spider-man

Spider-Man 3 is an all-over-the-place campy glorious wild mess of a movie, but in the middle of it all they managed to pull off something remarkably progressive:

Everything about Gwen.

As you probably know (there’s been a lot of talk about it since the most recent Spider-movie) Gwen Stacy isn’t just a fridged female character: she’s the fridged female character. She’s iconic as the beautiful dead girl in Peter Parker’s arms, murdered partly by Norman Osborn and partly by writers and editors who didn’t know what to do with her. People know her far better as a corpse than a character. I’m not saying that her death and the fallout from it isn’t deservedly known as one of the best stories in comics, but dying young both canonised her and warped her – for literally decades she was a perfect, pure, idealised image of What Could Have Been, rather than a person in her own right. (Which she was!) Fandom often used her as a stick to beat MJ – flirty short-skirt-wearing party girl MJ – with, using disturbingly misogynist rhetoric. When Sins Past – the story where it was revealed Gwen had slept with Norman Osborn – came out, people were furious with Gwen for ‘tainting’ herself, rather than furious at Norman for sleeping with a woman young enough to be his daughter. (There was anger at the writers too, but it was mostly in the same vein.)

Anyway! Once I’d spent enough time in Spider-Man fandom to get to know both Gwen and what she became, I was watching Spider-Man 3 one night and it hit me. Okay, I knew perfectly well that she didn’t die in this one, but this Gwen, far from being perfect or pure, was everything people aren’t meant to like in a female character. She’s a model. (Shallow!) She’s only an average science student. (Stupid!) She’s – through no fault of her own – a very real threat to Peter and MJ’s relationship. (Bitch!) She’s still friendly and even flirty to Eddie Brock, even though she has no romantic interest in him. (Cocktease!) She turns down Eddie’s advances, even though he’s obsessed with her, and goes on a date with another man. (Friendzoner!) She’s quite happy to literally wrap her legs around that other man. (Slut!) She’s also a sweet, polite, nice person, but come on! The very archetype of the Woman In The Refrigerator, Gwen, just friendzoned the supervillan and sexy-danced with the superhero: really, she’s gonna survive?

But not only does she survive, absolutely nothing bad happens to her (beyond the inital accident that brought her into the story). When she realises Peter’s using her to make MJ jealous, she apologises to the other woman and walks away. Eddie becomes Venom, but (though motivated by ‘losing’ Gwen) he doesn’t actually go after her. MJ doesn’t seem overly fond of the girl her boyfriend’s been flirting with, but after Gwen apologises that subplot’s forgotten. Gwen’s father, who dies in the comics, doesn’t die this time around. MJ doesn’t die either – someone is killed to inspire Peter to be a better person, but that’s Harry, another man. Oh, and creepy Eddie is toast. (Literally.)

So yes.

Who knows if any of that was intentional? If Sam Raimi had gotten to make a Spider-Man 4, maybe he’d have killed Gwen Stacy off then, I don’t know. But I’ve always been pretty pleased with this movie because, whether by accident or design, the only Gwen who gets to be overtly sexual is also the only Gwen who gets to live.

a spider-man / game of thrones au

Winter is coming for the Parkers of the North, whose house motto is “With great power comes great responsibility”. They have a dubious alliance with the Osborns, who are extremely skilled in alchemy and have a history of killing their enemies with wildfire. (Owing to this, their house sigil is a green goblin). Each house has only one male heir, Peter of the Parkers and Harry of the Osborns. The two boys played together and were close as children: had one of them been born female they might have united the houses.

Comfortable on the Iron Throne is Norman Osborn, the Goblin King. It is a fact well known to his closest circle of advisors – the Six – that he despises his young heir and greatly prefers the orphaned Peter. Peter is known to all as the Spider Prince – a nickname partly based on his house sigil, but mostly based on his cunning, agility and recklessness in battle, recklessness that many years ago lead to the death of his uncle.

The reign of the Goblin King is fraught with misfortune. The Six, despite their alleged loyality to Norman, are each plotting against him in their seperate ways. Harry falls in love with a beautiful prostitute, Mary Jane, but she doesn’t love him back, while Peter strikes up a relationship with Gwendolyn, daughter of the Hand of the King. Then disaster strikes: Norman is maimed by his own wildfire and lies close to death. He calls on his Hand, George Stacy, to force Harry to take the black while Peter – whose parentage is dubious, who’s to say he’s not Norman’s – claims the throne. When Stacy refuses, Norman has his seemingly most loyal henchman, the Octopus, murder him.

Suddenly alliances and friendships are stretched as far as they will possibly go. As the daughter of a traitor, Gwendolyn is taken hostage, an action that ultimately leads to her death. A griefstricken Peter swears revenge, but Norman dies before any action can be taken. Harry takes the Iron Throne and sits there very uneasily: he names Peter as his Hand but dismisses him in a fit of anger when he sees him and Mary Jane together.

Things go from bad to worse as the years go by. The Octopus, in an attempt to claim some power for himself, begins to court Peter’s aunt, the Lady May. Harry marries a princess, Elizabeth, and fathers a son who many of the Six and their allies want out of the picture – the Osborns have held power for far too long. Meanwhile a young man known only as the Knight of Venom is rallying a supernatural army for an attack on the throne: rumour has it that he can bond with shadow itself and is stronger than a thousand men. On the other side of the vast sea, two of Norman’s bastard children – Gabriel and Sarah, whose maternity is a terrible secret – are seeking to strengthen their claims as well.

Peter’s code of honour may outlast him: there is very little place for responsibility in this world, only power, and they say all men must die.

 


I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that here, Liz is dressed in almost the exact same (now iconic) outfit that Gwen was wearing when she died- pink dress, green coat. Seeing as how Gwen’s ghost hovers over this entire story, it’s pretty appropriate…and is probably meant to subtly make us wonder if Harry is going to completely fall to his father’s legacy and kill another innocent woman, Liz this time. (Luckily, he doesn’t.)

Hey, would anyone be up for TUMBLR’S VERY FIRST Harry Osborn meme? Spanning all the Spider-Man media, not just the comics or just the movies. (Though obviously you can stick to just one if you like.) Something like this-

4 relationships
6 scenes
2 character traits
2 quotes (either from him or about him)
1 artist
1 comic
1 movie
1 TV episode
2 things of your choosing

Or adjust the numbers accordingly however you want. I’m gonna do it, anyway! Anyone else want to?