Why Michael Chabon Won't be Seeing Spider-Man

Michael Chabon is a major superhero fan. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Chabon (best-selling author of Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh), chronicles the rise of the super-hero comic book, sanctifying it as a "great, mad new American art form." He's written drafts of comic book-to-movie adaptations (including one for X-Men), and in interviews, he talks of his boyhood fondness for classic superheroes, especially those with identifiably human traits -- like Spider-Man, a personal favorite. It's a fondness he's passed on to his own son, 5-year-old Zeke, now a major Spider-Man fan himself.

So why has Michael Chabon decided not to see the new Spider-Man movie? The answer is simple: It's rated PG-13.

That rating -- with its implications of violence, sexuality, language and cinematic intensity -- means that he won't take Zeke to see the film, just as he kept his 7-year-old daughter Sophie from seeing Lord of the Rings. This time, in solidarity and as a personal protest, Chabon is staying home as well. He admits that in the case of Rings, the rating was appropriate, and was consistent with Tolkien's violent, head-lopping source material.

"The ringwraiths and balrogs and orcs and so forth really do need to be horrible and terrifying," he allows. So Chabon doesn't begrudge the PG-13 rating -- for Lord of the Rings. "Spider-Man," he says, "is a different thing."

Chabon cites the "powerful iconic pull on the five year old male imagination," that Spider-Man holds. "His mere image in an ad on the side of a bus," says Chabon, "is enough to elicit a whoop of joy from Zeke and a cry of 'Dad! Dad! Spider-Man!.' Just that arrangement of red and blue and black produces a momentary blip of delight. And right now that image is everywhere. Zeke's world is saturated in it. And yet the thing itself is forbidden to him... It's just so cruel. It's like the world has given him the wrapping paper, the ribbon, the bow and the box, but not the present itself."

The important thing, he says, is that Spider-Man doesn't have to be grim, violent, or scary.

"I mean, it can be," he admits. "That's justified by the increasingly dark tone taken by comic books, Spider-Man among them, over the past 15 years or so. I understand perfectly well why the filmmakers went in this direction. They don't want 5-year-olds. They want 15-year-olds. That's fine. It makes economic sense. I get it. The filmmakers can abandon and break the hearts of the 5-year-olds of America."

"But," he adds, "Spider-Man never would."

#story_page_ below_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.