Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. I’ve finally recovered from seeing Avengers: Infinity War, so I’m ready to talk about one of my favorite characters in the movie: Peter Parker.
SPOILER ALERT FOR INFINITY WAR! DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPOILERS!
Who is Peter Parker?
Okay, seeing as how Peter Parker is the most prolifically filmed superhero in the Marvel Universe, you know who he is. Seriously, we’ve had six solo outings in the modern age of superhero movies. By now, we all know the story of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, one of Marvel’s most perennially popular heroes.
In their latest outing, Marvel decided (wisely, in my opinion) to forego the done-to-death origin story. We already know it all. Peter gains his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Uncle Ben still appears to have died under shady circumstances, though we don’t know exactly how. Peter is still a nerd who loves his Aunt May.
We first meet this Peter in Captain America: Civil War. When the Avengers fracture over the Sokovia Accords and Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark faces a crisis. He needs backup to apprehend Steve Rogers. Luckily, he has been following the exploits of a hero on YouTube: the Spider-ling (man!).
He recruits Peter for this mission, outfitting him with a high-tech suit. Peter mainly stays off the front lines of the fight, but he more than holds his own. He is also a delightful addition to a tense scene, giving running commentary and having the time of his life. It probably helps that he doesn’t have shared history with the others.
In the end, Peter is knocked down and Tony orders him to stand down. Tony Stark has a lot on his conscience and doesn’t need the death or injury of a teenager added in. Peter protests; there’s still a job to do. But eventually, he relents. He heads home to Queens, but has now tasted heroism and wants more.
We see Peter’s perspective of the events in Civil War in his solo outing, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Peter had apparently been videoing his exploits in Germany. This video really demonstrates how enthusiastic and young Peter is. He was super excited to go on a mission with the Avengers.
He spends most of Homecoming trying to prove his worth as a hero. Unfortunately for Peter, Tony isn’t ready to make him a full Avenger just yet. After all, the kid is only fifteen. Peter is frustrated at being treated like a child, even though he is one. But despite his youth, he knows he can do good things as a hero.
In the meantime, he continues to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He fights low-level crime. He soon finds himself in over his head, though, when those low-level criminals start packing high-level tech and weaponry. Peter realizes that he needs to find out who is supplying the tech, and stop them.
At the same time, Peter is navigating the treacherous waters of high school. He is unmotivated for school when he thinks his calling is to be an Avenger. He slacks off in extracurriculars to have more time for his “Stark internship.” And, of course, he struggles with unpopularity, bullying, and crushing on a girl way out of his league.
Unlike previous Spideys, however, this time Peter doesn’t hesitate to choose heroism over the girl. When he learns that his crush’s father is the weapons supplier, Vulture, he ditches her on their long-awaited date to stop her father. He ends up in mortal peril but prevails. Because the thing about this Spider-man is, he has a stronger heart than any other hero.
All through Homecoming, Tony had been keeping tabs on Peter. After Peter defeats Vulture, Tony decides that he’s finally ready to become an Avenger. After all, Peter displayed not only great skill, but also courage, maturity, and empathy. Unexpectedly, Peter turns him down; maybe being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man isn’t too bad.
This all changes come Infinity War, however. When a spaceship appears in the sky over New York, Peter jumps into action. He reunites with Tony as they battle the children of Thanos. Peter proves helpful, but Tony tells him to stand down when the ship heads out to space. Predictably, Peter does not listen.
Tony is trying to rescue Doctor Strange, who possesses the Time Stone. He isn’t expecting Peter to show up and help, but together they are able to rescue Strange and defeat Corvus Glaive, a powerful telekinetic. When they decide to take the fight to Thanos, rather than returning home, Tony reluctantly dubs Peter an Avenger.
This decision is both good and bad. On the good side, Peter is a great help. He is very powerful, yes, but he’s also good with planning and thinking on his feet. In the fight against Thanos, Peter helps Tony subdue the Mad Titan. Peter almost even removes the Infinity Gauntlet, which would have given them a win.
But this decision is also very bad because Peter is a kid fighting an all-powerful evil being. While Peter is very helpful, Tony has to worry about his wayward spider child. And it comes back to bite him when Peter is killed at the end of Infinity War. Sure, he might have disappeared anyway, but now Tony has to watch him die, holding Peter in his arms.
Real talk: Tom Holland is a d o r a b l e. He’s just too damn cute. I cannot even with him. He’s like a tiny puppy that wriggles with excitement and just wants to cuddle. I mean. Come on. Look at him.
