If Disney wants to put a shiny, happy face on the United States, they need not release such pablum as America’s Heart and Soul, their unrealistically upbeat portrait of the nation; they should just get on the Spider-Man 2 bandwagon — the most Eisenhowery piece of white-bread American mainstream entertainment I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll bet Dubya loves it.
While I seek comfort in the fact that Disney’s jingoistic Heart and Soul documentary — called the “Anti-Fahrenheit 9-11” — is bombing at the box office, Spider-Man 2 is slated to be the biggest success EVER and it’s about as conversative and milquetoasty and Heart and Soul-like as they come in Hollywood. If the success of Fahrenheit 9-11 puts hope in the hearts of liberals, the far more pervarsive Spider-Man 2 plays right into the discourse of the Religious Right.
First of all, what’s with the Christian symbolism? Liberal critics love this new vulnerable superhero, but failed to mention the scene in which the wounded, unmasked crime-fighter gets suspensed aloft — arms outstretched savior-style, Christ-like wounds across his stomach — by a mass of respectful followers, before resurrecting a moment later to fight the evils that be? Is this the Passion of Spider-Man?
Then there’s the prudeness of the proceedings. I’m no expert on the Spider-Man comic, but the whole movie reminds me of a Normal Rockwell painting: to wit, Spidey’s close relationship with his ol’ Aunt May. And when the slim, Russian next door neighbor with wide eyes for Parker invites him over to her place, they get busy with. . . cake and milk! Where do these people live, but some strange 1950s portrait of America where a looming kiss elicits massive destruction? (Anyone see Kiss Me Deadly?)
The film’s portrait of women goes even further back — Mary Jane Watson isn’t the kick-ass chick of the late ’90s, but a throwback to the silence screen serials of the Perils of Pauline. Her efforts at fighting back are immediately thwarted in a brief sight gag. (It’s grandma, rather, that gets to wield a mean cane). But M.J. gets strapped to the wall, screams a lot, and praces around in her wedding gown, because after all, you can’t have a straight, white, virginal love story without a white wedding at the conclusion.