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Spiderman: Across the Universe and Black Boys

Jun 22, 2023 | Representation

After watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, released in 2018 with my daughter I greatly enjoyed it and have been anticipating the sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse movie. I can happily say it was exciting and at the same time very insightful. My appreciation for this movie includes its fun plot, colorful animation, and its characters, primarily the main protagonist Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Morales is a 15-year-old African American male of mixed parentage- a black father and a Puerto Rican mother. The whole fact that he is an African American represents a symbolic breaking of stereotypes that the black community has been facing for decades. 


Stereotypes of black people have been depicted in media and entertainment for decades. From Uncle Sam, Aunt Jemima, the promiscuous black person, and more specifically the black male there are the stereotypical qualities of him being aggressive, a drug dealer or thug, illiterate, and being raised by a single mother. However, the narrative is changing as I see where black people are getting more roles in movies outside of the black archetype. 

African American Actors 

African American actors and actresses are getting cast as the main characters in major films- as seen with Halle Bailey as the Little Mermaid and Shameik Moore as Spider-Man, Miles Morales. There is also the Black Panther which features a black king, T’Challa, and his sister Shuri, Princess of Wakanda.

Growing up in the 90s

Growing up in the early 90’s this was not the case as most superheroes and princesses were white. But now things are different, there have been various moves to increase diversity across the screen and so now black children like my six-year-old daughter can watch and take pride in their blackness. They can see that there is no dream too big for them to achieve.

A positive image for young black males

In the movie Spiderman: Across the Universe, we can see where Mile’s character is developed in a way that he can be relatable to a wide cross-section of viewers no matter their race. He lives in a nuclear household where both parents are actively involved in his life. He is from a working middle-class family with his father being a police officer and his mother being employed in the healthcare field. At one point during the film when Miles was at the guidance counselor with his parents it is mentioned that he gets good grades in areas like AP Physics and AP Mathematics. When it is said that he got a B in Spanish his mother is rather shocked since they both speak Spanish. 

Another interesting thing about Miles is that he wants to attend Princeton to study physics and atoms. During this scene I was looking at some African American boys in the movie theater watching a superhero whose prowess or skills goes beyond his physical abilities but also his intelligence. The truth is black males are not normally featured in this way and so it was a great representation and message of hope to all black teens and men.

Creating an appreciation of the wider world

In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Miles is transported to India where he meets the Indian Spider-Men who have a unique culture. For me, this is another way the movie sends a message to black boys. They are being told that the world is a big place to be explored. They can consider traveling for pleasure, to work, travel or study. I also admire how he highlights the impact of the Western World and colonization that occurred in India. This is insightful and serves as a way to educate those watching. 

A change of worlds

While Miles is in India he gets a vision of his father dying. Miles’ father, Jefferson Davis promotes a positive father figure in the movie. He is a disciplinarian and helps Miles to develop his good-naturedness.  Miles is in a haste to get back home to save his father but instead of returning to his home of Earth-1610, he is transported to Earth-42.

In this new universe, his mother is unable to recognize him and he comes to terms that he is in the wrong reality when he sees that his father is dead while his uncle Aaron Davis who is supposed to be dead is alive. Another interesting thing about Earth-42 is that Miles Morales is the Prowler, a villain who was played by his Uncle in the previous Spiderman movie.

Also, when comparing Miles in Earth-42 and the original Miles we can see that they possess different qualities and are like two different people. The new Miles is more ruthless. Earth 42 seems to be a dark grim place and the movie ends with to be continued and I am anxious as to what will happen in the sequel.

How environment influences behavior

The movie is showing the impact a household and exposure has. This reminds me of the challenge faced by African Americans specifically as it relates to our boys and young men. According to Fathers.com, 57.6% of black children are living without their biological fathers. In the African American community, children from fatherless homes have a higher chance of getting involved in drugs, suffering from alcohol, and dropping out of school. Boys are more likely to be engaged in street crime. 

The home in which a young man grows up plays a critical role in his development. This can be seen in Spiderman: Across the Universe where we can see that in Earth-1610  Miles’ father is present and is supportive of his desire of going to an Ivy League college. While in Earth-42 Miles’ father is not around and Miles seems to be facing a lot of tension. While I cannot fully tell how Miles will be in this universe and will have to await the sequel before arriving at any particular conclusion, I can deduce from the final scene that Miles as the prowler is more than likely involved in crime and suspicious street activities. 

Final thoughts

The movie “Spiderman: Across the Universe” portrays several themes such as belief in oneself, resilience, and mental health. My major takeaway is that the common stereotype often portrayed by the media about black men and boys being mainly from fatherless households or often getting into trouble comes out. Society and media continue to spread these negative messages about black men and boys- promoting music that involves guns which negatively affect young black youths. However, change begins with us as a community. We need to start from the home by encouraging males to stick around and be a father and positive role models to youngsters thereby putting our community on a path for upliftment.

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