James Gunn Says Fans Gotta Loosen Up About The Recent Spider-Man Casting

As we reported on Friday, there’s a rumour going around that Disney Channel star Zendaya is playing Mary Jane Watson—the iconic role Kirsten Dunst played in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy—in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. Since this news broke, the usual band of disgruntled purists and (more problematically) racists have been up in arms about the fact that the character’s traditional status as a white redhead may have been redefined. Admitting that the racists are a lost cause, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has joined the conversation—in an effort to get through to the more thoughtful complainers.

Known for his epic Facebook posts, Gunn offered a rambling, but level-headed take on the latest superhero controversy. While acknowledging that deviations from comic book source material often damage movies, he doesn’t think the casting of Zendaya qualifies. (However, he refuses to confirm that she is, indeed, playing Mary Jane.) “For me, if a character’s primary attribute—the thing that makes them iconic—is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks,” he argues. “For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work.”


At the same time, Gunn makes a persuasive case that even Zendaya’s most superficial traits are consistent with the Mary Jane you know and love. “For the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics—she’s a tall, thin model—much more so than actresses have in the past,” he writes. “Whatever the case, if we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world.”

All that said, this controversy might be a misguided false alarm, as director Jon Watts recently claimed that Zendaya is playing Michele Gonzales. For more, see that clip—with some further speculation—below.