clarity: these aren’t moments when Spider-Man’s being mind-controlled by Doctor Octopus, or possessed by an alien symbiote. These are all classic Peter Parker, which suggests that the ‘classic Parker luck’ Spider-Man’s always complaining about is probably just karma.
17. Getting a Magic Divorce
Perhaps the most notorious bad decision Peter’s made in recent years is the choice to end his marriage to Mary Jane by making a deal with the devil. Following the fallout from the first Civil War comics event, in which Spider-Man unmasks in front of the world’s press (breaking the internet in the process as everyone rushes to Google Peter Parker), Aunt May takes a bullet in the gut from one of the Kingpin’s henchmen.
Searching for any possible way to heal Aunt May, Peter is ultimately led to make a deal with Mephisto, who saves May’s life in exchange for completely rewriting history to destroy Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, which up until this moment has been relatively stable.
Ultimately, it’s not even Peter who agrees to the deal – Mary Jane takes Mephisto up on his offer, knowing that her husband values his aunt’s life higher than their relationship, which is just really sad when you think about Peter’s priorities.
16. Treating Aunt May Like an Invalid
Peter’s overprotective attitude towards his aunt may save her life at one point, but it’s hardly a healthy relationship. Leaving aside the fact that Aunt May was once kidnapped by the Green Goblin and held prisoner for well over a year, Peter’s general attitude of treating his aunt like the most frail basket case is nothing short of patronizing.
At one point, when a supervillain burns down Aunt May’s house, she enters the wreckage after the fire has been put out. Peter’s natural reaction is to assume that she’s having a psychotic breakdown and is hallucinating. In reality, May is simply retrieving her photo albums from a fire-proof box she’d hidden under her mattress, proving that, if anything, she’s more than capable of taking care of herself without Peter’s intervention.
For years, Peter has treated May like a burden and a weak old lady. In that time, May’s faced off against countless supervillains, had multiple lovers, and has generally proven that she’s anything but frail. Good luck telling Peter that, though.
15. Not Warning Loved Ones About Supervillains
Speaking of Aunt May facing off against supervillains, it certainly is a shame that she’s never been warned why freaks in masks keep bothering her. All of Peter’s loved ones are regularly put in danger because of his superhero antics, and to their credit, they really take the threat of death by mad scientists in their strides.
But why do Aunt May, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, and others, have to face these attacks without explanation? Peter’s logic for keeping his loved ones in the dark about his superhero identity are twofold: firstly, he worries that the stress of his secret would give his aunt a heart attack, which is nonsense because she’s figured out his identity in the past and been absolutely fine. Secondly, he worries that if his loved ones know that he’s Spider-Man, they’ll be put in danger.
Of course, his loves ones are already in danger – not knowing about Spider-Man if anything makes things more dangerous because they don’t know to watch their backs whenever the Green Goblin escapes from prison or Doc Ock makes a new body-switching machine.
14. Getting Gwen Stacy Killed
Perhaps the ultimate example of what happens when Peter isn’t honest with his friends and family is the death of Gwen Stacy, who in the comics is murdered by the Green Goblin without ever finding out about Spider-Man’s secret identity.
Peter’s grudge match with Norman Osborn has had more than a few casualties over the years, but none has had more of an impact on his life than Gwen, who is targeted by the Goblin purely because he knows Spider-Man’s secret identity. It’s Gwen Stacy’s father’s dying wish that Peter looks after his daughter, Captain Stacy having figured out a while ago that Peter is Spider-Man. Gwen blames Spider-Man for her father’s death, though, and instead of attempting to clear up the matter, which would have been exceptionally easy, Peter allows Gwen to keep thinking that his alter-ego is guilty of the murder of her father.
13. Friendzoning Mary Jane
Outside of the comics, Spider-Man doesn’t fare much better. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, while trying his best to keep Mary Jane safe, is ultimately an enormous jerk to her by not letting her make her own decisions.
At the end of the first Spider-Man movie, Mary Jane admits her feelings for Peter and, after enjoying a kiss for a while, Peter friendzones her pretty hard before leaving her to cry as he walks heroically away through a graveyard. Peter has chosen, he feels, to protect Mary Jane from his secret life as Spider-Man.
