Sorry folks, but it’s true. In the real world, our friendly neighborhood web crawler would be a Pepe-meme-posting, woman-harassing monster. Here are the reasons why.
He’s a disadvantaged white kid. Peter Parker has a lot of tough breaks. He’s an orphan who comes from a white working-class background. He’s bullied at school—Flash Thompson only makes fun of him in Homecoming, but in most versions Flash beats him up. To help Aunt May pay rent, Peter has to work as a photographer when he’s still in high school.
In the real world, because he’s white, he would expect everyone within earshot to care about his problems. Sure, his peers would be sympathetic after Uncle Ben dies, but eventually they’d focus on their own stuff and expect him to move on. This would make Peter feel angry and neglected.
It would be easy for this self-pity to boil over into racial resentment. In Homecoming, Peter is one of the only white kids onscreen, and nobody brings this up. This is good for the movie, but in the real world, social justice culture would be present at Peter’s diverse Queens high school. People would be talking about race all the time. How many conversations about white privilege would Peter overhear before he “took the red pill?”
I can picture the deleted scene now:
INT. CLASSROOM — DAY PETER Look, Liz, I know that it must suck to have every white person you meet call you “articulate,” but cheer up! At least you have a nicer house than me! LIZ Peter, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? FLASH Shut the fuck up, Peter!
From there, he’d be a web-sling away from yelling at feminists on Twitter and posting rants on r/TheDonald about the identity-politics left.
“But what about his moral code?” you ask. “‘With great power comes great responsibility!’ It’s literally his motto to be an altruistic leftist!” Well, yes and no.
He sucks at the humanities and would probably be a libertarian. Peter is a science prodigy, but do we ever see his English and History grades? I’m sure he’s not the worst student in the classroom, but they’re not his favorite subjects. He’s probably smart enough to breeze through his papers on The Great Gatsby and the French Revolution without thinking too much. It says a lot that he thinks a coherent moral code can come from one sentence his uncle said to him one time.
STEM is full of people with wacky ideas on how to govern. IRL the “Stark Internship” would be something like the Thiel Fellowship, which I’m sure gives winners some of the #MAGA vampire’s perspectives on things. “With great power comes great responsibility” sounds nice, but responsibility to whom? Rich people always think they’re acting responsibly. Expecting hard work to give you a pass for terrible behavior is the go-to excuse in high-powered white-collar fields.
It’s an easy leap from “With great power comes great responsibility” to “With great responsibility comes great indulgence.” If Peter decided to start reading more books, he’d start with Ayn Rand. There’s a small chance he’d end up an anti-Trump, bleeding-heart libertarian, but I bet he’d move onto Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset within a year.
He’s a troubled teen who uses bad jokes to escape his feelings. Real-life Spider-Man wishes he could come up with the snazzy on-the-spot comebacks that pepper his movie appearances, but he can’t. Instead, he photoshops Reddit gifs of Trump wrestling CNN to the ground.
Peter’s got a lot of issues. Even if he didn’t go full-on racist reactionary, he would use offensive, anti-establishment memes to vent his frustrations, rationalizing that they’re “not how he really feels.” Angela Nagle has written about the ‘alt-lite’ shitposters whom the media often conflates with their more radical peers: “Nihilistically reveling in shock, transgression, and trolling, you’re more likely to find these young men posting diaper porn, My Little Pony hate, and swastika-laden Pepe memes than listening to Wagner or reading Alain de Benoist.”
Since Spider-Man hides his identity, he’s basically a flesh-and-blood Twitter egg. Maybe he wouldn’t “mean” any of the racist or sexist stuff he screamed from the rooftops at passersby, but he’d be horrible to be around.
He’s an anti-government vigilante. This one’s not exclusive to Peter, but is true for a lot of modern superhero movies. Any story about a person putting on a mask and fighting inner-city crime is saying two things that line up with the alt-right: “We must restore law and order and stop the inner-city thugs” and “The government isn’t effective at doing this.” Since Spider-Man isn’t the most powerful superhero, he’s especially suited to fighting low-level street crime instead of intergalactic villains.
Superheroes are just people who have heard the dog whistles in Trump’s speeches and are crazy enough to take them to their logical conclusions. If Spider-Man actually tried to fight crime, he wouldn’t just be a member of the alt-right, he’d be their mascot.
Kells is an Oakland native with a sad compulsion to put his opinions online. He hopes that you like them, but what’s really important is that you like yourself. Twitter