So I pick up this book from the library cause I heard it wasn’t completely deplorable. Know what? It’s not completely deplorable. In fact, it handles some issues (mainly race and the politics of growing up and out of your neighborhood and the reaction of the people left behind) better than pretty much any other main stream super hero books I’ve read in the past year or so. Honestly though, none of that holds up past the end of the first issue. Well, that stuff holds up, it’s just all completely undone. And it’s undone by something stupid, that has no call for being there.
What added benefit do we get from spidey’s sexism here? None. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Any number of spidey quips would’ve worked there, and he has millions. Sexism just isn’t called for. This is what doesn’t happen now. You don’t get to go “it’s a joke.” That’s not a good excuse. That’s just something people in privilege like to say so as to police and invalidate the responses that the people they’re offending. It’s lazy. This writing, though, isn’t lazy. Nothing else in this book leads me to believe that the writer is lazy with anything involved here.
So here’s what could’ve happened. I could be missing the secret sarcasm font and this is poking fun at casual sexism. The problem with that is that there are no indications that this isn’t playing off the old notion that women have naturally softer mental dispositions than men. There’s nothing that comes before or after that says to me Spidey(Fred Van Lente) knows this is ridiculous and that other characters around know this is ridiculous. The line before is fine, and from there the joke could’ve gone to so many places. Soft like a pillow. Soft like cuddly bunnies. Soft like Drake. All of these acceptable. He’s actually a writer so Fred could have come up with a billion better lines than I can, but he used woman.
So the other option I’m forced to think about is that we’re supposed to laugh that spider-man is soft like a women. Because women are soft. And we all know that women are soft. So it’s funny. Because spider-man is a man, and therefor not soft. He’s not supposed to be or allowed to be soft. Because he’s spider-man, not spider-woman. Who is soft? because women are soft. Like goose down and marshmallows.
The thing is, I love this book. I’m a fan. This was just a misstep that didn’t need to happen at all. I’m not saying this book shouldn’t exist or Fred Van Lente shouldn’t ever write again. I’m just saying he shouldn’t do stupid things like subtle sexism in his books and that would make them all the better.