Identifying with Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (Spoilers Ahead!)
A Researched Rhetorical Analysis
Welcome to the Spider-verse where there is not only one Spider-Man, but many with different features and rhetorical uses. A movie like this should be analyzed because it is more than a normal carbon copy of a comic book movie. The story is of a young man named Miles Morales who is growing up in New York trying to survive his new school. He gets bit by a spider that has been affected by a giant machine created by a man, Kingpin, who wants to pull his wife and son out of death. The turning on of this machine brought multiple versions of Spider-Man and several spider-girls to Mile’s dimension. The movie is a collaboration of these spider enhanced people to return to their own times and save the current one. The creators of this movie made it their goal to establish a movie that went beyond the physical connotation of a comic book. They wanted the audience to watch this film and be immersed in the action as if they were entering into a comic book.
The rhetorical appeals of pathos, ethos, and logos are sprinkled throughout the movie, but the most attractive appeal is pathos. Pathos is the most used form of appeals to give audiences a chance to emotionally connect with the characters on a deeper level. They used a mix of images and music, humor, character building, relational differences, and deeply-meaningful scenes in order to present a cast of characters that could be identified with. The creators of this movie took characters who had already been developed and put a spin on their personalities, pathos, and presentation in order to make then identifiable to all audiences. Trying to make the audience identify with the characters in this film is important because some people have the preconceived beliefs about gender, race, age that could possibly change while watching the movie.
The characters introduced from the alternate dimensions all have their unique looks and quirks that make them relatable. It is noted, one of the major intrigues from this movie is the cast of characters with variations in personality. This provides a look into the ethos in Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse since they are not as “glossed over” for being unique like other movies who hint at representation but don’t go headfirst into the issue. Each person has their own background story that appears when they are introduced in the movie on how they became super which in this case helps identifying with their scenarios. Those individuals include (in order of appearance) Gwen Stacey, Peter Parker, another Peter Parker from another dimension, Peni Parker, Peter Porker, and finally Spider Noir. Aside from this crew, Kingpin, Doc Oc., Aunt May, Mile’s dad and uncle all play significant roles that add to the movie as a whole.
In a journal article written by Matthew Facciani, Peter Warren, and Jennifer Vendemia it is the explanation of the information and study of comic book characters by race, gender, and class.
“With regard to class, black characters were more likely to be represented as having lower socioeconomic status compared to white characters. Black background characters were significantly underrepresented overall compared to white comic book readers” (Facciani, Warren, Vendemia) .
However, the creators of this movie flip the script on normal content viewers see. Here, identification takes place even though people look different on the outside the same feelings are bouncing around on the inside.
In terms of identifying with these characters, the most major trait is that the main character is an African American from an African American family. Miles lives in New York in a small apartment with his mom and his dad. In the culture today, African Americans are seen as a minority, but it this movie, the creators brought out the aspect that looking different isn’t a bad thing. For the people who help to make it culturally acceptable to be a different race in America cheer when they see representation of their friends of color. With the inclusion of an African American in the role of a strong superhero this can make the emotional appeal that Miles goes through the same situation that a white person goes through like be embarrassed, fighting, or hiding something from their parents.
Another race that receives representation in this movie Japanese. A girl named Peni Parker comes from a futuristic New York where her father built her a robot that is psychically connected and holds the radioactive spider who bit her. The audience watches Peni work in the movie while eating a Japanese candy inside the robot that reflects back on her Japanese and anime culture Again, placing a minority into a modern movie appeals to audiences, and maybe a change of attitude toward them might occur if people can see that anyone can be a hero. Identifying with personal beliefs enacts certain feelings like appreciation or anger possibly towards characters who are different from the origins of past comics where main characters were predominantly white-male-billionaires. Times are changing where we see more inclusions like this, and this movie has plenty of it.
Peni Parker’s robot is not human, but it still has feelings of love, hate, and sorrow like a human being. Peni’s robot “talks” with its facial expressions that appear in Japanese writing glyphs. It is a sad moment when at the final battle with Kingpin one of his lackies destroys the robot’s interface leaving it dead. The creators did a great job of creating an inhuman device that causes an audience to feel sorrow and pain, because it is like losing a friend or a family member. Another character that lost someone they love from her time was Gwen Stacey or Spider-Gwen. She is referred to in the comics as a spunky teenager who has been through the wringer in her own universe. She was able to catch the bullet before it hit her father, saving his life, but in the process, she lost her best friend. According to Reference.com in relation to “the World Health Organization, 56 million people die each year, which is an average of about 153,424 people each day.” Every person that passes away leaves behind others who grieve their loss. Peni might not be friends with a real human life, but the artificial one was as much of a family as the ragtag group of spider-enhanced supers. One of those supers just so happens to be a spider-enhanced super swine by the name of Peter Porker.