I mean, Peter Parker has never been bad-looking in a film. I personally think Andrew Garfield is all kinds of hot. And my editor is high key in love with Tobey Maguire’s Peter. But Tom Holland is by far my favorite. He’s just the cutest.
But Peter Parker is more than just cute; he’s fun, too. One of the defining characteristics of Spider-Man is his sense of humor. Spider-Man is well-known for being a wise-cracking smart aleck. Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man did a good job with the snark, but Holland’s Peter is more all-around funny.
Peter Parker is remarkably chatty for a superhero. Civil War gets this right off the bat with Peter, excited to meet the Avengers, rambling on as he fights them. Several of the other characters note this, pointing out that there usually isn’t this much conversation in a battle. That won’t stop Peter, though; he’s excited to be here and going to tell everyone what he thinks.
This trait continues through to Homecoming. In the scene where Peter first encounters the alien weapons, a group of criminals are robbing a bank while wearing Avengers masks. Peter jokes about how good it is to finally meet Thor and Hulk, and how they shouldn’t need to rob a bank because Tony is rich. All this while he kicks their asses. Snark doesn’t slow him down.
Peter also has a tendency to make pop culture references mid-battle. In Civil War, while fighting giant Antman, Peter references Empire Strikes Back as a battle plan to take him down. Infinity War sees this continue. Peter comes up with a plan to stop Glaive thanks to the movie Alien. He continues to reference the film, worrying about eggs in his chest.
All in all, this version of Peter comes across as he should — a too smart for his own good pop culture geek who is just super excited to be here, thank you very much. Honestly — same. This Peter Parker seems like someone I would love to hang out with. That’s what makes this character engaging.
Looking Out for the Little Guy
As fun as he is, though, there’s a lot more to Peter Parker. At only fifteen, he showed more heroism than may full-time adults. More than anything, Peter Parker just wants to be a hero. He wants to save the day, make the world a better place, and — most importantly — look out for the little guy.
This dedication is evident in all his outings. In Civil War, Peter is reluctant to go to Germany because of his responsibilities at home, not because he doesn’t want to be a hero. Tony asks him why he became the Spider-Man, and he replies that he has a responsibility to. If bad things happen when he could have prevented them, that’s on him
Later, after getting a taste of being a big-time hero, Peter is hooked. He goes out every day and works the streets, tackling crime in Queens. He desperately wants another big opportunity to help out and is always checking in with Tony.
However, when offered a spot on the Avengers, he realizes that he is doing good work by looking out for the little guy. He may not be tackling big-time crime, but he’s making a difference in his own neighborhood. Queens is a better place because of him. He now sees the value of being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Infinity War takes this to its natural if tragic, conclusion. Peter sneaks into space to stop Thanos because, as he puts it, he can’t be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man if there’s no neighborhood. He knows the value of small actions, but he also knows when he needs to take big action. No matter what, he’s always willing to put everything on the line to be a hero.
What’s Not To Love?
We’ve seen Peter Parker in one form or another for a while now. Spider-Man has always been one of Marvel’s most popular properties, so it makes sense that they’d want to adapt him for the big screen. But finally — finally — Marvel gained creative control over the character once more and we’re finally getting a good Peter Parker (sorry not sorry Tobey fans).
Peter Parker as brought to life by Tom Holland is perfection. One, he’s super cute. I can’t get enough of him, which of course only made Infinity War all the more heartbreaking. But more than that, Peter Parker is a good character. He’s someone who is genuinely fun to watch.
And this Peter is a realistic version. Tom Holland may be 21, but he plays a high schooler well. His Peter Parker would not be out of place among my 15-year-old students. There’s a delicate balance reached in his character. He’s heroic but scared. He’s sarcastic but nerdy and awkward. He loves pop culture and saving the day. Who wouldn’t love that?
There was a dark stretch of time where movies felt they had to be grim and dark to show real stakes. Superheroes were meant to be rugged and stoic. Peter Parker thoroughly debunks that, by reminding us that there is a joy to be had, in saving the day and assembling Lego Death Stars. He makes you smile when you watch him navigate villains and high school with equal unease.
Infinity War may have crushed fans, but I can’t wait to see how Avengers 4 brings Peter back. I want to see people smile again. I want to see Tony Stark no longer crushed (yeah, right). Peter Parker has a bright future ahead, and I can’t wait to see it.