[Spoilers for Spiderman: Homecoming and Spiderman: Far From Home]
There’s something slightly disappointing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spiderman films. In Homecoming, Toomes/Vulture is a salvager who finds his small business failing as Tony Stark and the government roll in to take over the salvaging operations that were previously his job. Dejected by being forced out by a megacorporation and a government, he resorts to illegally selling alien weaponry to criminals.
Beck/Mysterio goes through a similar arc in Far From Home. Beck was an engineer working under Stark who was fired, with the technology he created remaining with Stark and his company. Angered by this, he leads a team of disgruntled former Stark employees into manufacturing a plot to make Beck appear like a hero.
The villains are unified by the cause of their turn to evil: an injustice wrought upon them by a figure of the elite. They are working class/middle class figures oppressed by the cooperation of the government and a megacorporation. However, rather than presenting these antagonists in a sympathetic light, the films choose to perceive them within a binary: they have chosen to be evil, and so are evil, not to mention that our hero who stops them, Spiderman, is funded and equipped and mentored by Tony Stark, the reason for their oppression.
There’s something quite unfortunate about this. Spiderman was always the ‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman’. Unlike Batman or Iron Man or any other superhero for that matter, who outside of their roles as superheroes are also figures of great social or financial status. Peter Parker is just a student from a working class background, raised by a single guardian. He is the superhero of the working class.
The MCU films have distorted this symbolism. He is emblematic of the ideology of meritocracy: his talents are deserving of further development so an elite figure swoops in and funds and mentors him. Through this distortion of the character along with the demonization of the working class antagonists, the MCU Spiderman films now become an expression of neoliberal ideology: working class people should just man up and adapt. If you’re not as talented as Spiderman you do not deserve socioeconomic opportunities. Attempts to fight perceived injustice will be met with force.
Into The Spiderverse understands the working class roots of Spiderman. It is not the ‘renegade working class’ who pose a true societal wide danger. The ones who can truly harm society at large are those with access to wealth and resources: the rich and elite.