One of the entities that the vortex from the collider created was in fact a spider-pig with the play on words called Peter Porker. His character is a comedically driven while others in the group are more serious. He adds a bit of comic relief to some of the major battle scenes. In real life, some people, even animals, make life less of a bore when they say or do something funny. His character is similar to the Looney Tunes characters in the way he is animated, his lines, and the references he makes to older cartoons. He does in fact deliver this line “Well, that’s all folks” (Rodney) which is the line always given by Porky Pig at the end of his short films. In regards to this movie, it is found in the last scene when all of the alternate universe characters are returning to their own time. Older members who have gathered in the theater will find this dialogue relatable to them if they watching Looney Tunes when they were younger and possibly sentimental in the conclusion of the movie’s plot. Even though the viewers might not understand the backstory or Peter Porker, they can still relate to his character.
Finally, the last character from this group is Spider-Noir who is a bit of an overbearing character. His background story in the movie says it all and Nicholas Cage presents the character just you think he would. Here is his quote from the movie: “My name is Peter Parker. I was bitten by a radioactive spider. In my time, the year is 1933 and I’m a private eye. I like to drink egg-cremes and fight Nazis; a lot.” From this quote, it’s easy to infer that Spider-Noir is a typical Nick Cage character for him to play. Essentially, he is a man who has a dry sense of humor but presents it in such a way that makes the people watching the scene laugh. Another way Spider Noir identifies with older audiences in particular is that his character is based off of old Noir detective novels people might remember reading. Back in the day, those types of comics were popular and being a detective was a job everyone wanted so they could solve crimes. This movie uses that ethos to gives a small glimpse into that time period.
Each of these characters has some quality or personality trait that any from the very earliest to the old and wise, like Spider-Noir, can relate to because there is that diversity. Younger girls and boys can relate to a computer genius like Peni and be inspired to learn more about computer science and how it could one day sav the universe. Teenage girls will watch this movie and associate with Gwen Stacey’s cool attitude about life and be inspired by her to not let inconveniences get in the way of being joyful with what you already have. However, some people might closely hold onto their beliefs that the comic book universe should consist mostly of the rich-white-male stature and keep the women to the homely role where she cooks, cleans, watches the kids or is a love interest and nothing more. The fact that these characters came from different times with different personalities and still came together to achieve a goal is incredible. This movie might persuade some of those audience members above that anyone can be a hero because of the wide range of characters presented; a small girl, a pig, adolescent teens, middle aged men, and finally an older guy who rounds of the members of the team. The characters themselves can be identified with, but specific scenes from the movie can also be identifiable with the use of the pathos appeal.
Following the opening scene, there is a lot of pathos used to feel more identifiable with the characters. The main categories of pathos demonstrated in this movie are comedic, depressing, and entertaining. One of the first scenes that appears in the movie that is an identifiable moment for a lot of teenagers is when Mile’s dad intentionally picks him up from the side of the rode and drives really slow all the way to school. What made matter worse for Miles was his dad calling him out in front of everyone that he loved him. Younger watchers can associate with this situation if their parents do this to them.
Spoiler Alert, the first Peter Parker dies within the first few minutes that he arrives on screen. The city is left defenseless and mourning, so Miles steps in since he has spider powers now. One funny moment that arises that most likely will make the audience laugh is when Miles and an alternate universe Peter Parker are in a café. Miles asks Peter if he has any advice and his response is “Yeah, I got plenty. Disinfect the mask. You’re going to want to use baby powder in the suit, heavy on the joints. You don’t want any chafing, right?” (Rodney) This quote is funny which makes identifying with Peter Parker easier even though he is arrogant at times. Another funny moment is when Miles tests out his new spider-like powers gifted to him by the spider on a tall skyscraper. However, he gets nervous and retreats down to a lower level building. This scene in particular is something some people can identify with because they get nervous about an activity and don’t try as much as they could.
Aside from the comedic pathos, a more hardcore element presented through the relational struggles between Miles and other characters. Miles has a rough time talking to his dad about all the stuff a normal teenage boy goes through, not to mention abnormal powers, so he goes to see his uncle. Unfortunately, for Miles, he finds out while his uncle has been the Prowler the whole time. During a battle in later scenes between Miles and the Prowler, his uncle hesitates in getting rid of Spiderman (Miles), so the bad guy, Kingpin, shoots him in cold blood.
The following scene shows Miles sitting next to his uncle in tears watching him die. Aaron tells him “You’re the best one of us Miles, you’re on your way, just keep going” (Rodney) This quote is loaded with pathos as is the rest of the short monologue that Aaron has in this seen. He says that he let Miles down and that he apologizes for everything he did for the wrong for bad side. As the scene comes to a close, Mile’s father, a cop, comes up behind him to assess the trouble. Internally, Miles knows he can’t let his dad know his secret, so he runs away still grief stricken about his uncle. Mile’s father sees his brother on the ground and is also brought to tears. With a scene being presented as emotional as this, the music, words, and facial expressions shared on screen will most likely roll a few tears from the audience. It would be difficult not to tear a little when watching a close family member die who has revealed he or she isn’t the person they thought they were. Previously mentioned, many people can relate to losing someone they love and getting emotional, and this scene is a perfect example how it can happen.
