As comic book movies veer increasingly into stories about darker, morally ambiguous characters, Spider-Man is someone people still feel like they can turn to for a traditional hero. He fights against evil while balancing his superhero life working as a photographer and going to school. A guy that hard working is someone you’d be glad to have around as a good role model for children. But what if Spider-Man isn’t as admirable as he seems?
Has J. Jonah Jameson been onto something all these years with his suspicious about Spider-Man? After thinking about it, Spider-Man actually has a few different habits that might not be that great for kids to model themselves after. Let’s play a bit of devil’s advocate and look at the evidence to support Spidey not being quite as good of a guy as everyone seems to think. This one’s for you, Jonah! Here’s 15 Ways Spider-Man Is A Terrible Role Model.
15. HE’S UNRELIABLE IN EVERY DAY LIFE
As a hero, Spiderman is admirable because he saves so many people, but that alter ego also makes the ordinary man Peter Parker into a really bad person to emulate. Uncle Ben’s whole spiel about responsibility? Peter has a really hard time living by that. A responsible young adult needs to be getting good grades in school, showing up on time for their obligations, and working hard at whatever job they have. The problem is Peter is ready to blow off all those obligations at a moment’s notice.
Living a double life as a superhero means Peter has to find a balance between his two personas, but he inevitably winds up short-changing one or the other, and it’s often his unmasked identity that pays the price. Unless you want your kids to wind up getting bad grades and being fired from work, Peter is not someone you want them imitating.
14. HE CONSTANTLY MOCKS HIS OPPONENTS
We all know that before Peter got his superpowers, he was pretty much the stereotypical nerd getting picked on in school. He knows what it’s like to be insulted and bullied, and how bad that made him feel. Once Peter gets his superpowers, he initially uses them to get some payback against his old bullies to give them a taste of how it feels. So given all that, you’d think Spider-Man would be a very kind hero who wouldn’t want to demean others the way he was demeaned. Too bad that isn’t the case.
Though Spider-Man is often praised for his sense of humor, his jokes frequently come at the expense of his opponents. You’d think he would stick to reasoning with them and trying to get them to change their ways. But instead he mocks their outfits, their motivations, whatever physical defects they have. He deliberately does his best to provoke them to goad them into making mistakes. At least most other heroes simply beat up their villains. Spider-Man has to add insult to injury by bullying them.
13. HE’S DELIBERATELY KILLED HIS ENEMIES
Some of these offenses aren’t that serious, but this one is pretty hard to forgive. Batman has a rule against killing and he’s just a normal human. Superman has a rule against killing and he’s going against threats that endanger the entire galaxy. But some super-powered kid whose responsibility is just protecting New York can’t put in the effort to spare his enemies?
Ever heard of villains like the Finisher, Moondark, or Drom the Backwards Man? If you haven’t, don’t feel bad, because there’s a good reason you might not know them—Spider-Man killed all of them. Villains can’t exactly build up an impressive legacy if the hero just immediately murders them. And these weren’t accidental deaths either.
The Finisher was a hitman who used missiles to attack Spider-Man, but Spidey just dodged them and purposely directed them right back at Finisher and killed the guy in a big explosion. Maybe Spidey was just having a bad day and took it out on the guy, but how do you justify something like that to anyone who looks to Spider-Man as a role model?
12. HE’S A BAD FAMILY MEMBER
When parents are looking at role models for their kids to look up to, they probably don’t want it to be a guy who is partially responsible for the deaths of multiple members of his family. Unfortunately for Peter, he doesn’t have such a good track record in that regard. His parents died when he was still young, so we can’t really blame Peter for that. At least not the first time. Peter is later confronted by decoys of his parents sent by Harry Osborn to create trouble, and Peter has to overcome the replicas of his parents.
Of course the big reason Peter hasn’t been good for his family is due to his inaction resulting in the death of Uncle Ben. It’s something that always haunts Peter and motivates him to be a better person—at least in theory. But Peter later repeats his mistakes with Aunt May during the events of Marvel’s Civil War. He reveals his true identity to the world, apparently not realizing the consequences this would have for his loved ones– this choice results in Aunt May being shot. So maybe Peter hasn’t learned as much responsibility as he thought.
11. HE’S A BAD BEST FRIEND
Dating back to before Peter ever became Spider-Man, he had one best friend. Even when everyone else at school teased Peter and made him feel like garbage, Harry Osborn was there by his side. And it’s not like Harry was someone who would have a tough time fitting into a popular crowd if he wanted to, since his dad was so successful. Harry stuck by Peter because he cared about his friend and wanted to help him.
Once Peter became Spider-Man, things changed between the two friends. You can say it was unintentional, or that it wasn’t all his fault, but the fact remains that Harry wound up losing a lot because of his best friend. Harry had begun a relationship with Mary Jane, but Peter convinced her to get with him instead. Then in a fight against Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin, Spider-Man inadvertently plays a part in the demise of Norman. The death of his father causes Harry to have a breakdown, sending his mental health spiraling until he too dons the Green Goblin outfit.