Except, Peter wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Throughout Spider-Man 2, he wavers between pushing Mary Jane away and teasing her with romantic efforts – the moment he sees her moving on with her life and dating another man, he gets obsessively jealous and starts studying up poetry to woo her back. Upon doing so, though, he rejects her again. Peter won’t be with Mary Jane, but he also doesn’t want her to be with anyone else.
Ultimately, Mary Jane calls Peter out for trying to make her decisions for her, and he’s convinced that sure, why not, they might as well date. It’s not like keeping her at an arm’s length worked anyway: she’d just been kidnapped by Doc Ock simply for sitting near Peter in a café.
12. Abandoning Gwen Stacy When Her Dad Dies
Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker isn’t much better when it comes to looking after his girlfriend – if anything, he’s worse than the comic book Spider-Man for his treatment of Gwen Stacy.
Whereas comic book Captain Stacy tells Peter to look after Gwen, Amazing Spider-Man Captain Stacy makes Peter promise the opposite – he has to keep Gwen out of his superheroing in order to keep her safe. Peter does his best to keep his distance from Gwen, but ultimately gives up when he gets bored after a short montage of deliberately ignoring his girlfriend.
Poor Gwen Stacy – Emma Stone’s version of the character has to suffer through the trauma of her father’s death while her boyfriend refuses to talk to her. It’s only after she begins pulling her life back together that Peter starts talking to her again, meaning that she’s missed out on having support during one of the hardest parts of her life.
11. Crashing The Human Torch’s Party
Peter’s had a love-hate relationship with the Fantastic Four since the start of his comic adventures, and has had a particularly rocky rivalry with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Both heroes are about the same age, and Johnny’s known for being both a literal and figurative hothead, so it’s no surprise that the two come to blows occasionally when rubbing elbows among other teenage superheroes.
Some of Peter’s actions in this rivalry are fairly inexcusable, though. At one point, when Johnny’s girlfriend throws him a party, Spider-Man turns up uninvited and refuses to leave, spinning webs, and generally being disruptive and annoying. When Johnny gets mad at Spidey, the two start to brawl, ruining the party and making a mess.
While in most instances both Johnny and Peter give as good as the get, and while the pair have long since buried the hatchet, Johnny’s party is an example of Spider-Man deliberately ruining the Human Torch’s day just because he feels like it.
10. Kisses Gwen Stacy in Front of Mary Jane
Even after Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man finally lets Mary Jane into his life, he’s a pretty crummy boyfriend. Getting far too full of himself as a result of New York’s newfound love of Spider-Man, Peter ignores Mary Jane’s troubles with her job, dismissing her opinions when she winds up feeling insecure and inadequate after bad reviews for her stage show performance, and failing to notice when she gets fired and has to take work as a waitress in a jazz bar.
Perhaps the most awful thing that this version of Peter does to Mary Jane, though, is kiss Gwen Stacy in front of an entire celebration in his honor. Bear in mind, at this point in the movie, Spider-Man isn’t under the influence of the venom symbiote (that comes later, when he starts dancing, playing the piano, and hitting Mary Jane). But, fully aware that his girlfriend is watching, Peter kisses another woman in the exact way that he first kissed Mary Jane, so it’s hardly surprising that she storms out later when he tries to propose to her.
9. Takes a Job Guarding a Mob Boss
Spider-Man always stands up for the little guy and fights against crime, right? Well, it depends on how much he’s getting paid.
At one point, when a zombie mobster hulk is threatening a mob boss and his business ventures, Spider-Man agrees to take a job working as his bodyguard. Peter justifies this because he’d be trying to stop the zombie hulk anyway, and what’s the harm in being pointed in the right direction if it means earning a few bucks on the side? In reality, though, it’s made clear in the comic that he takes the job because he feels insecure that his gorgeous supermodel wife earns more money than he does, and he figures some dirty money will help fuel his manly pride.
