[This article was originally written as an assignment for my degree.]
About 30 minutes into SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, there is is the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. But this time it is different. The film was released about a month after he passed, but somehow became the best cameo (although his conversation with Brodie in MALLRATS is a close second). It encapsulated his persona, the message he wanted to convey through his creation, and the message the filmmakers wanted to get across.
“It always fits. Eventually.”
As Stan Lee tells that to the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales (not his creation btw), it is as if he is speaking to the audience. You can make a difference. A 17 year old white teenager called Peter B. Parker can become Spider-Man. A 15 year old Afro-Latino teenager called Miles Morales can become Spider-Man. A teenage girl called Gwen Stacy, who always tragically died, can become Spider-Woman.
Anyone can wear the mask.
And that, for some people is enough. That is the romanticized reality I want to live in. However, cynicism reigns.
The reason why anyone can wear the mask, even a Pig, is because the corporations (in this case Sony) need to make money. They need to appeal to the widest possible audience. They have patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now they’re selling it, they wanna sell it. (I would like to thank Dr Ian Malcolm in JURASSIC PARK, for perfectly summarizing how corporations act).
It is why merchandising a character like Spider-Man is key to the success of a movie about Spider-Man. If a bullied 7 year old, with a British-Maori background can identify with Peter Parker, why can’t an African-American boy identify with Miles Morales, why can’t a teenage girl identify with Gwen Stacy (and trust me, judging from the amount of issues each of their respective comics sell, a LOT of people want those stories).
This is why we have this film. As good as it is, and it is really bloody good, the reason it has that message of, “Anyone can wear the mask”, is so that they can appeal to widest possible audience.
Stan Lee understood that. That is why the attention of the camera shifts to a sign reading ‘No Refunds’. The salesman was always present.
I want to clarify something away from my main point. I LOVE this film. It has been out less than a year and I have seen it 6 times. Corporations be damned, they have me, hook, line and sinker.