Recently,world was informed of the possibility of 19-year-old Zendaya Coleman playing Mary Jane-Watson in Spiderman Homecoming, set to release July, 2017. Zendaya has been gracefully rising to stardom since her 2013 Disney debut as a pre-teen on Shake It Up.This role, however, will be her first major gig on the big screen.
While Black Twitter is oozing with black girl magic and excitement; other parts of social media are not so thrilled. Let’s face it, black women playing white fictional characters is something that deserves a few twitter threads, and 10 think pieces. It’s no surprise dog-avi twitter (@ricozolton1991) is upset that Mary Jane Watson isn’t a red-headed white woman. But this is not the first time Zendaya is the topic of conversation for something she can’t control—her blackness, and her talent. This is also not the first case of black women being criticized simply for being gifted and black.
Colorism is at play here, too. Zendaya’s lighter complexion gives her an advantage to grow as a public figure. Her story cannot be compared to someone like Leslie Jones’, for example. Her more European features soften the hateful blows of internet trolls, but does not completely save her from racist Spiderman stans. From accusations of Zendaya being under0qualified, to complaints about the entire cast being “too diverse”, to the demand for the “respect for originality,” America shows its racist colors once again.
So, let’s get down to the real question: why shouldn’t Zendaya be Mary Jane? For those who argue that Mary Jane is supposed to be a redhead, let’s look at the past 3 Mary Jane’s. Kristen Dunst, Shaline Woodley, and Sara Ballantine—none are natural redheads. There are also those concerned about her skill level. Stan Lee, comic book legend and creator of Spiker-Man, said in an interview with the Toranto Sun, that he thinks “she’ll be absolutely wonderful” and goes on to say, “The color of their skin doesn’t matter, their religion doesn’t matter, all that matters is that this is the right person for the role.”
Lee’s comments should put the debate to rest. It says a lot he has no objections to a black woman playing Mary Jane. Those who object to Zendaya possibly playing Mary Jane-Watson are failing to realize that it doesn’t matter if a made-up character is white in comic books, and black in the actual movie.
Mary Jane’s race does not alter the storyline in any way, so ideally it shouldn’t matter. In a society like ours especially, the diversity in casting is important. Representation matters and the possibility of Zendaya as Mary Jane Watson is yet another win for black girls everywhere