There’s tons of debate to whether the first Sam Rami Spider-Man film is better or worse than The Amazing Spider-Man. I stand by pretty much everything I mentioned in my comparison of these two films EXCEPT for one thing. I wrote down that I preferred Gwen Stacy over Mary Jane Watson, but when I thought about it again afterwards, I thought to myself… “No! I like Mary Jane more than I like Gwen Stacy! What made me write that down?”
I took my time to think about it more carefully and gather my thoughts into an article. Here I’ll explain why I think Mary Jane Watson is better than Gwen Stacy. This is also debated among lots of people. Many people call MJ annoying, some people say Gwen Stacy is bland, some love one and hate the other, some prefer one over the other, some love or hate both, yada-yada-yada. I’m not implying that either side is correct. I’m just trying to explain the best way I can to why I stand for my arguments. I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me. Even when I told someone exactly why I liked MJ more than Gwen, he still thought that MJ was annoying, and that’s entirely fine. I also want to make clear that I’ll be addressing the characters from the films, and not the characters in relation to the original comics, nor will I be comparing these characters to their original comic counterparts. Now with that said, it’s time to get into my arguments.
One of the problems I felt with The Amazing Spider-Man is that Peter reveals his secret to Gwen and there are no consequences to this whatsoever. There’s a reason why this bothers me:
Spider-Man was always my favourite superhero, because I could always sympathise with him. On top of being a superhero, Peter Parker’s a teenager, so you can only imagine the trouble he’s going through: he had to do schoolwork and school stuff, has to get a job to support himself and Aunt May, as well as look out for her health and safety, appear weak in front of others so he doesn’t blow off his identity, save the city from criminals and super villains, take photos of himself as Spider-Man while fighting crime *BREATH OF AIR*, make sure that Spider-Man’s reputation isn’t ruined (because some people see him as a menace) AND has to keep his secret from everyone around him AND protect them when they’re in danger. And most of the time this results in people thinking he’s unreliable, lazy, or even a jerk. Worst of all, he’s usually on his own with no one to turn to. That’s an enormous amount of pressure for someone his age.
In the Rami films, Peter REALLY had to struggle. At the end of the first film, EVEN when he’s finally proven himself that he’s worthy to be with MJ, EVEN when he finally confessed his love for her, and EVEN when MJ has shared mutual feelings for Peter… he has to let her go. Peter always had a crush on MJ, and he gets exactly what he wanted, but now that he understands what it means to become Spider-Man, he has to do this to keep her from harm. That’s the tragic side about being a superhero: what you have to sacrifice for the better good. This is the price he has to pay.
But in the new film, Gwen isn’t under any threat. Aside from supporting Peter, she also ends up as his girlfriend and he gets exactly what he wanted.
No! NO NO NO NO NO!
That’s not a good thing for a Spider-Man adaptation. The most famous line “With great power comes great responsibility” gets a huge stab because of this. Heck, it isn’t even mentioned in the film (come on, Uncle Ben! Just say it!). If someone like Gwen knows who he is, has no problem with it, is able to help and support him, and is NOT in danger, what’s the point of Peter Parker having to learn about power, responsibility and sacrifice??? He isn’t pressured from keeping a secret from someone he loves, keeping that person from harm, and most of all he doesn’t go through the pain of NOT being with someone. Peter Parker is a character who has to carry a lot on his shoulders, but by the end of this film HE DOESN’T: he has a girlfriend, everyone in Manhattan including the police like him, he makes friends with his bully, and even finally get his Aunt’s freaking eggs… this Aunt May sucks…
It doesn’t even make sense that Gwen’s father tells Peter to protect Gwen by staying away from her, because she seems to be doing just fine on her own; she doesn’t need saving at all in this flick. Not that I should have every character in danger, but it’s a problem here because Peter’s actions don’t lead to anyone to be under any sort of threat. I hope they fix that in the sequel, possibly with Gwen’s death: make Peter realise the consequences of his choices, because there was very little of that in this film. He even breaks Gwen’s father’s promise, which is something he would never do. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mr. Parker.” “Yeah, but those are the best kind.” UNBELIEVABLE!
Now let me address that I love and fully support strong, intelligent, independent women, female warriors, or women carrying a weapon, or a woman at least helping out. But to me what matters the most is IF they’re written as good, likeable and/or interesting characters… and… Gwen Stacy is not a very good character, in my opinion.
I don’t think Gwen’s annoying. In fact, I like Emma Stone and I think she gave a good performance like she usually does. The thing is Gwen here isn’t much of a character, and she doesn’t add anything to Peter’s character. She falls in love with Peter… so? What does that say about herself? Why does she fall for him? Aside from the fact that her father is a police captain, the fact that she likes science, and that she’s supportive, name any other aspect of her personality that stands out. What did Peter see in her that made him really attracted to her? What does that say about Peter? What does that say about Gwen? How does that develop each other’s characters? I do buy them as a couple based solely on performance, but I don’t think they make a great couple when I look at the film from a writing standpoint. The only real thing the film tries to establish is that they both have a passion for science, but that ultimately doesn’t work either because they NEVER have any conversation or exchange about scienc-y stuff. Nor do we ever see Gwen do anything scientific: she wears a lab coat, says some science stuff and works with Dr. Connors. That’s it. What’s the point of making her a science chick if Peter and Gwen aren’t even gonna share their passions with each other throughout the whole film? If we weren’t told that Gwen was into science, the conversations between Peter and Gwen in the film would not change at all.
