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Why Spider-Man is the perfect role model for children

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Critics took aim at Marvel and Sony this week because of a leaked licensing agreement that says Spider-Man can not be anything other than white and he can't be homosexual.

Critics took aim at Marvel and Sony this week because of a leaked licensing agreement that says Spider-Man can not be anything other than white and he can’t be homosexual.


Critics put Sony and Marvel under fire this week after a licensing agreement between the two companies — outlining what a movie version of Spider-Man should look and act like — surfaced online, according to Gawker.

Most criticized the agreement for saying Spider-Man can never be homosexual or anything other than Caucasian in movies, especially when a new announcement regarding the print adaptations of the superhero have contradicted this agreement in recent days.

Monday morning, Marvel announced that the comic book character Miles Morales — who is Hispanic and black — will don the superhero costume in a new print version of the comic to be released this fall, The AV Club reported.

The Marvel and Sony agreement also says Spider-Man can’t “deliberately torture” or “kill humans other than in defense of himself,” according to The Daily Dot. He doesn’t cuss, smoke tobacco, sell or use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol or engage in sexual acts before the age of 16, The Daily Dot reported.

This shows something unique about the movie version of Spider-Man: He is a family friendly superhero and an inspiring role model for youngsters, according to Srgjan Ivanovik of The Good Men Project. Ivanovik wrote that he tries to emulate Spider-Man at home and be a positive influence for his daughters — who love Spider-Man — because the superhero is brave, good-hearted and inspiring.

“It’s true that Spider-Man can make a mistake, after all he is in some portion only a human,” Ivanovik wrote. “He is naive, lazy, not the best or brightest in class. Yet surly, he is tender, gentle, trustworthy and very brave. He can make a mistake, but he will feel deep regret, and he will never repeat the same mistake. No matter how much I try to be like Spider-Man, I’m not even close to his superior behavior and not because he is a superhero. The simple reason – he is a better man and for my daughters, I want only the best.”

And the history of Spider-Man/Peter Parker seems to demonstrate his role as a superhero in which extended family plays an important part in his destiny. Most movie adaptations indicate Parker's mother and father are dead — which is also a requirement in the Sony and Marvel agreement — and that Parker was raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. And, in most interpretations of the character, Parker becomes Spider-Man to avenge the loss of his uncle, who he cares for deeply.

“Spider-Man is given his powers by chance, an accident. His sense of character and moral compass come from his Uncle Ben," The Artifice reported. “Uncle Ben’s death provides a driving force into how Spider-Man leads his life.”

It’s a good sign for families, then, that Spider-Man is the most profitable superhero of all time (worth about $1.3 billion, according to The Hollywood Reporter).

But your child doesn’t have to embrace the web-slinging superhero to succeed. CNN reported that superheroes in general help children feel more confident and more powerful. Research shows that many popular superheroes have the ability inspire children to confront their fears and stand up for what they believe in, CNN reported.

"Sometimes Wyatt says that he gets bullied and superheroes give him the confidence to stand up and tell the teacher," one mother told CNN. "One of his favorites is the Incredible Hulk.”

But that doesn't mean all superheroes should be role models. Child psychologists told The Guardian in 2010 that modern superheroes — like Robert Downey Jr.'s version of "Iron Man" — are “bad role models” because they portray aggressive, unintelligent and sexist behaviors.

"Today's superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he's aggressive, sarcastic, and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity," professor Sharon Lamb told The Guardian. "These men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns."

Lamb, who surveyed more than 600 boys, found that these superheroes have hurt children's social skills and their performance in school.

She suggests that parents encourage their children to embrace more traditional and less modern representations of superheroes, like Superman or Spider-Man, "because outside of their costumes they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities."

Related links:

Superheroes and faith: How religion plays a role in the comic book industry

Marvel introduces female Muslim superhero

Sidekicks and lackeys create another kind of hero

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at hscribner@deseretdigital.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.