Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Biggest Strength – Diverse Casting

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To say that Hollywood has a race problem is obvious. It will always have a race problem. From the numerous “whitewashing” of roles (most recently Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell & Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange) to the minorities and women in film not getting fair recognition come award season – change is long overdue in the industry. As a black man currently working in Hollywood, I speak from experience and as a fan. Some try to justify it and make sense sometimes, but more needs to be done.

We’ve had five Spider-Man films with none of the leads being anything other than caucasian men and women as per the norm in Hollywood. But shouldn’t the cast be more diverse given that each film has been based in New York City? Come on, it’s one the great melting pots of the nation, outside of race – the blending of cultures coming together, the languages, accents are what make the city amazing. While most of these films were great (Spider-Man 3 & The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – i’m looking at you) they did not reflect what NYC is.

So, here we are, we finally have Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via a deal between Marvel Studios & Sony Pictures. First up, Captain America: Civil War then, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Leading up to Tom Holland being cast as the third live action Spider-Man, fans and critics made it known that it might be time for Miles Morales to take his turn on the silver screen. But most knew; without Peter Parker & Spider-Man having been done justice yet, it was a long shot to happen. After Holland was cast, many hopes were dashed for a diverse Spider-Man or even cast at that.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
The cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming so far

As the months have since passed since his casting, we have a title, and things are moving swiftly – all the way to the beginning of filming this Summer. But the exciting thing for this writer – is the cast! You have to give it to the SH casting department; this is an exciting and talented cast. The cast above has brought it in a variety of roles that are not superhero related. Let’s break it down:

  • Zendaya has been on the cusp of breaking into features for the last couple years. Getting her start on the Disney channel show Shake It Up and currently stars in K.C. Undercover. Landing her is a huge coup for Marvel/Sony as she boasts talent in spades. The singer/dancer/actress/model recently made a cameo in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album. She is also massively influential on social and brings an audience with her.
  • Marisa Tomei has been around Hollywood years. Boasting three Academy Award nominations for films like The Wrestler, In The Bedroom, and My Cousin Vinny, the actress boasts an impressive resume and has enough dramatic performances to convey the wisdom, love and perceptiveness that Aunt May requires.
  • Tom Holland. What is there to say? Anyone who has seen his performances in The Impossible or How I Live Now knows what this kid is capable of. Athletic, a dancer and he’s sung? He has the chops to be Spider-man / Peter Parker and is already garnering rave reviews for his turn in Civil War and he only has limited screen time. Wait until you see what he can do in a 2 hour film as the lead.
  • Tony Revolori burst onto the scene in Wes Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel and people have been talking about him ever since. He’s got several films coming out later this year and this role is one more step to stardom for a young actor who is taking the industry in new, fresh directions.
  • Laura Harrier is a little bit of an unknown. Recently seen in One Life to Live and “The Last Five Years,” she has been pegged for a breakout role for quite sometime now. I cannot wait to see what she brings to the film as she has been cast in a “significant role.”
  • Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man. Sherlock Holmes. Tropic Thunder. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Chaplin. Zodiac. Enough said.

I cannot wait to see them all in action when July 2017 comes around. Can you imagine who else will be cast? The possibilities are stimulating! Maybe eventually we’ll get to see White Tiger or Silk up there with Spidey?!

While this is great and all, outside of the fanboy mindset – one must think about the larger conversation this starts. If this film can have a diverse cast, there should be no more excuses for Hollywood whitewashing in other films. Gone would be the excuses for female characters to be left out of merchandise, and a footstep in the right direction of putting an end to the belief that only caucasian led films sell better overseas. While that has already started with other films, we in and out of the industry can start to do better and once we do better, that means many more opportunities for minorities in the entertainment industry, in front of AND behind the camera.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is set to come out in theaters on July 7, 2017.

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