The following was pitched to and commissioned by Flickering Myth
In Spider-Man 2 Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) childhood home is facing foreclosure but Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) insists on giving him her last 20 bucks, only for his landlord to snatch it away. Peter is broke and Spider-Man keeps him that way. He is relatable and it makes Spider-Man 2one of the best superhero movies ever. When Kevin Feige agreed with this sentiment in 2015, he namechecked John Hughes as an influence on Marvel’s take on ol’ webhead. So, as Spider-Man: Homecoming stocks its cast with Donald Glover, Logan Marshall-Green and Martin Starr, director Jon Watts once again mentioned Hughes as an inspiration for the film.
The plan to make Homecoming a superhero teen movie is interesting and with hits like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink, it’s a wise move to pay homage to the teen tropes Hughes crafted. The man is so revered in this genre, he’s the shepherd most modern teen movies follow but there is one thing films like Easy A, 21 Jump Street and the American Pie series ignore, and that is class.
High schools are an interesting Petrie dish of different backgrounds as students are crammed together and forced to get on. It’s an environment where your financial background can possibly define you. Hughes understood this and from Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful‘s class warfare to Cameron (Alan Ruck) being cuckolded by his family’s immense wealth, Hughes tackled class head-on. His films reminded audiences that money may seem like everything, but with a couple of one-liners and respect for a person and not their wallet, everyone can get along. It is an important lesson that disappeared post-Clueless, a film that jettisoned class issues to present a utopia.
If Homecoming is going for Hughesian, it needs to deal with class and Peter Parker is an ideal character to explore how money impacts the lives of modern teenagers. Give the newest Spider-Man film a substantial social-issues spine that allows it grow beyond the current Marvel formula for success. The best Marvel films deal with issues so they shouldn’t be afraid to buck the current studio-teen-movie trends and actually say something about the lives of teenagers. As established, Tom Holland’s Peter can’t start playing American Football and this negates his powers in a high school setting. They will not help him become popular and his Captain America: Civil War appearance suggested money problems will play a key role as he lives in a small apartment and fought crime in a crummy onesie. Watching Peter negotiate high school politics and dealing with his lack of money will be just as interesting as watching him swing through the sky fighting a bald baddie.
Sam Raimi wasn’t afraid to tackle Peter’s poorness, and The Amazing Spider-Man series suffered because it lacked the money element. Sure, Aunt May (Sally Field) worked two jobs but they were just flourishes -the lack of money was never felt and Garfield’s Peter wasn’t as relatable as Maguire’s.
Money issues are integral to Spider-Man and John Hughes’s characters. Hopefully, Marvel won’t background Peter’s financial problems to make the film resemble its contemporary teen movies. If Watts and Fiege are determined to create a Hughesian superhero movie, they need to tackle class and money issues head on. After all, it’s what the teen-movie maestro probably would have done.