✧*̥˚ The Queer Symbolism of the Spider-Verse *̥˚✧

This was originally a speech/essay for my creative writing class, but I decided that I wanted to share it with all of you here on SpaceHey!!! I hope you like it because I'm really passionate about this ^_^

For this essay, I’m going to be discussing one of the most well-known superheroes in comic book history. You know him, you love him, I won’t shut up about him- Spider-Man. My favorite iterations of Spider-Man’s story definitely have to be the Spider-Verse movies. (Into/Across the Spider-Verse)

Now, I could talk about these movies for hours. The animation, the story, the characters… I’d go into heavy detail about all of it if I could. But today, I’ll only be talking about one prominent theme- The queer symbolism spread throughout both movies. And oh boy, there’s way more than you might expect.

Starting off strong with one of the more discussed topics, Gwen Stacy’s environment in Across the Spider-Verse. In the scene where she returns home to her father, while discussing her second life as Ghost Spider, the colors around her bleed into blue, pink, and white. As you may know, these are the colors of the transgender pride flag. It’s not just the colors in that single scene, though. In one scene, where Gwen is in her room, we can see a trans flag above her doorway with the words “Protect Trans Kids” in bold lettering. Moreover, in one shot we can see her father’s jacket strewn over a chair. And if you look really closely… You can see a patch of the trans flag on his jacket! 

Due to these little details, there’s been a ton of debate among Spider-Verse fans about whether or not Gwen might be transgender. Some claim she’s just a really strong ally for the transgender community, which explains the flag in her room. Others say she is trans, and the colors, the flag, and the patch are all key indicators of this. It’s up to interpretation, of course. Personally, I believe she might be trans. There’s a lot of details that support that conclusion, though it is just a theory.

There’s two other scenes I’d like to highlight in Across the Spider-Verse. First, Miles’ reintroduction scene. Near the end of this scene, he imagines a scenario where he tells his parents that he’s Spider-Man. In his mind, they say, “We love and support you, even though you have been lying to us for a year!”. Miles finishes the scene with: “Maybe in some other universe”. Secondly, the scene where Gwen reveals to her father that she’s Ghost Spider. She explains herself while being held at gunpoint by her father. Her father interjects with: “How long have you been lying to me?”

The scene with Miles is reminiscent of being in the closet as a queer person. A queer person might  imagine what it would be like to actually come out to their family. Will they still love them? Will they hate them? Will something else unexpected (yet equally nerve-wracking to think about) happen to them? They think about that, and they reconsider coming out. They stay in the closet for just a little longer. The scene with Gwen can represent a queer person actually coming out, but having a negative reaction from their family. They want the love and support that they need, but unfortunately, they don’t receive that from their family. It’s a terrible feeling. 

Both scenes can represent feeling guilty about being in the closet, being called a liar. Someone might come out to a family member, and now suddenly they’re a horrible, deceitful liar. They come out, and apparently their family member is the victim because they didn’t feel comfortable about telling them their identity. The reality is that closeted people are protecting themselves. They’re protecting themselves from the backlash that they know that they can receive.

A larger example would be Into the Spiderverse, where we follow Miles’ journey as Spider-Man. Throughout the movie, he experiences doubts, anxiety, feelings of not “being Spider-Man the right way”, feeling as though he can’t be Spider-Man. Until finally, he accepts himself. He knows he’s Spider-Man, and he’s proud of it… To an extent. By the end of the movie, (And in Across the Spider-Verse) he hasn’t told his parents that he’s Spider-Man just yet. He fears what they might think of him.

This movie feels like the experience of discovering who you are as a queer person, and the rough journey of finally finding acceptance with yourself. You deny who you are, curse yourself for being queer the “wrong way”, (There is no “wrong way”) let negativity from other people crush you. But when you’re finally at peace with who you are, you still think to yourself: “Oh no- What am I going to tell my parents?!” This thought is most prominent with closeted people with family members who are not so keen on the LGBTQ+ community. This causes them to stay in the closet for long periods of time, sometimes for their entire lives. It’s very unfortunate.

On a lighter note, I’d like to highlight Miles’ friendships throughout both films. From Gwen Stacy and Peter B. helping him stop the collider in New York (Earth-1610) from exploding, to Hobie Brown helping him escape that weird laser prison he was trapped in, Spider-People have helped and supported him throughout his journey.They help him figure himself out, face his toughest challenges, and are generally just good friends. He’s surrounded by people who are like him, who therefore understand him more than other people might. Another detail is whenever he meets a new Spider-Person, their spider-senses go off at the same time. (His original group from ITSV, Spider-Byte, etc.)

Miles having a friend group composed of mostly Spider-People is reminiscent of queer people being friends with each other. Being in a queer friend group as a gay person grants you the acceptance and support that you might not get anywhere else. You feel like you belong, because you know that there’s other people like you; Like you're not the only one. Remember that bit about spider-senses going off? Well, it’s kinda like that when two queer people meet. Sometimes, you don’t even have to say that you're gay. You just… Know. It’s like when me and Ace (My best friend) met. We just kinda knew. I’m not sure how Ace knew, though. When they met me I was dressed like a Morman.

One last thing before I’m finished is actually a character, the character in question being Hobie Brown. Hobie is extravagant, he hates labels, he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He’s Spider-Punk, and he’s proud of it. He sticks up for his fellow Spider-People, and takes action against the oppressiveness of Miguel O’Hara’s Spider Society. Also, his design is amazing. I love it so, so much! I just love him as a whole. He’s definitely my favorite. (Pavitr Prabhakar and Spider-Noir are definitely a close second and third, however.)

Hobie is… Well, he’s Hobie. I believe he can be seen as an example of a queer person who’s loud and proud about his identity, and someone who stands up for his queer friends in the face of adversity. And though the movie doesn’t state this, I believe that he might actually be queer. In some of his concept art for Across the Spider-Verse, Hobie actually could have been genderqueer. According to Evan Monteiro, (From the animation department of ATSV, and creator of the genderqueer Hobie concept art) he felt as though he couldn’t separate punk history from queer history. Though we didn’t get genderqueer Hobie in the movie, this aspect of his character adds to my belief of him being queer. Moreover, his claim about hating labels makes me believe that he wouldn’t really put a label on his gender. He feels like a “call me whatever feels right” kinda guy. (In my opinion.)

 Another detail is that he dresses in a way that goes against the heteronormative standards that society has set for men. Wearing a crop top over his Spider-Man suit, the dripping eyeliner look around the lenses of his mask, and his general punk look he has going on goes against the male heteronormativity prevalent in our society. (A bit unrelated, but he has really pretty eyelashes. Like, unusually pretty. He’s just very pretty.😭) Of course, not everyone who dresses this way is queer, but with the additional genderqueer Hobie concept, this just adds even more to my belief of his queerness.

I feel like I’ve been talking about Hobie for too long. I can’t help it, though. He’s my favorite and I wanted an excuse to talk about him.

Of course, you can interpret Spider-Man/the Spider-Verse movies however you want. I’m not saying that there is only one concrete interpretation, or that you have to agree with my interpretation at all. There’s many different ways that Spider-Man can be viewed. This is just one of my many interpretations of the Spider-Verse movies.

Spider-Man has been an important part of my life for years, and brings me comfort and security as a queer person. Just in general, really. A lot of this is just me self-projecting my experiences onto my favorite characters, since I don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about them through my perspective. I let them speak for me, I guess. But, I really, really appreciate you listening to me ramble on about Spider-Man for however long it took me to finish this speech. Again, Spider-Man is very important to me, and I’m so happy that you're willing to listen to me talk about it. Thank you!

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