The-Amazing-Spider-Man-IMAX-posterIt has now been confirmed that Shailene Woodley has been cut from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. What’s disappointing is that this may not be story-motivated but instead a buckle to the pressure of loud, misogynistic fanboys who furiously took to their keyboards to insult the actress’ appearance. Despicable enough that these comments existed in the first place, it led to a lot of people defending Shailene Woodley – her talent and her appearance. It seemed good had triumphed over evil but with this confirmation and possible recast rumours, it seems the evil may have consumed the film. Mary Jane’s recasting isn’t definite but with her cut from the second after all of the abuse from fraudulent “fans” of the franchise – in all of its incarnations – could the rumours floating around have some truth? It may be one of the lowest points of the film industry. Lower than when Mila Kunis had her career threatened for not wanting to shoot for a magazine cover.

The Shiznit gathered together comments made back in February when an onset photo of Shailene leaked. They were infuriating and far too many as they attacked an actress for not being attractive enough to play the “stunning” Mary Jane Watson. Repeating the comments here, months later, would be unproductive as well as allowing their deprecating voices to be heard. The sad thing is there are more, many more in fact. These comments are probably doing the rounds again as they believe they have won which is why they should avoid replacing her. Recasting her would be letting them win. They won’t receive a bigger audience because those complaining will still go see it. Even if it is to scream about how right they are – which they aren’t at all.

Barry Steele wrote an interesting piece seeing 2013 as a step back from 2012’s female empowerment by writing about the thin characters that have so far inhabited this year, bringing up the gratuitous underwear shot in Star Trek Into Darkness, the women of Oblivion and the problems in Iron Man 3. The truth is that Barry is right. There’s been a complete misstep when it comes to female characters. If they allow Shailene Woodley to be recast by someone else – someone more “befitting” of the comic’s representation of Mary Jane Watson – then misogyny has won. It will see mostly teenagers who make kitchen jokes thinking they’re infinitely witty – when they’re infinitely witless – winning. That cannot be allowed. A studio, a director, or whomever that may give into their demands cannot acknowledge that pressure. They are the noisy few. A noisy few that everyone should ignore, putting to the side their infuriating discriminatory objectification. Shallow thoughts of one person’s beauty on one single photo – which that poor girl will have seen – is a form of anonymous cyber bullying that plagues the Internet. It’s the modern mob mentality. Masked users making consequence free hate comments out of ignorance, prejudice, misogyny and sexism.

Being attracted to someone is natural, it is in no way disgusting or trivial to like how someone looks. What is trivial is when you allow your interpretation of what is hot to interrupt your view on a character or story. When people start to froth at the mouth because they find someone unattractive for a role then there’s clearly something wrong. There’s also a double standard which can be seen lately on Twitter of women happily admiring Henry Cavill’s looks to be labelled as “shallow” from the same people that tout how “fit” an actress is. Finding someone attractive isn’t wrong but what is wrong is when you judge someone else, pot-kettle-blacking by calling them shallow for their views but not realising of it themselves. Hypocrisy is rampant on the Internet along with the dark side of all people when they get such freedom. Remember your own views, your own prejudices, your own biases before you start projecting your insecurities by insulting someone else’s thoughts.

This is why Marc Webb, Sony, or whomever made this decision to cut her from the second must not make the mistake to cut her from the franchise. If she tries to get out of it herself after the myriad of abuse received then we should rally around to support her and make sure that she does not leave due to insecurities. It would be deeply unsettling and upsetting to see a talented actress leave a project thanks to the prejudiced minority. That is, obviously, if she feels that way. She may rightfully ignore them. If the film decides to recast her because of people’s deluded perceptions of beauty then a boycott is necessary. Beauty boycott, as it were. Anyone who collapses to the nasty whims of Internet anonymity is a coward.

The negative group need a lesson in women. Especially when their perceptions are distorted by artists who may overly ‘perfect’ a women which becomes an unattainable fantasy. It seems that they’ve allowed themselves to think that people look that way or believe that’s how they should look. It seems they’ve blurred the lines of fiction, fantasy, and idealism with realism, biology, and possibilities. Anyone who believes Mary Jane Watson can look like she does in the comics – or HAS to look like she does in the comics – has a warped mind that wrongfully expects too much.

Do not recast Mary Jane Watson. Shailene Woodley does not need recasting. Not only is the girl attractive anyway but failing to see the problem in angry, vacuous comments is a scary thought. If it is true that it is only for scheduling reasons then, sadly, those few will take it as a victory. If it is as simple as not wanting to recast her as she’d be too busy for the sequels then that’s fair. What’s worrying is that could be a lie to paint the picture of timing issues when it is to bump her off for someone that will please the boys’ lusty eyes. That is a sad thought about the film industry which sees actresses continually struggling against the prejudice and sexism of a boys club.

