Photo Credit: Marvel Studios
When The Wrap first broke that Zendaya could actually be playing Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Homecoming, it was inevitable that some prejudiced people would object online, and others would hide behind comic book canon to protest a biracial non-redhead playing MJ. Fellow MCU employee James Gunn heard from several of them when he tweeted about the rumor, then wrote a longer response on Facebook.
Once someone on Twitter asked the Guardians of the Galaxy director about an "African American Mary Jane," Gunn responded bluntly to him and others.
If you’re complaining about the ethnicity of Mary Jane your life is too good. https://t.co/b6XDUpRQ3i— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 19, 2016
Gunn later went on Facebook to expand his thoughts in more than 140 characters. He said he himself doesn't know if the Wrap's report is really true, although he says he has read the script for Spider-Man: Homecoming and claims to still "have no idea" what Zendaya's Character really is. This may back up speculation that the movie doesn't plan to confirm Zendaya's character as Mary Jane until near the end, and that the Wrap may have given it away early anyway.
If it is true, Gunn admits that he can't "respond to the racists" or change their minds, but made his plea to the "thoughtful majority." While others have fixated on MJ's race or the color of her hair, Gunn wrote that if characters are defined by "the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks."
To Gunn, Mary Jane's "alpha female playfulness" is what he hopes Zendaya or any other MJ will capture, and even thinks Zendaya matches her "primary physical characteristics" as a "tall, thin model" more than other actresses. While Gunn admits to hating superhero movies where "there's a basic misunderstanding of the story or the character when the comic is transferred to film," he insists that "we can be - and often are - happily surprised" by changes, and that more fans need to get used to comic book characters "being more reflective of our diverse present world" nowadays.
Gunn has been a champion of Marvel and Tom Holland's Spider-Man from the beginning, as he was one of the first to rave about Holland in Captain America: Civil War. Now he has come out the loudest early on against critics of what may become the most controversial element of the first Spider-Man MCU movie, although both he and them won't get to see the actual results until next year.
Of course, Gunn will probably get an earlier sneak peek by the time he releases Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 on May 5, 2017, just two months before Spider-Man: Homecoming follows on July 7.