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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Spider-Man
Spider-Man

A superhero spins a world-wide web in Hollywood's latest comic book adaption.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
Germaine Greer, there are a lot of external arguments about this film and what certificate it should have, but let's concentrate on what is there, what do you make about that?

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, I don't think I'm the audience intended for this film, because I thought the really interesting bit was the lecture on spiders. Because I loathe spiders and anyone who can make me interested in them rather than hate them, is a hero for me.

And then this strange bug-eyed boy is bitten on the hand by a spider and doesn't tell anybody.

Nobody would think that, you'd see the fangs and think, "Help, help, I'm dying", instead he goes home and says "I'm sleepy". When he got bitten, he didn't get venom, he got genes, so he did spidery things.

I kept waiting for him to wrap his food up and things like that, but instead, he could do a number of things, like throw gossamer of immense tensile strength with some gesture of his hand, when actually it should come out of spinarettes from his abdomen which wouldn't have been as nice.

He wasn't spiderish enough for me. I kept thinking that he had the genes in him, when are the others going to click in? When you're in mating mode, would you run up to MJ and put a parcel of semen under her arm, which is what spiders do.

MARK LAWSON:
I don't think you were the intended audience at all. Charlie, what do you think of the terror of the victims , because he seems pleased to have been bitten in this way?

CHARLIE HIGSON:
Well, he does rather well out of it, because he beats up the school bully and ceases to be a nerd.

He gains this marvellous Charles Atlas style body. But it's not like Jeff Goldblum in the Fly.

MARK LAWSON:
As Germaine said, he's another bug-eyed actor. They do seem to cast them.

CHARLIE HIGSON:
But he's very pretty.

GERMAINE GREER:
But why doesn't he be a spider all the time. Instead he goes back to being a nerd. He's able to be a superhero and the nerd.

MARK LAWSON:
Because superheros are about transformation. It's the dream for the nerds in the audience that they might be able to put the Lycra suit on and save the world.

GERMAINE GREER:
But why would you come back?

CHARLIE HIGSON:
Just because he can spin webs doesn't mean he's still not inately a nerd.

GERMAINE GREER:
So he's still inately a nerd?

MARK LAWSON:
And it's to offer in every scene the dream to the nerds in the audience, that they could become a superhero.

I thought the key line that his Uncle said to him, "With great power comes great responsibility," and I thought that was interesting in an American film at the moment.

MICHAEL GOVE:
Yes, and I think the point that Germaine makes is that the film is not for her. I don't think it's for any of us.

It's for teenagers, because it has a genuinely, I believe, sophisticated morale structure than most films aimed at that age group, and without it being explicitly Christian, I do think it has that theme running through it.

When the Green Goblin takes Spider-Man up and shows him New York City and says, "My boy, this could be yours if you join me in this wicked project" is reminiscent of the Bible.

And the final scene is the renunciation scene. It's an affirmation of celibacy and vocation.

MARK LAWSON:
Germaine, what would you make of that?

GERMAINE GREER:
I would agree that its moral agenda is absolutely obvious and cliche bound. He has these powers of a spider, which is powers that most spiders don't have.

So he becomes a fighter for good against evil. One of the things that children need to learn is that that distinction is a difficult one.

It's true, he is taken up like Christ by Satan and given the city, but the city is not in his gift. The line-up in American imagination that goodness goes with two things, stupidity and physical strength. Wrong.

MICHAEL GOVE:
No, I don't think that. It's not a simple goodies versus baddies film. What makes Spiderman interesting in the first is that he initially wants to use his power for self- aggrandisement.

He only recognises that he should use his power for moral reasons when he allows a criminal to get away with an act and has to face the consequences.

MARK LAWSON:
I think the politics were pretty hippy- liberal, particularly after September 11th.

It's saying that America has this vast, vast power, but it must use it responsibly which is a classic liberal line isn't it?

MICHAEL GOVE:
Absolutely, but there's another thing that Europeans should learn about it, Spiderman, even though he's motivated by virtue gets a hell of a bad press.

Everyone's saying, "Why is this guy throwing his weight around he's a villain." One of the things we can learn is that someone of good is often hated because of his strength.

MARK LAWSON:
It probably is a film for 10 year olds, but it's seen as a film that 10 year olds cannot see as it's been certified as a '12'. Does that make sense?

CHARLIE HIGSON:
I have three young children and I think there are scenes in this film which they would find disturbing.

There's a number of scenes where Spiderman is kissing and lots of lovey-stuff and they wouldn't enjoy that.

But there are some great scenes where people are having spikes shoved through them and all that sort of stuff and they'd love that.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
14 Jun 02 | Panel
26 Apr 02 | Panel
14 Jun 02 | Panel
Links to more Review stories are at the foot of the page.


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