There’s no honor among thieves, though: after agreeing to the job and taking a lot of money from the mob boss, he rats him out to the cops, wearing a wire to incriminate his boss. Having done so, Spider-Man keeps the money, donating it to the school he works at in the name of Gwen Stacy, because it’s been a while since he’s reminded Mary Jane that he liked his dead blonde girlfriend better.
8. Steals from Reed Richards
In his first comic, Spider-Man tries to join the Fantastic Four, by breaking into their home and throwing the Thing across the room to prove how great he is. Peter ultimately leaves as soon as he finds out that being in the FF doesn’t pay very well, highlighting his priorities at this stage of his crimefighting career (bear in mind that this is only briefly after he’s considered becoming a supervillain to get some extra cash).
Spider-Man’s run-ins with the Fantastic Four are far from over, though. At one point while at college, Peter manages to score a prestigious internship helping Reed Richards, better known as Mister Fantastic. This is big news for Peter, who gets the chance to work on a new invention of Reed’s, which sticks heavy objects to walls with ease. What does Peter do with this new, top secret and potentially dangerous invention? He steals it, uses it on his car, and goes for a joyride across the rooftops of New York.
7. Lies to Harry Osborn
Poor Harry Osborn’s greatest character flaw is an anxious desire to please his father. It’s not Harry’s fault that Norman Osborn is a power-hungry mad scientist, nor is it Harry’s fault that his best friend is constantly involved in fights to the death with his dear old dad. Harry is a casualty of a super powered war between two of the most important people in his life, and when he ultimately becomes the Green Goblin himself, he can hardly be blamed after the trauma that being pinned between Norman and Peter has created in his life.
The thing is, there’s plenty Peter could do to help support Harry. Things like warning Harry about his father’s secret identity, in case the Green Goblin decides to take things out on his son. Or, failing that, explaining how Norman Osborn dies so that Harry’s not left thinking Spider-Man did it. In yet another case of thinking his loved ones are too weak to deal with the fallout of his superhero identity, Peter puts Harry in a vulnerable position that leads to his ultimate death.
6. Stands Mary Jane Up Constantly
Being on time isn’t Peter Parker’s strong suit.
The webhead has a habit of either turning up late to important events, or just not showing up at all. Over the years, Mary Jane has suffered the worst from this, as, having actually trusted her his secret identity, Peter feels this gives him free reign to stand her up at every opportunity, knowing that she’ll cover for him when he misses important social occasions.
Sure, Peter needs to pull on his red and blue costume to save lives, but there are more effective ways to police the city. Peter’s (inexplicably) on good speaking terms with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, so making a quick phone call could get some other, more powerful superheroes to cover for him when he can’t spare the time for a particular supervillain attack. When Doc Ock takes over as Spider-Man, he uses a group of henchmen and spider drones to help out and keep him from missing social occasions, so there are plenty of options available to Peter that don’t involve leaving Mary Jane in the lurch.
5. Gives Mary Jane Cancer
Compared to the events of comic series Reign, leaving Mary Jane waiting outside the movie theater is positively kind. Reign is an alternate-universe story about an aging Spider-Man returning to the webs for a final standoff. Throughout the book, Peter is wracked with guilt over Mary Jane’s death – his beloved wife died of cancer, and Peter missed large chunks of her final days on Earth because he was off being a superhero.
Towards the end of the story, though, it’s revealed that Peter’s crimes go beyond ignoring his dying wife: he’s the reason she developed cancer in the first place. In this version of reality, it’s consistent intimacy with Peter (something which in another comic is referred to euphemistically as ‘sharing a toothbrush’) which caused Mary Jane to develop cancer. As any Spider-fan knows, Peter’s bodily fluids are radioactive.
It could be argued that Peter didn’t know the impact that intimacy with Mary Jane would have on her. That said, though, if even your theme song points out that you’ve got radioactive blood, it’s probably worth getting yourself checked by a doctor to make sure you can’t hurt those around you.
