James Gunn Defends Possible Casting of Zendaya as Mary Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

By August 19, 2016

Yesterday, the internet was once again sent into a frenzy when it was revealed that Zendaya will be playing none other than Mary Jane Watson in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming after her role in the film has been kept secret for several months now. Considering the obvious differences between her look and Mary Jane’s in the comics, people were predictably outraged by the casting (when aren’t they), and of course, took to social media to vent all of their frustrations.

As he usually does as well, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn took to his various feeds to defend the casting though, and while he’s not confirming that Zendaya will in fact be playing MJ in the new film, he’s explaining why fans shouldn’t be upset if she is.

In a lengthy Facebook post today, Gunn talked about the rumored casting and said that if fans love a character based purely on some of her physical attributes, then he doesn’t think that character necessarily deserves to be beloved:

“For me, if a character’s primary attribute — the thing that makes them iconic — is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics – she’s a tall, thin model – much more so than actresses have in the past.”

As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, I have to agree with Gunn here, and from the footage I saw at SDCC this year, I could see how Zendaya is able to recapture that same feisty and powerful nature that MJ emits in the comics as well, enough so that I’m not gonna be upset because she doesn’t have red hair.

That’s not to say that Gunn doesn’t have comic book movie problems of his own, though the filmmaker thinks there’s a fine line between a film adaptation messing with things from the lore too much, and simply changing things up here and there:

“People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this. There are movies I dislike because I think there’s a basic misunderstanding of the story or the character when the comic is transferred to film (I still hate how in the first Batman movie the Joker was revealed as the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, for instance.)”

(For the record, I agree, and it’s one of the big reasons I still don’t love that film as much as most fans do.)

This isn’t the first time that comic book fans have expressed their distaste when a film adaptation changes the race of a character from the comics, and you don’t have to look much further than when Michael B. Jordan was cast as The Human Torch in last year’s Fantastic Four reboot to see the obvious pattern here. As far as I’m concerned though, Marvel has yet to miscast any of the roles in their films so far, and I doubt they’re going to start here, in the first solo film they’ve gotten to make following Marvel Comics’ golden boy.

If you watch the film and end up not liking her performance as Mary Jane that’s fine, but how about we reserve all judgements until then, shall we?

Spider-Man: Homecoming is set to hit theatres on July 7th, 2017.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable