“Way too many Spider-Man movies”?

“The Good Place”, property of Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Universal Television

Spider-Man has been a constant in media for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I watched Spider-Man (1994-1998) and (to a lesser degree) Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2001), the Raimi series starring Tobey Maguire (2002, 2004, 2007) and the semi-related Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003) which starred Neil Patrick Harris (BRILLIANT casting, btw). Since then, there’s been a semi constant stream of animated series and live action films: The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-2017), Spider-Man (2017-present), Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Tom Holland’s appearances in the MCU (Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and the anticipated Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)) and, of course, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).

Tl;dr: Spider-Man has been on TV or in theaters consistently since 1994. My brother will tell you that’s almost 25 years

And that’s not even talking syndication or getting into the media produced prior to 1994.

So, what about the Spider-Man property makes it appeal to so many? What has made the Spider-Man character such a fixture in pop culture, often listed as the archetypal superhero beside Batman and Superman?

The original Spider-Man is Peter Parker, a high school student from Queens, New York. He’s an avid photographer who is also considered a science nerd and is often bullied as a result. After being bitten by a ‘radioactive’ spider, he gains spider powers, including the ability to walk on walls and increased strength, agility, and senses. After taking up the mantle of Spider-Man, he must balance being a normal teenager with being a superhero.

I think that Spider-Man’s continued popularity comes from his continued cross-generational relate-ability. 

Being a teenager is something we can all relate to. Humans biologically go through a change from childhood to adulthood and during this time, teenagers feel like they are different, isolated, all while struggling between the joyous irresponsibility of childhood and the desire to be seen as an adult. Peter Parker and Spider-Man have long been able to tap into and/or recapture these feelings.

For example, let’s start with the name Spider-Man. When Spider-Man was created, teenage superheroes were typically given names that ended with ‘Boy’. While Stan Lee had his own reasons for choosing Spider-Man over Spider-Boy, I think the name resonates now for different reasons. It’s a demonstration of Peter Parker’s desire to be seen as an adult and given responsibilities. That he is not an adult comes into play in a number of different ways, but that he wants to be treated like a grown up is something all teenagers experience. 

The other thing about being a teenager is that everything feels very urgent and very dramatic and very important. This is due to different reasons, the changing brain chemistry, the new/increased responsibilities, etc. The point is, it tends to be memorable period of time as a result. During the struggle for increased independence and the quest to find an identity, it’s easy to feel isolated, like no one else feels the way you do, or could possibly understand. The strong desire for more new responsibilities and freedoms results in feelings of helplessness and a desire for control that teenagers think adults possess. (We don’t, btw. We just learn to live with it.) Spider-Man’s decision to present himself as an adult reflects this desire, as well as his attempts to take control using the powers he now possess– something every teenager wishes they could do as they come to realize the amount of control their parents have over their life.

Peter Parker is an outsider at school who has the ability to take control of his circumstances and how he is seen by others when he becomes Spider-Man. I can guarantee that it doesn’t matter how ‘popular’ you were in high school, you absolutely felt like no one understood you, that you were weird and different from everyone else, that you wished you could take control and make changes. 

While Batman and Superman were adults with additional freedoms and powers, teenage Peter Parker/Spider-Man has some strong limitations. Because of his age, there are people constantly watching out for him including teachers, friends, and family. He can’t just call in sick or not come home when there are rules and expectations in place. Spider-Man has to find a way to balance his normal life and his superhero life with more variables than the adults. In recent years, this has become increasingly relatable as high school students wishing to go to college are expected to have a laundry list of extracurriculars and special skills, all while trying to connect socially and do well academically. 

In recent years, this has become increasingly relatable as high school students wishing to go to college are expected to have a laundry list of extracurriculars and special skills, all while trying to connect socially and do well academically. But, even older generations can relate to that feeling of having to constantly report back to someone.

Essentially, Spider-Man is the ultimate teenage fantasy– what we all wish we could be. He is free and powerful all in between schoolwork and other responsibilities. This is why the character never seems to leave our screens for long. And, with castings such as Tom Holland and new takes such as Spider-Verse, it’s easy to want more.

“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, property of Netflix and NBCUniversal Television Distribution

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

The first time I encountered She-Ra was about 8 years ago on Hulu. Like any new ‘network’, Hulu was taking advantage of inexpensive syndicated programming to draw in viewers. She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985) was literally a sister show to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). Since He-Man had such success getting boys to buy their toys, Mattel wanted to capture the interest of girls as well. 

The original She-Ra follows Adora, long lost sister of He-Man‘s Adam. She had been kidnapped from planet Eternia and raised on planet Etheria by the Evil Horde to be one of their Force Captains. (Confusing, right?) After being given the Sword of Protection by her brother, Adam, she defects and joins/leads the rebellion. The original She-Ra wore a skimpy outfit, though more elegant (Grecian?) than her brother’s, but she too fought “For the honor of Grayskull”.

While He-Man has been rebooted several times, this is the first time for She-Ra, which is attempting to draw on the popularity of comics geared towards girls such as Nimona and TV shows such as Steven Universe. All of these programs feature female characters that are just as sexualized as their male counterparts (read: not at all). Steven Universe is also known for its portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community, which She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018) is not afraid to draw on. 

The best way to describe She-Ra (2018) is that it is the midpoint between Steven Universe (2013-present) and Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008). The art style resembles Avatar in many ways, but also contains the roundness and soft edges of Steven Universe. The characterization is much closer to Avatar, though, with characters that are unafraid to emote in that obvious anime way. The show features themes of friendship rather than romantic love, but it’s clear from the get-go that gender and sexual preference really don’t matter in this new Etheria.

The society is primarily a female dominant one, with the main villain Hordak as the only male currently in power. However, this does not relegate male characters to the roles typically played by their female counterparts. No, instead of just a gender flip, She-Ra does something much, much better and more interesting; creating a society that has males and females playing an equal part because gender/gender identity are not important in She-Ra. Gender and sexuality aren’t underplayed, just never referenced. Characters come in all different shapes, colors, styles, races, etc and not a single character bats an eye. They are far too busy just trying to live their lives.

Despite being raised by the Evil Horde, Adora’s moral compass points towards truth, justice, and compassion. She’s actually shocked to learn that the Evil Horde regularly hurt innocent people (and that they’re called the Evil Horde). She is somehow ignorant to everything about them, believing instead that the Rebellion are the ones causing unnecessary destruction and harm.

This brings me to a pattern that I’ve found throughout various programs. I don’t have a name for it, but basically it boils down to this: Two friends (often shipped), usually one of them is blond/e and blue eyed, while the other has dark hair or looks less ‘normal’. The blond/e is, for lack of a better word, derpy. These naive characters always want to fight for what’s right and are strong enough to make a difference, however, they struggle with seeing through deceptions or that sometimes things just aren’t that black and white. The other friend is a lot more savvy, with a better understanding of how the world works and that things are not always as simple as they seem. These characters are usually of similar strength or power, but the friend is usually not “the hero” in their world, like the blond/e is.

This is the case with Adora and Catra. While it becomes clear very quickly that all of the characters are a departure from their 1980s counterparts, their relationship really is a product of 2018 sensibilities and ideas. They have a very honest, heartfelt relationship as two characters who were raised together by Shadow Weaver, Hordak’s second-in-command. It’s unclear if 2018 Catra possesses the same abilities as 1985 Catra, but she is a feline humanoid, complete with ears, claws, and a tail. While Blonde, blue-eyed Adora follows the Horde because she believes they are on the side of right (and because they raised her), Catra sees through their lies and is under no impression that they are the ‘good guys’. After feeling betrayed by Adora’s defection, she becomes increasingly self-serving, trying to work her way up the ladder– especially when Adora’s absence opens up a big promotion.

Catra is not the only one who has something to work towards. Because these characters are portrayed as younger than they were in 1985, they are still learning who they are and where they belong. All of the Princesses are young, newer rulers, who are unsure about breaking away from their parents’ values. Individual episodes show the growth that comes with understanding that parents are not infallible and that just because something didn’t work in the past, doesn’t mean it can’t work in the present. All of the characters are growing up and we viewers get to see what that means.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a complex show that pulls on inspiration from many different places to create something more relatable than the original. I eagerly look forward to additional episodes and hope that this show gets the numbers it deserves. We need more of these earnest, honest shows that demonstrate characters of all different backgrounds getting along without judgement beyond what’s in a character’s heart. It’s a lesson everyone can benefit from.