4. Runs Away to Paris with Gwen Stacy’s Underage Daughter
What’s worse than giving your wife cancer? How about leaving your wife in New York as you travel to Paris with an underage girl who looks exactly like your ex-girlfriend? Such is the case in Sins Remembered, when Peter aims to help the illegitimate lovechild of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn get out of trouble caused by her addiction to illegal drugs.
Conveniently for the story, while Sarah Stacy isn’t yet a teenager, the Goblin formula in her veins has caused her to age at an accelerated race, meaning that she’s physically around the same age that Gwen was when she died. Throughout his time in Paris, Peter tries to not make a big deal of the fact that Sarah is constantly flirting with him, and to his credit, he does push her away when she tries to kiss him – it’s just a shame that, at that exact moment, Mary Jane walks into the room, having been justifiably concerned about her husband travelling to France with the spitting image of his first love.
3. Leaves Mary Jane Trapped in a Bunker with Her Stalker
When Peter’s not showing Mary Jane radioactive affection or dictating who she’s allowed to date while trapped in the friendzone, he’s ignoring her. Being Spider-Man takes a lot of time, and sometimes, when your wife is complaining about how you’ve forgotten her birthday or that you’re ignoring the stalker outside her window, it can get in the way of beating up criminals.
At one point, at the height of Mary Jane’s modelling career, a particularly nasty stalker starts showing up in all the wrong places, making her feel threatened and in danger. Peter is busy being Spider-Man for most of this, and doesn’t pick up on just how dangerous the guy is until he blows up a transatlantic flight that Mary Jane was booked into.
Suddenly confronted by the death of his wife, Peter shrugs, moves in with a friend, and returns to a bachelor lifestyle – which, it must be noted, involves flirting with Gwen Stacy’s cousin. Months go by before Peter finally discovers that Mary Jane isn’t dead at all – she’s been locked in a bunker by her stalker, who, as it turns out, is actually just after punishing Peter for his crimes as Spider-Man.
2. Dumps Mary Jane for Shadowcat
In the Ultimate comics universe, Mary Jane doesn’t have to worry about always living up to the legacy of the long-dead Gwen Stacy, so one would assume that she’d have an easier time of things while dating the teenage Peter Parker.
Not so: after being transformed into a mutant sasquatch by a supervillain, Mary Jane turns to Peter for comfort, only to have him break up with her. According to Peter, being his girlfriend is far too dangerous, and as such it’s better off that they never speak to each other. Mary Jane is heartbroken by this, and is crushed all over again when, shortly after, Peter starts very publicly dating Kitty Pryde, better known as Shadowcat from the X-Men.
Things don’t work out all that great for Shadowcat either – shortly after they start dating, Peter dumps Kitty to get back together with Mary Jane, for some reason no longer worried about her safety. Apparently no matter what universe you’re from, dating Spider-Man can be hazardous to your emotional health.
1. Gets Uncle Ben Killed
Spider-Man’s ultimate jerk move is also the most famous moment from his origin story. So much of the character’s crimefighting adventures and his attitude towards his family stem from the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, which, by the way, was all Peter Parker’s fault.
After making it big as a costumed performer under the guise of Spider-Man, Peter’s life is looking pretty good. He’s rolling in money, everybody loves him, and he’s well on the way to becoming a worldwide sensation. When a thief tries to steal from the television studio where Spider-Man’s show is filmed, though, Peter is too busy counting his money to help out. As far as Peter’s concerned, some petty thief is just not his problem.
Of course, all comic book fans know what happens next. Because Peter is too busy being a jerk, the crook that he can’t’ be bothered to stop winds up shooting his Uncle Ben. It’s a tragedy that could easily have been avoided if Peter wasn’t such a jerk, and it’s the excuse he uses to ignore and endanger his family for the rest of his life.
With great power, Spider-Man often says, comes great responsibility. It’s funny, though, that Peter often overlooks the responsibility he has to his family, his friends, and even his fellow crime fighters. For all that Spider-Man spends his days and nights trying to make the world a safer place, in many cases his specific method of doing so just make life harder for everyone around him.
Thanks, Spidey. You big jerk.
Are we being too harsh on the Wall Crawler? What other jerk moves has Spider-Man made over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.