10. HE’S A BAD ROMANTIC PARTNER
It’s become a staple of superhero comics that heroes have a really tough time getting into the dating game. There’s usually the decision for the hero of whether to actually reveal their other identity or try and keep it secret and hope their frequent absences go unquestioned. But even if that gets resolved, there’s also the constant danger the hero puts their partner in since enemies will frequently try to target the hero’s loved ones.
Spider-Man has experienced all the worst aspects of trying to date while being a hero, and it has ended badly quite often. His first major love was Gwen Stacy, and that ended with her being targeted by the Green Goblin until Spidey accidently broke his own girlfriend’s neck while trying to save her from falling off a bridge.
There’s also is his hot-and-cold relationship with Black Cat, where they are attracted to each other’s superhero personas, but Spidey always gets cold feet when it comes time to commit to something more serious with Felicia.
And then there’s Mary Jane. What hasn’t gone wrong there? Peter has ruined his marriage with MJ, he’s treated her like garbage and hit her in Spider-Man 3, and he even killed her with his radioactive semen once. Maybe Peter should just do people a favor and stick to being single.
9. HE VIOLATES JOURNALISM ETHICS
Even though Peter is just a freelance photographer, he should still be aware of basic journalism practices. It’s pretty common sense for people of any field not to do things like plagiarize or commit libel. And if he were a good role model, he would adhere to those procedures and earn his living as a journalist by covering news with integrity and taking his role as a photojournalist seriously. Instead, Peter uses the industry to deceive the public for money.
Everyone knows Peter gets work from Jonah Jameson by supplying his boss with pictures of Spider-Man. And as we all also know, Peter and Spider-Man are the same person, so Peter isn’t just getting lucky in getting his shots of the hero, he’s staging them. A journalist staging photos is a big no-no, and could cost them their job and reputation. If you’re staging photos, you’re not reporting the news; you’re fabricating it. And Peter does just that, getting photos of himself as Spidey doing whatever will get the public talking, just to exploit some more money from Jameson. Not exactly an upstanding representative of what a journalist should be. Lois Lane would be horrified.
8. HE CONSTANTLY LIES TO EVERYONE
Once someone lies to you, it’s pretty hard for them to earn your trust back. The problem with Spider-Man is that he lies to just about everyone. We’ve already discussed how he lies to the public in his journalism career, but that would at least be understandable if he wasn’t doing it for money. He doesn’t want to reveal his identity to the entire world because he worries it would endanger the people he cares about. Fair enough. But why does he have to lie to his own family and friends?
One of the biggest hurdles depicted in Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is his conflict over whether to trust her enough to let her know he’s Spider-Man. They had been friends since childhood, and she had already told him she loved him, so why not just be up front about who he is and the dangers his other life poses? Surely that’s better than constantly lying to her. And what about Aunt May? She’s Peter’s own family who took him in when his parents died. And he can’t even tell her who he really is? How is she supposed to given that her own family wouldn’t trust her?
7. IT’S EASY FOR IMPERSONATORS TO GIVE HIM A BAD NAME
The thing about being a masked superhero is that anyone can put on a mask and claim to be that hero. It becomes pretty easy to have your name tarnished when people only have to wear a similar outfit to fool people. Superman would never have to worry about something like that, since his face is clearly visible, so unless he’s dealing with someone doing something like cloning him, wearing the same outfit as Superman won’t fool anybody.
Not only have there been many different Spider-Mans over the years, but several characters have even managed to mimic Peter’s exact appearance. In recent years he got body swapped with Doctor Octopus and had to put up with Doc Ock tarnishing his name by brutally killing people. And we can’t forget the infamous Clone Saga, which wasn’t just a bit of confusion that lasted for a couple issues. The Clone Saga lasted for years, and had even the readers questioning who the real Peter Parker was. When even die-hard comic fans have to guess who the real Spider-Man is, it definitely dents Peter’s credibility as a trusted role model.
6. HE’S A MATERIALISTIC HERO
It’s probably a good thing that very few of us can actually afford the debut comics of most superheroes, because you’ll find that a lot of them are quite different from how heroes are depicted nowadays. In Batman’s debut comic he just casually kills people with no remorse; a stark contrast to his modern day morals of avoiding killing anyone at all costs. And Spider-Man was also quite a bit different at his inception.
The Amazing Spider-Man #1 saw Spidey interested in joining the Fantastic Four, so he decided to go to their headquarters and audition for a spot on the team. The only problem was the Fantastic Four didn’t know Spider-Man planned to audition, so they reacted by genuinely trying to fight him. Spidey ran circles around them and countered all their attacks, leaving the group breathless and asking why he was there. Spidey proudly declared he wanted to join up, claiming that a hero of his caliber clearly deserved their top salary. Confused, the Fantastic Four said that they didn’t pay salaries since they were heroes. Spidey was so offended at the prospect of working for the group for free, he ditched the famous team and called them “pikers”.
