Sunday, August 7, 2011

Multiple Possibilities- Ultimate Spider-man is a teachable moment and an exciting development

Marvel Comics has an imprint called Ultimate Marvel, an alternate universe that is different from the mainstream Marvel Comics universe.  Within this universe, the Marvel characters exist in a grittier, more dangerous, slightly darker world.  Within this universe, Marvel decided to kill off the character of Peter Parker, or Spider-man.  They then chose to have a new character take up the mantel of Spider-man: Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Latino youth.

To be clear, in the mainstream universe, Parker is still alive in the mainstream comic.
It has been interesting to watch the reaction online, on Twitter and in comments sections of blogs and articles.  There has been a lot of racist reaction to the decision to give Miles the mantel of Ultimate Spider-man.  The Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast reported that even Glenn Beck (an American right-wing commentator) commented on the change, tracing it to a conspiracy perpetrated by US First Lady Michelle Obama. 
I am very pleased to hear this podcast oppose the comments being made by the many anonymous people.  There are many articles and blogs online that are starting to address the backlash as well.  I think that it would be a good idea to check them out and see some of the comments being made and how they are being addressed back by other members of the online community.
Comic books are a very important aspect of the popular culture, very much ingrained into our public consciousness.  I don’t read comics very often, but I know many of the histories of characters because it is so THERE.  I have used comics, cartoons, movies, whatever I can get my hands on to teach my students.  All of our hopes and fears and all the themes of the human experience are reflected in popular culture (sometimes you have to look for it, yes, but it is there).  The ownership of this aspect of culture is very deeply ingrained in everyone.  The negative commentary on this recent choice is sad, but also a teachable moment.  The negative commentary needs to be addressed by our teachers and administrators because, when we don’t address issues of racism, we are saying to our students that this is the way the world is, get used to it. 

The comic books have created multiple universes where multiple possibilities exist.  Our students deserve the same opportunity to see multiple possibilities.

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