This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on September 24th.
Okay, it’s a bit of a cliché among children, but hear me out anyway. Firstly, I’d like to make the distinction between wanting to be Spider-Man and wanting to be Peter Parker. What I mean by this is, I don’t just want to swing around New York, crawling up walls, I want to be able to take on the integrity and personality of the person behind the mask. The second distinction I’d like to make is that I am referring to the character of Peter Parker in general and not a specific interpretation of him – although if I had to, it’d be Andrew Garfield not Tobey Maguire because of… well Mary Jane.
This does stem from my childhood. Before Sam Raimi’s first film, I was already in love with comic-books and in particular Spider-Man, so my expectations were astronomically high. I don’t remember much about that specific trip to the cinema but I am assured by my Dad that I sat with my mouth agape and grinned (probably manically) whenever something amazing happened. After that I waited impatiently for the DVD release so that I could watch it again and again and again (which I did nearly every night, alternating between it and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).
Then came the sequels and as time went on, I realized it wasn’t just his powers that I wanted; I realized that he had become a kind of role model for me. It probably helped that I wasn’t exactly one of the popular kids, and with a shared interest in photography, I felt a small affinity with the character (not in Spider-Man 3 though, I do not condone that dancing). But it’s one thing to want to be someone in your childhood, but when you grow up everyone wants you to face reality, to wake up to the real world and to stop dressing up as Superheroes because, apparently, “it’s getting weird now.”
So eventually, after unsuccessfully attempting to coax multiple spiders into biting me, I gave up any ambition of actually becoming Spider-Man (the age at which I did this I cannot quite determine but I am sure it was worryingly late on) – but I could still be Peter Parker, the aim being to help people, put others before myself and that general thing. But as I grew up I realized I don’t really have the temperament or drive for that. I’d like to say I could do those things, I’d like to be able to take responsibility when I needed to, I’d like to be able to put my own feelings aside for the general good, but I’m just not cut out for it.
That’s why I’d like to be Peter Parker, because he is cut out for it. He doesn’t let the stress of a job, of school, of a struggling Aunt, of girl problems and super-powered psycho’s trying to kill him, get to him. Okay he maybe throws in the towel every now and then – hasn’t he earned the right to? – but he always comes back, no matter what heartache defeated him. Who wouldn’t take a few weeks off if the love of their life died right in front of them?
He does the right thing no matter how hard. When he tells Aunt May about his (accidental) involvement in Uncle Ben’s death, it’s no easy task but he sees it through because that’s what Peter Parker does. Occasionally self interest takes over. He promises Gwen’s dying father that he’ll leave her out of his life, maybe he doesn’t keep it but he tries. He makes enough sacrifices as it is and she hardly makes it easy for him. It is equally her decision anyway. He also has incredible time management skills which I wouldn’t mind having myself. Yes, he delivers one or two pizza’s late but A, That’s New York traffic and B, he’s busy.
With Peter Parker does admittedly come lots of tragedy; all the lost loved ones, the deteriorated friendships and the sense of abandonment from his parents. But you know what, I’d like to be Peter if I could overcome all of that half as well as he does. Especially when compared to other superheroes. Batman loses a girlfriend, becomes a whinny recluse for 8 years and only comes out of retirement to satisfy his anger and need for vengeance. Peter takes some time off to grieve and then returns as soon as he’s needed – that says everything you need to know.