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Tuesday, August 12, 2014 

Forbes says Gwen Stacy's death in 2nd Spidey movie is self-defeating

Something I'd wanted to bring up earlier, but only now was able to remember and work on. An entertainment writer for Forbes was disappointed with the second Spider-Man reboot movie, which featured a new take on the Green Goblin to boot, and unhappy they chose to kill off Gwen Stacy:
The good news is that no one cheered. I’ve written before of my concern that the inevitable death of Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (from the Sony Corporation) would bring cheers from the audience, as hardcore fans would applaud the somewhat iconic story turn. They didn’t cheer. Even with painfully obvious foreshadowing starting with Emma Stone’s “I could die at any moment!” high school graduation speech, it stands to reason that the vast majority of general audience members who saw the film this weekend were actually surprised when Spider-Man tried but failed to save his girlfriend from said death plunge inside a clock tower. But in terms of killing off Peter Parker’s girlfriend to mimic a story that was groundbreaking 41 years ago, Marc Webb, Emma Stone, and company spent so much time being excited that they could that they didn’t stop to wonder whether they should.
I'm glad to know nobody in the auditorium celebrated. Because no matter how well written the death in the original story or the movie's take on it is, it's not something wonderful to party about, though as recent publicity stunts in the comics world suggest, there are some out there who think it is.

And honestly, thinking how they decided to go this route in the film, I'm disappointed. Just because Gwen was killed off in the comics doesn't mean it has to be that way in other mediums too. IIRC, when Brian Bendis was writing Ultimate Spider-Man, it initially looked like it would feature a different take on Gwen, but subsequently followed the path taken by Gerry Conway and closed the curtains on Ultimate Gwen to boot.
...the adherence to comics dogma opens up a gigantic can of worms for upcoming Amazing Spider-Man films, harming the would-be appeal of future installments by turning its most popular character into a “woman in refrigerator.”

The phrase “woman in refrigerator”, coined by future comic book writer Gail Simone 1999, referred to the tendency of comic books to do harm upon the girlfriends, wives, or female siblings of a male hero for the sole purpose of making the hero feel bad and/or seek vengeance. It was named after an incident in a 1994 Green Lantern comic where Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend was murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. It soon became the de-facto phrase for the pattern in comic books by which the female supporting character in a male-centric title would be raped, murdered, assaulted and/or de-powered so that the male here could “have a sad.” And that’s really all the death of Ms. Stacy is for this second Spider-Man film. Emma Stone gave us a rather amusing and engaging female character, the filmmakers did their best to sell the notion that she was her own character with her own agency, then she got chucked down a clock tower so that Peter could feel bad.
It's good he brings up this sad case that's still prevalent today, even in movies and TV. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, Simone all but threw away any point she was trying to make simply by going along with DC's plans, even if it meant her efforts on Birds of Prey would be destroyed. Identity Crisis wasn't just difficult to ignore since the staff deliberately used it to affect the whole DCU, it also rubbed off on BoP's own cast, making them look ridiculous and less credible as crimefighters.
There is a reason why Han Solo didn’t stay frozen in Return of the Jedi,why Jack Sparrow eventually came back in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, or why Optimus Prime didn’t stay dead in Revenge of the Fallen. You don’t make a sequel by taking away the very thing the audience came to see. And this film was all about setting up future sequels. With Gwen now deceased, the third film will find a new replacement girlfriend for Peter (because nothing takes the mind off your murdered ex like bumping into your hot red head neighbor who calls you “tiger”) and/or put even more emphasis on its villains, which is the one thing most everybody agreed was most problematic. Few moviegoers walking out of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were excited about the prospect of seeing more of the Green Goblin, more of the Rhino, a resurrection for Electro and/or a return of the Lizard.
Even before movie Gwen's death became a fact, I couldn't be bothered to care about this franchise reboot, because it felt very retread, and I already long knew the story of Spidey's origin, so seeing it take place yet again, a decade after the first major movie, was only tedious this time around. Who cares if they went with mechanical webshooters this time? The thrills were gone. They might reintroduce Mary Jane Watson, but after the awful treatment she's undergone back in the comics for the past 6 years, it's hard to care how she'll be portrayed in a rebooted film franchise either.
The fact that Amazing Spider-Man 2 made $369 million in 19 days of worldwide play with no buzz shows how potent the Spider-Man character still is. But Sony and company just played their trump card, offering the iconic “death of Gwen Stacy” scene that many hardcore fans were waiting for ever since the character was announced. [...]
Not so fast. Even if the original death of Gwen was done well, I wasn't hoping she'd bite the bullet in the movie. If they hadn't gone that route, it might've been possible to take a direction that could make us care about her as movie material. But they went the obvious path, and only compounded the perception they don't have the guts to try giving Gwen a better role than just a girlfriend doomed to die.
And on a cultural level, millions of young audience members, male and female alike, just got a profound lesson on the value of female human life in pop-culture entertainment. You can talk all you want creating “strong”, “independent”, female characters who are “strong role models” for young girls in otherwise male-centric entertainments, but if the plot negates those qualities by turning her into a victim, taking away her agency, and/or punishing her for those very qualities, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. [...]
Sadly, this may not be so new in movies any more than it is in comics. And if that's all they can do, I think this is just why it's time to put Spider-Man as a movie franchise to bed.

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I've written on the revolving door of death in comics on my blog, so by no means am a fan of that trope. But I think Gwen Stacey's a special character, sort of like Uncle Ben, because her death is so intrinsic to the development of Spider-Man as a character. It's part of the core founding story of the character, was written decades ago, and was not a grimdark retcon. It is pre-fridge-ing of female characters. It's fair to show Gwen die in the film. But having seen the movie, I wouldn't say it was momentous. Weirdly, it shouldn't be gratuitous, but it shouldn't be drained of drama either. I found it to be the latter somehow. The acting, while not bad earlier in that film, for that particular scene was oddly lukewarm from the lead actor, Garfield. It did not feel like witnessing a tragedy. I think it's still fair to present a tragedy in story-telling in a huge dramatic way that is not gratuitous, not grimdark, and also genuine. They avoided making it seem gratuitous but they didn't reach a tragic moment. I came away thinking that Tobey Maguire did a better job.

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