Spider-Man is back on screen, but this time he’s black and Latino

Jake Johnson, Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali, Luna Lauren Velez, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin and film makers attend the Photo Call For Sony Pictures Releasing's "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018
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Spider-Man is back on screen, but this time he’s black and Latino

  • The idea for a Spider-Man of color first took hold in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected US president

LOS ANGELES: For what seems like the umpteenth time, Spider-Man is back on the big screen.
But this year, when Hollywood is under the microscope on the hot-button issue of diversity, the superhero is half-black and half-Latino.
Step aside, Peter Parker. There’s a new Spidey in town. Hello, Miles Morales.
Miles as Spidey is not new to comic book enthusiasts, but he is new to theater-goers, who earlier this year embraced the long-awaited arrival of the Marvel universe’s first black hero, Black Panther, on the silver screen.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which hits US theaters on December 14, is a free-wheeling animated look at the multiple Spideys in parallel dimensions, including Spider-Ham (yes, a pig) and two women.
This time, an older Parker is a mentor to Miles, who is voiced by 23-year-old Shameik Moore, an Atlanta-born actor and singer with Jamaican roots.
Long before Moore landed the major role, he hoped he would get the chance to play Miles, he told AFP in an interview. He had even written about it in a journal given to him by a friend.
“One of the things I wrote in there very early on was, ‘I am Spider-Man. I am Miles Morales,’” he said.
Moore first drew notice in the well-received indie film “Dope” in 2015. He says being chosen to play Morales is as rare as... being bitten by a radioactive spider.
“That spider chose him. However, many thousands of people live in Brooklyn... Sony chose me to play Miles Morales out of the hundreds of thousands of people that auditioned,” he recounted.

The film recalls the visual style of the original comic books, with less refined art and speech balloons that appear on screen.
Its release comes one month after the death at age 95 of the character’s creator, Marvel legend Stan Lee.
But the man behind a stable of heroes, from The Hulk to the X-Men, is still present — he is listed as an executive producer and, as is customary for Marvel films, Lee has a cameo appearance — in animated form.
The cast features Oscar winners Mahershala Ali (Miles’s uncle) and Nicolas Cage (Spider-Man Noir), and Oscar nominees Hailee Steinfeld (Spidey’s love interest Gwen Stacy) and Lily Tomlin (Parker’s Aunt May).
The film is generating major buzz, and currently has a 100 percent “fresh rating” on Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews from critics.

The idea for a Spider-Man of color first took hold in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected US president.
Miles, whose father is black and mother is Latina, first hit comic book stands as Spider-Man in a parallel universe in 2011 following Parker’s apparent death.
In an animated television version, of-the-moment actor-musician Donald Glover voiced Miles.
But a film adaptation always seemed likely, as Tinseltown works to show that not all superheroes have to be white men. “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” stand as proof that fans are ready for different heroes.
“Everything is based off the business,” said Jake Johnson, who plays Parker in the film.
“The reason that projects are getting more multicultural and more women as leaders... People want to see that — they’re paying to see it.”


Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

Updated 19 July 2019
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Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

  • Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but ‘human-made’
  • Berkeley’s effort to be more inclusive is drawing both praise and scorn

BERKELEY, California: There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn.
That means “manpower” will become “human effort” or “workforce,” while masculine and feminine pronouns like “she,” “her,” “he” and “him” will be replaced by “they” and “them,” according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and “first of” ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the US to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation’s free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country’s political divisions soon after President Donald Trump’s election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like “men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government.”
“As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it’s important that our laws reflect that,” said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. “Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation.”
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title “first partner” instead of “first lady,” saying it’s more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom’s experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is “remarkable and sends a message,” Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
“Anytime you’re talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it’s a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender,” said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
For Hel Baker, a Berkeley home caregiver, the shift is a small step in the right direction.
“Anything that dismantles inherent bias is a good thing, socially, in the grand scheme of things,” the 27-year-old said.
“I don’t, by any means, think this is the great championing for gender equality, but you gotta start somewhere,” Hel added.
Lauren Singh, 18, who grew up in Berkeley, approved of the move, saying, “Everyone deserves to be represented and feel included in the community.”
Not everyone agreed with the new ordinance. Laramie Crocker, a Berkeley carpenter, said the changes just made him laugh.
“If you try to change the laws every time someone has a new opinion about something, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a bad habit to get into,” Crocker said.
Crocker, 54, said he would like city officials to focus on more pressing issues, like homelessness.
“Let’s keep it simple, get back to work,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to get homeless people housed and fed. He, she, they, it — they’re wasting my time.”