The Cultural Politics of Spider-Man 3

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled The Cultural Meanings of Spider-Man, in which I reviewed some of the scholarship on this American icon. In my post, I discussed Niall Richardson’s article The Gospel According to Spider-Man (2004), which analyzes the use of religious motifs in the first Spider-Man movie. Well, I write this postscript now because I finally saw Spider-Man 3 and I have to say that I am surprised at how religious the movie was. The story is essentially an allegory about the importance of repressing the appetites (sexual, for vengeance), honoring the concept of marriage and exercising forgiveness. These themes are explicitly presented in a religious context: Peter Parker frees himself from his dark, lustful and vengeful side (the Venom suit) in a cathedral bell tower.

3 thoughts on “The Cultural Politics of Spider-Man 3

  1. Or, it could be rather an epic or mythic hero (http://people2.hsc.edu/drjclassics/lectures/MythicHero/mythichero.shtm). Or course, Christianity can be seen as a system of myths as well. But what Christianity? Catholicism does not really entertain much the idea of marriage and prefers to emphasize ascetism and virginity, although I agree with you that forgiveness is part of it. I believe that, if we can pinpoint any religion in this case, it should be Evangelical Christianity or traditional Protestantism. Also, even though the moral values of the film do relate to Christianity, what construct within religion does Spider-Man really represent? Jesus Christ? A sinner-turned-saint? Or the typical hero from American history?

  2. Good points all. I would just stress that we have to be clear about which incarnation of Spider-Man we are talking about. Raimi’s Spider-Man is not the same as comic book Spider-Man from the 60’s etc. Personally, I am disappointed at how Raimi has stripped Spider-Man of any social or historical relevance to our present moment. With the exception of one skyscraper scene that uncomfortable evokes the tragedy of 9/11.

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