Regardless of the reasons why, it’s still unfortunate to know those people are out there who believe those thoughts are acceptable. No actress nor actor nor anyone should be subject to losing a job because of their appearance. Thankfully, the positives we can see from this seem greater in numbers than the detractors. Many have spoken out in defence and in support for Woodley, which is wonderful to see. What is also true is that Shailene Woodley has a pretty full plate as well as taking on the Divergent series, a teen sci-fi book being adapted and already labelled as the next The Hunger Games. Reasons for the recast still remain a rumour, this rant could be for nothing; but it would be brilliant if the studios or the director tried to keep her in it as a protest to the protestors. Remember that the comments you make on the Internet can be seen by the person you’re insulting. As Rooney Mara says in The Social Network: “The Internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.”

  • Andy

    Ashley, great article. I think the blame lies only partly with Internet fan-boys who are frequently moronic. You merely hinted at the other portion of blame: “their perceptions are distorted by artists who may overly ‘perfect’ a woman….”

    What’s so moronic in fanboys complaining about Woodley is that they have no sense of the comicbook context, in which virtually *every* female character is idealized in terms of her face and figure. Pretty much every single one of those characters is running around with double-D’s defying gravity, as well as dressed and posed like they’re trying to pick up johns on the street.

    What this ridiculous visual context–for which comicbook artists are to blame–means re. the Mary Jane character is that her beauty and figure aren’t unique or significant for her *character*–because her beauty and figure are common to pretty much all comicbook female characters!

    A second ridiculous element of the Woodley complaints is that fanboys try to justify them by arguing that Mary Jane Watson in the comics becomes a movie star, and Peter Parker can scarcely believe that he, a science nerd usually rejected by other high-schoolers, has a relationship with this budding starlet. Now that relationship element *is* important in Spidey’s world–but the irony is that Shailene Woodley herself **is** an up-and-coming starlet! So to argue that she shouldn’t play MJ because MJ is a hot young film star is just plain stupid, because that is what Woodley herself is in real life.

    Now I’ll grant that she’s not as “hot” as the comicbook MJ, but that’s just not important. What’s germane to the character is that she’s a starlet who loves Peter Parker. No reason Woodley can’t pull that off! Plus, from where I’m standing she’s as cute as all-get-out.

  • Justin

    Shailene Woodley is the most talented and most humble person that I know from what Ive seen. And for me the role of Mary Jane Watson should still be her!

  • Sabrina

    Both of you are right. Shailene is a fantastic actress who can play any role in movies. She is talented and very pretty indeed.

  • Ashley Norris

    Thanks, Andy. You hit the nail on the head. I didn’t dive into that because The Shiznit article linked in there addresses the issue. It’s true that people do blur the lines between reality and fantasy which is a massive problem.

  • Daz

    I think women would have massively kicked off if Superman didn’t look like the character and wasn’t played by Henry Cavill.

  • Damen Norton

    Ashley I agree 100% with every point you hit here. Well done.

  • spidey fan

    While I agree that virtually every female comic book character has been blatantly and inappropriately over sexualized for the sake of increased sales (teenage males being the target audience), as a proud Spider-man fan myself, I must disagree and say that Mary-Jane Watson is simply not one of those characters. Physical appearance and sexual attraction play a BIG role in Mary Jane’s personality and affects her relationships with other characters. She was written that way, and if people disagree with that, then they should take issue with Stan lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita.

    If this was a conversation about Gwen Stacy, Liz Allan, Betty Brant, or Debra Whitman, I could understand your point, but Mary Jane Watson is the type of girl that has guys drooling on her shoes (a statement that she so eloquently makes in one issue). She is essentially the Marilyn Monroe of the franchise and one of the important aspects of the comic book series is that she could have easily chosen any man that she wanted. Models. Actors. Musicians. Athletes. Politicians. Even some of her close friends: Flash Thompson- has the looks and the brawn. Harry Osborn- Filthy rich and of a high social stature. But for some inexplicable reason, the girl who can have everything chose to be with Peter Parker- A slightly above average looking geek struggling to make ends meet, who can be quite cold and secretive, and who constantly disappears and blows everyone off because he feels as though he has this strong moral obligation. The mystery behind why this goddess is so drawn to Peter Parker (who quite frankly to the rest of the world is nothing special) is one of the better aspects of their relationship, and actually adds to the character’s complexity. It’s also something that has yet to be explored on film.

    That’s not to say that Shailene isn’t attractive, and any idiotic fanboy who says that she is ‘ugly’ is just completely wrong. Not to mention it’s just a cruel and hurtful thing to say about anyone. She’s very cute and humble (not necessarily adjectives that I would attach to MJ) and clearly a pretty girl, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that there may be better choices for this particular role. Actresses that could match the look, vibe, talent, charisma, and chemistry that this type of character demands. If Webb feels the need to recast, I doubt it was because of idiotic fanboy complaints and I wish him the best of luck because I am sure that he is going to get a lot of hate.