5. HE MADE THE SYMBIOTE LOOK STUPID IN SPIDER-MAN 3
We’ve all seen enough movies about aliens coming to Earth to know how badly it often goes, but in the Spider-Man comics, we actually got a rare example of humans and aliens getting along pretty well. The symbiote bonded with Spider-Man, gave him a cool black suit, and everyone was pretty happy with it. The symbiote was living up to its name: they were two species depending on each other and thriving together. Sure, the symbiote reveals some darker intentions with the whole thing with Venom, but even Venom eventually becomes a good guy, so clearly humans and symbiotes are capable of coexisting in harmony.
Of course Peter Parker has to ruin that too, this time in Spider-Man 3. Fans were actually excited to see Venom in the movie, but then Peter totally kills the symbiote’s credibility by acting like a jackass. Who’s going to take an alien that makes people dance in the middle of the street seriously? This could have been the beginning of a beautiful bond between humans and symbiotes, creating a good lesson for kids not to judge space aliens too harshly.
But instead of another classic like E.T., we got an alien that made people act like dorks and had to be destroyed. That kind of anti-alien behavior is exactly why Spider-Man can’t be trusted to team up with groups like the space-traveling Guardians of the Galaxy.
4. HE REFUSES TO SHARE THE MOVIE SPOTLIGHT WITH THE OTHER SPIDEY-VERSE HEROES
As excited as we all are for Spider-Man: Homecoming, this is still the third attempt at this franchise within fifteen years. There are other franchises out there still going, without having been rebooted once. And honestly, the prospect of having to sit through Spider-Man’s origin story a third time is a bit exhausting. Yeah, the whole Uncle Ben thing is sad. We’ve got it. We’re ready to get into new territory now. And you know what would have been a great way to give fans something new and avoid rehashing the same origin? Do a movie about one of the other heroes in Spider-Man’s world.
When the reboot was first announced, fans were rumbling about how this was a perfect excuse to give Miles Morales a movie. It would have been something fresh for the big screen while still keeping the Spider-Man name going. Or we even could have had a movie about Spider-Gwen.
There are lots of other interesting heroes in this world, so it’s kind of disappointing that Peter Parker has to hog the spotlight so much instead of giving a new character a chance. Sharing is an admirable trait for a role model, but clearly one that Peter struggles with.
3. HE DOESN’T RESPECT HIS ELDERS
Remember how Gwen Stacy’s dad wound up dying in The Amazing Spider-Man? And of course, before he passed, he had some words with Peter. He specifically told Peter to stay away from his daughter because any friend of Spider-Man was going to become a target for villains. It was a simple request: do the best thing for Gwen and don’t involve her in the life of Spider-Man so nothing bad happens to her. Peter naturally agreed to that, seeing the logic and emotion behind the request. Too bad he didn’t even stick by his word for the span of an entire movie.
By The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Peter was back to giving in to his feelings for Gwen, doing exactly the opposite of what her father had requested. And in the movie’s final act, Gwen obviously paid the price for Peter’s disobedience… with her life. Peter had been given ample warning of the danger he was putting Gwen in, but instead ignored the dying wish of Gwen’s own father. They say respect your elders for a reason— people with more experience in life often know what they’re talking about.
2. HE MAKES RADIOACTIVE SPIDERS SEEM COOL
Whenever you see real-life role models talking about how they got where they are, you ever noticed they focus on their hard work and the people who have supported them? Whether they are musicians, athletes, or writers, they always talk about the early life struggles that they had to persevere through for a pay-off. You don’t really hear too many influential people saying they got where they are by doing something incredibly stupid and dangerous.
Admittedly, Peter Parker didn’t exactly choose to get bit by a radioactive spider. But still, what kind of precedent does he set for kids? If you want to grow up strong then drink milk, take vitamins, and let irradiated insects inject poison into you?
At least other heroes have origin stories that are admirable. Batman was inspired by the deaths of his parents to overcome his fear of bats and use his enormous wealth to help stop criminals. There’re a lot of good lessons in there for kids. Anyone trying to copy Spider-Man’s origin would just wind up in a hospital or maybe even dead. Think of the children, Spider-Man!
1. HIS FIRST MOVIE EXPOSED PEOPLE TO MORE NICKELBACK
Of all the problematic things we’ve talked about Spider-Man doing, this one is by far the worst. Before Captain America hailed Hydra, or Batman and Superman started killing people in DC’s cinematic universe, there was this atrocity: Spider-Man practically endorsing Nickelback. Nickelback’s “Hero” was blaring on the advertisements for the Spider-Man movie every time the trailers played. But what kind of hero exposes his fans to dorky, toothless rock musicians? Not even the Joker would be that cruel.
The Canadian rock band has only become even more cringeworthy in retrospect, what with their lead singer Chad Kroeger thinking marrying Avril Lavigne was a good idea. If the couple had stayed together, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films hadn’t fallen through, they might have even had Avril do a song for one of the movies!
Heroes are supposed to save people from evil such as this, not subject them to it. Well thanks to Spider-Man, Nickelback’s popularity grew. We’re still interested in his movies, but for Spider-Man’s part in something so horrible, we’re not sure if we can ever fully forgive him.
Spider-Man: Homecoming will be out in theaters on July 07, 2017.
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