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Stan Lee Explains Beauty of Spider-Man Suit: Let’s Be Inclusive

What do Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire all have in common? Probably a fair amount, actually, but for the purposes of this blog, two traits in particular are noteworthy: all three are white; and all three have played the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man on the big screen.

Father of Marvel Comics Supports Diversity

The lack of diversity in the casting for this character is, perhaps, not terribly surprising considering Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker is, in fact, white. Nevertheless, the character’s creator, the late comic book legend Stan Lee was very much in favor of greater diversity in how Spidey has been portrayed on screen.

“Back in 2010, Lee supported actor Donald Glover's campaign to be the next Spider-Man in the movies, which sadly never happened but it was quite a game changer to have the only living father of Marvel Comics throw the gauntlet down in the favor of diversity,” writes Savad Abadsidis in an article for Chill. “Glover is part of the inspiration for Miles Morales, who is drawn based on the likeness of Glover and President Obama. Morales is described as an Afro-Latino teenager.”

Beneath the Suit We Can Be Anyone

In fact, years after creating the character in the first place, Lee noted in an interview with Larry King that part of the beauty of Spider-Man’s costume is the fact that beneath the suit, he could be anyone. Unlike other famous comic heroes like Superman or Batman, there’s not an inch of skin revealed by Spider-Man’s suit, meaning he could be Black, white, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Lee noted that this wasn’t done intentionally but that it was one of the best decisions made with respect to the character’s development.

Lee’s thoughts on Spider-Man’s potential racial identity are appropriate considering the current context and discussions around race and fictional characters. Since Daniel Craig’s decision to step away from the James Bond role, there has been a great deal of chatter around whether a Black actor would be considered. Similarly, the TV adaptation of the Robert Jordan series Wheel of Time is noteworthy for the significant diversity in actors portraying characters readers of the book tended to assume were white.

Key Employee Demographics Required for Growth

The trend toward greater diversity in the portrayal of fictional characters makes sense socially and economically. America is becoming more diverse, and so diverse audiences are more likely to appreciate and tune in to movies and series in which they can see themselves in the characters they’re watching.

It’s a concept very much in line with our own thoughts around key demographics required for growth—the idea that organizations can’t hope to sell their products and services to markets that aren’t represented among their own leadership and board ranks. A firm producing clothing for women, for instance, will likely miss the mark if its board is comprised of all men. A firm hoping to break into the Asian market will likely fail if their board and leadership ranks is comprised of only white people.

Inclusion is a business imperative. Be inclusive!

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.


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