Photo Courtesy of Julian Lee

Spider-Man brings new representation to superhero movies.


In 2018, Sony Pictures released “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” …and it was ground-breaking.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” quickly became one of the most successful movies in the Spider-Man franchise, with the film winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2019 and ranked 12th in IMDBs Greatest Movies of All Time

But, why?

The story of Spider-Man follows a familiar narrative shown in almost every movie. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him arachnid-like powers. The mysterious vigilante then dawns a spider suit, fights crime, suffers losses and goes to school the next day. 

With a storyline repeated within all films, you would assume these movies would get old. However, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” breathed new life into what the average moviegoer knew about Spider-Man, as the film deviated from the regularly utilized story structure and instead ventured into the Spider-Man universe.

The film follows the story of Miles Morales, a half African American and half Puerto Rican student from New York, who is struggling to come into his new role as “the one and only Spider-Man”… Or so he thought. 

Throughout the film, Miles encounters various Spider-people who help him on his journey across the Spider-Verse, realizing he isn’t alone and that his once unique problems are not his to bear alone. 

However, what distinguishes Miles’ portrayal from previous Spider-Men is his ethnic background and the culture he was raised in, which acts as a defining component for Miles being a distinctive and realistic character. For the first time, someone other than Peter Parker plays Spider-Man on the big screen, making Miles’ version unlike any Spider-Man films that came before.

Miles Morales represents those who come from similar backgrounds, whether it be with his experiences or the hardships he faces outside of being a crime-fighting superhero, making his relatability a strong selling point that the film effectively portrays. But Miles’ legacy did not stop here. 

In the recent 2023 film, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”, Miles Morales’ story is continued, but this time, it introduces a whole new dimension of Spider-people, providing more representation in media. 

Among the hundreds of unique Spider-people that graced the screen was Miguel O’Hara, a Latino Spider-Man from the year 2099 who acts as the film’s antagonist, and Pavitr Prabhakar, an Indian Spider-Man from Mumbai.

Not only is this inclusion of ethnic and racial diversity important, but the differences in their lives outside the mask help the viewer further relate to these characters. Representation can mean so much in the media and to be able to see yourself in the characters is empowering. 

This is why the character of Spider-Man is such an important character. 

The person under the mask can be anyone. 

Spider-Man Creator, Stan Lee, stressed the importance of Spider-Man’s ambiguity and how personal it can become. 

“What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume,” Lee said. “…And that’s a good thing.”

The vast amounts of Spider-people further solidify the point that we aren’t alone. This point is not only hammered into Miles but into the audience as well. 

I have personally never seen someone exactly like me be the main character on the screen. As an Afro-Latina, seeing Miles Morales take center stage and watching him fail and succeed throughout the movies made me feel seen. 

As I see Miles battle to find a way to balance his goals in life while also dealing with the expectations of others, I can see myself in that struggle.

Miles is seen struggling to balance his responsibilities as a student, a son, a friend and a hero. Being able to confidently identify myself in these assigned roles can be a heavy task. 

As I see Miles swinging across the screen, I can see myself being that hero. Despite struggles of identity, I recognize that I can help others in every role I am given. 

Miles serves as an inspiration to me, proving that I can live up to my own expectations of my identity while breaking through stereotypes placed on me by others. 

As audiences watch their favorite Spider-people swing, fall, and get back up, they may see themselves in those heroes.