Spider-Verse, remixing & resampling your identity
If you could be a superhero right now, who would you be? How would you reshape yourself to be like the people that inspire you most?
Standing on the shoulders of past generations, Miles Morales finds himself as the one and only Spider-Man, completely unique, yet also similar to those before and around him. What I always loved about the character was that Miles samples and remixes the influences of heroes and loved ones until he finds his own inspiring heroic identity deep within the Spider-Verse.
It's what makes Miles so relatable, his pursuit for his identity on top of the huge expectations thrust upon him. So how did writers such as Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman give us such an inspirational character?
*The following article may contain spoilers for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse*
Currently trending on Netflix, after two years of critical, and fan acclaim, the 2018 film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse from Sony Animation has all the hallmarks of a coming of age story. colliding with inter-dimensional travel
With a mix of inter-dimensional travel, the film becomes a visual marvel that teaches a powerful message about taking the many different positive forces in your life and remixing them to create something completely unique and beautiful. Creating something entirely fresh and original.
With the film showing multiple universes, and multiple Spider-Men/ Women, we focus on the world of teenager Miles Morales, juggling his family frustrations and feeling out of place at Visions Academy. Miles's journey treads familiar ground when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and left as the city’s only hero when Peter Parker is killed trying to stop The Kingpin open an inter-dimensional portal. During the incident, several different "Spider people" are pulled into Miles's dimension and later with their help, Miles must learn to become his own hero and realise while he’s not alone in his struggles, it’s what makes him different what makes him Spider-Man. A message comic-book fans everywhere can get behind.
As a bi-racial character, Miles is influenced by both his Black and Puerto Rican backgrounds- influencing his world’s view and style. His identity as Spider-Man is multi-dimensional. Miles takes inspiration and strength from heroes of different universes in order to form his own persona, much like the real-world fans who borrow from the various characters they read about and see on screen.
Even without the inter-dimensional threats and heroics, Miles is already a man of many worlds. Code-switching on the way to school and speaking multiple languages at home and on the streets, Miles’s bi-racial identity already has him balancing several different selves. With a police officer as a father, an influential uncle with a shady past, and being in a new school it’s no wonder Miles is searching for his own unified identity while being pulled between so many different influences.
Being able to internalise so many different influences is a journey in of itself due to the vast majority of the film seeing Miles burdened by what is around him.
He fears he can’t live up to the nearly perfect Spider-Man of his own universe or the heroism of the alternate dimension heroes that show up to help the imposing threat of Kingpin.
On top of all that Miles has to deal with the pressure to make his parents proud, regardless of his newly attained powers. Uncle Aaron wants Miles to be his own man. He believes he should be bold, confident and artistic, even if that means breaking the law. Aaron ultimately doesn’t want Miles to be a criminal like him but he’s not as bound to the rules as Miles’s father, Jefferson.
Jefferson’s relationship with his son is strained, caught up in a mix of emotions between staying focused on school, and the potential for Miles to grow into his own character. It’s the ultimate struggle as a father, as the film portrays perfectly their complicated, yet loving relationship.
To be Spider-Man is to struggle, to shoulder burdens that few can understand, to rise up and inspire others because of your fight. Miles, Peter and Gwen inspire each other to be the best spider person they can be. It culminates in two critical moments where Miles fully embraces who he truly is; the assertion of his identity and saving the day by being himself.
In the aftermath of Uncle Aaron being murdered by Kingpin, our hero is reeling from finding out the uncle he idolised was the criminal, the Prowler, he simply doesn’t know what he can do as his own man. It’s a crossroad for Miles, accompanied by a heartbreaking scene when his father supports his son in the way he needs most, even if he doesn’t realise what exactly Miles is experiencing.
Up until this moment Miles has wanted to do the right thing but his fear has held him back. In the fantastic leap of faith sequence, he becomes his own hero and pushes past the fear that kept him stuck and grounded. Running, swinging, Miles rises as his own man and his own Spider-Man.
By the end of this iconic scene, he’s embraced many different influences to define his identity. Even Miles’ costume is the combination of multiple influences through the fabric of his universe’s Spider-Man and the graffiti style encouraged by Aaron and Miles’ own streetwear. It’s a gorgeous, efficient way of storytelling told in a single look.
Miles’s rise as Spider-Man is about embracing fear, being empowered by danger. All because the people you love have given you the courage to be the hero only you can be. With Miles in full control of his identity and powers, he saves the day by stopping the collider and Kingpin, sending his fellow heroes home, and inspiring them to reaffirm they’re own identity as Spider-people. It’s all done with grace, wit and style.
With New York saved and his fellow heroes returned to their dimensions, Miles is off on his own, rising as the one and only Spider-Man. He is unique within the Spider-Verse and this helps us learn that anyone can become Spider-Man. Like Miles, you too can find the original, powerful hero within.
Even if it takes you a while, "it always fits...eventually."
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