Following the death of Uncle Aaron, where Miles and his friends have returned to his dorm room. They have decided Miles will stay behind to continue his schooling and the rest of them will destroy the machine Kingpin has created. Mile’s friends console him for losing someone by reflecting one by one who it was in their own universe that they lost. Peter Porker says “the worst part of this job is you can’t save everybody” (Rodney) This point in the movie is where Miles wants to give up because he thinks all of his new friends have given up on him. He wants to throw in the towel, but his father turns up and delivers a heart wrenching monologue about how much he cares for Miles. “Look, sometimes people drift apart, Miles. And I don’t want that to happen to us, okay? Look, I know I don’t always do what you need me to do, or say what you need me to say, but I see this spark in you. It’s amazing. It’s why I push you” (Rodney) This is one of those scenes that parents will be able to remind every parent what it is like to be a parent. This moment can also be a representation of the struggles of African Americans within their family lives. The scene is especially heartwarming because it is happening right after the loss of Mile’s uncle and his father’s brother.
Circulating back to a previous argument, the creators intended this film to feel like audiences were immersed into a comic-like dimension. They created this atmosphere by applying new animation techniques in order to access a new level of experience in which audiences can identify. The original Spiderman was created by the one and only Stan Lee and the imagery that showed up in the comics was drawn from the mind of Steve Ditko. The drawings were simple and clean while the writing by Stan Lee is whimsical. According to an interview from the DVD of the movie, these two men spent years creating an original character that resonated with the younger and older generations. Unlike other superheroes, the original Peter Parker is a normal character who isn’t rich or wealthy which makes it really easy to start identifying with all of the spider- variations in the Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse movie.
According to a post written on the But Why Tho? website that says
In 2011, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli introduced Marvel comic fans to Miles Morales, a teenage Afro-Latino Nuyorician who took up the Spider-man mantle in the wake of Peter Parker’s temporary comic book death in the publisher’s Ultimate imprint ( Greeneggzandcam).
In an interview with Stan Lee he opened up about his feeling on this character. He said, “Putting a diverse character into an already beloved role. Yes, it has started controversy, but it should also kickstart progress, showing established artists and writers that it's more than OK to have diverse superheroes” (White). It might be surprising to audiences that Stan Lee was had opinions on a new superhero filling the role of Spider-man. He believed the position had already been filled by a beloved character and there was no reason to change the appearance. In the original comic, Peter Parker dies which leads to the new interpretations of Spider-man arriving in the Marvel cinematic universe to continue the character’s legacy. This movie was associated with Marvel and the creators politely turned down the opinion of Stan Lee and branched out the wide universe of spider-people.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse is a collaboration of characters that can be identified with through their personalities and struggles. The story of Miles Morales and his own struggles with family and his new powers are powerfully presented with pathos in every scene that follows from the first moment the world sees the opening credit. There is a connection that runs deep in the hearts of comic book fan and non-comic books fans alike that find something in this movie that resonates with them. Whether it be the characters themselves or the references they make to other movies, comics, or tv shoes everyone could leave the theater believing they can do good even if they are different.
The last scene in the movie is of Miles swinging from building to building explaining directly to the audience that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what people think of you. “Anyone could wear the mask. You could wear the mask! If you didn’t know that before, I hope you do now. Cause I’m Spiderman, and I’m not the only one” (Rodney). This last scene should be the most impactful because it navigates all of the pathos into the one idea that anyone can be a hero. This movie should make an impression on the majority of the people who have watched it through the diverse characters, scenes, and emotions that can be identified with. Stan Lee always left his audiences by said a special word that encouraged people forward and, in a way, chase their dreams. So, in loving memory of the co-creator of the original Spider-man: EXCELSIOR!
Facciani, Matthew, et al. “A Content-Analysis of Race, Gender, And Class in American Comic Books.” A Content-Analysis Of Race, Gender, And Class In American Comic Books, vol. 22, 2015, pp. 216–226. JSTOR.
Greeneggzandcam. “Miles Morales: Our Afro-Latino Spider-Man – But Why Tho?” But Why Tho?, But Why Tho LLC, 10 Oct. 2018.
“How Many People Die Every Day in the World?” Reference, IAC Publishing, 2019.
Rothman, Rodney, et al., directors. Spider-Man into the Spider-verse. Sony Animations, 2018.
White, Caitlin. “How Does Stan Lee Feel About The New Spider Man?” Bustle, Bustle, 17 Dec. 2018.
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