Doctor Who “Resolution”

This year, Doctor Who aired a special on New Year’s Day. This is not the first time even in recent Who history of this happening. The last episode of Russel T. Davies’s run, “The End of Time, Part Two” also aired on New Year’s Day, concluding the story started at Christmas 2009. This is the first new Who Doctor to air a special on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas.

Going into the special, I was wary. There’s always been something softly appealing about the Christmas-y overtones and background of previous specials. Even when Christmas fades to the back, the episodes have always felt somewhat epic, just a little bit more special than any other episode. I was excited, however, about the possible return of the Daleks. The Daleks have been a Who staple since the first Doctor, appearing in the very second Doctor Who serial ever in 1963-4. The preview seemed to be setting up for such a reveal, but as I was already nervous, I was hesitant to get my hopes up.

Chris Chibnall made a clean break and a fresh start for himself this season by having episodes that did not use any previously introduced characters or planets (save for Earth). While Steven Moffat drew on his time as a writer under Davies, Chibnall decided to distance himself. While this is admirable, it left longtime fans a little off balance, though we could all agree that Jodie Whittaker was an excellent casting choice. In “Resolution” Chibnall brings back the Daleks and UNIT (though he makes a point of removing them as an easy plot device), drawing on the legacy of every previous Doctor Who showrunner.

But, here’s the thing, Chibnall did something that modern audiences hadn’t experienced in quite some time… He made the Daleks…


I know, hard to believe, but true! For decades we’ve all heard the stories of how terrifying the Daleks were, of the cliché of children hiding behind the sofa. While there have been some episodes where the Daleks demonstrate why this was the case, and why they are the Doctor’s greatest enemy, overuse has made them a cliché. Both Davies and Moffat have made missteps with the Daleks (Dalek-Humans of Series 3, M&M/Skittles Daleks of Series 5), but Chibnall has avoided this by adding a new element to the Daleks, and has made them a special event, but not using them in Series 11.

I have to commend Chibnall for his choices. I’m really impressed with how he continues to bring his aesthetic in a way that has actually been rejuvenating. He perhaps pulls more on old Who more than his predecessors, both with how he composes episodes, graphics, and music, but does so in a way that is fresh rather than nostalgic.


Without giving too much away, Chibnall begins by setting up the Daleks as the greatest threat in the universe. Something that has been said over and over again throughout Doctor Who, but is this time backed up. Here, an ancient Dalek manages to take control of a human body and demonstrates how and why they are so dangerous. Now, the Doctor attributes some of these skills to the fact that this is a ‘reconnaissance scout’, which is a little bit unsatisfying, but understandable. It might be more frustrating if the Dalek just started exhibiting new powers for no apparent reason. After all, while this is a new showrunner and new Doctor, this is not a new incarnation of the show as a whole, such as when Davies made Daleks fly.

The episode moves a little slowly, but picks up speed as it goes, with the bulk of the conflict, climax, and resolution happening in the last half of the episode. (In fact, the problem is only solved completely in the last four minutes– I was very concerned my recording would end before the episode did.) Like Chibnall’s previous episodes, this one takes place in Sheffield and features familial ties and makes allusions to the working class. The guest characters, however, are archeologists, which I wouldn’t categorize as working class, although their work is directly related to the events of the episode. Once again family, specifically Graham and Ryan’s, is at the forefront, and while it seems a little too easy in some ways, the happy ending is not unwelcome (a way in which Chibnall continues to distinguish Doctor Who from his work on Torchwood).

Overall, I found the episode enjoyable. It was a thrilling return of the Daleks and great fun watching Jodie Whittaker exhibit the terror as well as the swagger that every other Doctor has demonstrated in the face of the Daleks. Her Doctor here is a little more jarring and a little less human, but that bravado evokes the previous new Who Doctors. Unfortunately, we will not be getting new episodes until ‘very early 2020’. My suspicion is that we will see another New Year’s Day special kick off Series 12, but only time– and the BBC– will tell.