Finally, people bring up that, “Gwen Stacy’s proactive and DOES something!” Well, I do give credit to the filmmakers for wanting to create a stronger and more supportive character, and it is pretty cool that she can defend herself using a hairspray and a bunsen burner! But… well… to the whole “she’s useful and plays a big role in the film” thing… not really. When you think about it, what DID Gwen do in the lab scene? Not much: she introduced Peter to Dr. Connors, and she told Peter not to get into trouble. I think it was a cheap way to establish that she could get access to the lab so that in the later scene she could conveniently help Peter get the antidote. Also, in the high-school fight scene, the Lizard’s about to strike Spidey, and then Gwen distracts the Lizard by hitting him with a trophy… and then Peter throws her out the window for her safety… AND THAT’S IT. You could have EASILY cut those parts out with an edit and it wouldn’t have mattered in the storyline. Also, AFTER Gwen manages to get the antidote, she brings it to her father so he can bring it upstairs… Gwen was upstairs just a second ago! She brings the antidote downstairs just so that it can be taken upstairs again? That’s just stilly.
So in that sense, Gwen’s kind of pointless in the film.
And what do I have to say about MJ? Well… I really like her!
For one thing, with Kirsten Dunst’s charm on screen, it’s no wonder why Peter falls over heels for her. Secondly, I NEVER had anything against women who needed to be rescued IF: they were written as characters, they were likeable, it makes sense for them to be captured within the context of the story and their own characteristics, and they gave something in relation to the hero of the story. To me, it makes sense that Peter has to protect and save her.
MJ isn’t part of Spider-Man’s life. She isn’t part of a big superhero team or an agent/worker from an organisation. She’s part of PETER’S life: the regular life, the normal life, the down-to-earth life. If she were part of his superhero life, she’d be much more prepared for what’s to come, but MJ’s just trying to get by a regular life and aspiring to become an actress. MJ’s just a simple woman with a life of her own who happened to fall in love with a superhero. Kinda like a regular woman being married to a cop or an army soldier or something. It’s Peter’s superhero life which will endanger her and the people closest to him (even Aunt May is endangered a few times in the films even though she’s just an old lady just trying to get by). He’s having to give up his regular life for the best of others.
So to me it makes perfect sense.
Besides, I think she’s a very interesting and very likeable character. And the romance is done VERY well.
MJ is a sweet and kind person, but going through difficult times. She lives with an abusive, alcoholic father, her love-life is full of really bad boyfriends, and no matter how much she works to become an actress, she’s pretty far from her dream. Peter has a crush on her for her sweet nature, and also finds a lot of inspiration in her, but he also connects to her because her can relate to her difficult and tragic life. The main thing I get from MJ is that she lacks someone truly there for her. She falls for Spider-Man because she likes the idea that someone’s always there to protect her, when practically every male figure in her life has mistreated her. So when Peter finally confesses his love for her, she realises she has feelings for him too, not just because he can relate to her troubles as well, but because she’s never had real love offered to her. Maybe she didn’t understand what it meant to feel love, and perhaps that’s the reason she even dated Peter’s bully in the first place. And having someone there for her who can offer something genuine makes her realise that she truly loves Peter. Peter throughout the whole film has always been there for her whenever she needed cheering up, and the ONLY guy who’s treated her with any true respect. He genuinely cares for her. In the next film she ends up becoming an actress like she wanted, probably because she feels inspired by him; Peter’s the only one who truly sees something in her and is willing to support and encourage her to pursue her dream of acting on stage.
At the end of the first film, Peter tries to stay away from her to protect her, but MJ is not stupid. In the second movie there are hints to say she knows that 1) Peter DOES love her, and 2) that Peter and Spidey are the same person. She obviously gets really frustrated at Peter, but even when she’s angry at him, she does have a feeling that he DOES want to be there for her, but can’t for some unexplained reason. She has a feeling Spider-Man and Peter are the same, because they were the only two people ever there for her, and her feelings for both were very similar. Still, she gets engaged to someone else due to her own confusion and frustration. In one scene she kisses her fiancé the same way she kissed Spider-Man in the previous film, RIGHT AFTER they talk about Peter: a sign that she knows, or at leasts suspects, who Peter truly is. And then there’s the scene in the cafe where they engage in a conversation, eventually with MJ asking whether he loves him or not. He says no… but she asks for a kiss because she isn’t convinced. She won’t easily be fooled by what he says. She freaking KNOWS that he loves her: he said it to her once, and she knows it came from the heart. That’s actually really romantic!
MJ’s her own character with her own problems and her own development, but also serves as Peter’s drive in the films. I could not get that with Gwen in the new movie.
And let’s not forget that NO ONE can pull-off the upside down kiss like Spider-Man and MJ. That’s like the best kiss EVER!
And that is why I think Mary Jane Watson is a better character than Gwen Stacy, OR at least (if you want to put it another way) this is why I prefer MJ over Gwen Stacy. So what do you think? Do you agree with me? Or still prefer Gwen Stacy?
I also recommend you watch some hilarious YouTube parodies: “How The Amazing Spider-Man Should Have Ended“, “Honest Trailers – The Amazing Spider-Man“, and “Everything Wrong With The Amazing Spiderman In 2 Minutes Or Less“. Also “Spider-Man 3 How It Should Have Ended” whether you liked the third Rami film or not.
Hope you enjoyed reading this, and I’ll see ya around!