spider man

Rating: PG-13
Released: 2002
Run Time: 121 minutes
Directed by: Sam Raimi

Cultural rating: pawpaw

Overall, this film does not largely challenge different aspects of cultural identities. However, the film does expand the rigid definition of traditional masculinity.


After a radioactive spider bites senior high school student Peter Parker he develops spider-like superpowers and becomes a hero who regularly saves the day.


Language: poopoo

  • Threating and demeaning language
  • “ass,” “freak,” “freak show,” “weirdoes,” “hell,” “moron,” kill him,” “oh god”
  • Verbally abusive language from a parent to a child-“you’re trash,” “you’re stupid”

Violence: poopoopoo

  • Frequent fighting-shoving, punching, kicking, smashing into buildings/objects, breaking bones
  • Violence related to wrestling and cage fighting-body slamming, use of chair, crowbar as weapons
  • Visible weapons-guns, guns pointed at people, gun shots, knife
  • Character falls out of a window to his death
  • Spider bites Peter Parker
  • Some gore-irritated spider bite, cuts with blood, bloody shirt as a result of a gunshot wound, mouth full of blood, drops of blood
  • Character impaled by blades
  • Strangulation
  • Explosions
  • Character has a seizure as a result of ingesting “performance enhancers”
  • Lightening flash occurs and Spider-Man’s skull is temporarily visible
  • Vaporization of characters who momentarily turn into skeletons and then disappear

Sex: poopoo

  • Moderate sexual content
  • Passionate kissing
  • Sexual innuendos
  • Shirtless male

Drugs and Alcohol: poopoopoopoo

  • Alcohol is visible-glasses of champagne, bottle/glass of whiskey, advertisement for whiskey in the city
  • Characters are implied to be drinking champagne underage
  • A “performance enhancer” drug is ingested and causes damaging results

Cultural Analysis



  • Peter Parker, or Spider-Man, challenges traditional gender roles regarding masculinity as he is not hesitant to express his emotions on several occasions throughout the film, often crying as a result of a tragic occurrence in his family. Also, Peter Parker tells his love interest, M.J., that he “cried like a baby” when she played Cinderella in a play when they were kids.
  • Two major female characters are included in the film including M.J. and May Parker.
  • Some minor female characters challenge traditional gender roles regarding femininity as they are shown as active (such as the female police officer) and intelligent (such as the female scientist in the beginning of the film).


  • Many different races/ethnicities are present in the film as minor characters.

Sexual Orientation: N/A


  • One of the board members of a powerful corporation uses a wheelchair. 


  • Peter Parker’s aunt and uncle are old bodied and play an important role in the film. Also, Peter Parker tells his aunt, who is old bodied, that she is “beautiful.”
  • When Spider-Man enters the wrestling arena, many female wrestlers have very muscular bodies, which is not the ideal body type for females in society.



  • M.J. adheres to traditional gender roles as she is often depicted as a damsel in distress. M.J. is usually in situations where she cannot save herself and Spider-Man must therefore save her from dangerous situations. For example, Spider-Man must save M.J. when she is about to fall to her death (twice) and when she is about to be assaulted by a group of people.
  • In the beginning of the film, Peter Parker is depicted as performing traditional masculinity incorrectly as a result of his small body and his heightened intelligence. Oftentimes, Peter Parker is bullied because he does not conform to hegemonic masculinity. However, after Peter Parker is bitten by the spider, he acquires muscles and the ability to fight (signifiers as masculinity) and is able to stand-up for himself.
  • In the beginning of the film, Peter Parker says “any story worth telling is about a girl.” This is suggesting that worthy stories involve a romantic relationship with a girl in some way.
  • There are cut-outs of sexualized women on an office wall at the wrestling studio.


  • There are no major characters of color in the film.

Sexual Orientation:

  • There are no variations of sexual orientation.
  • Queer identity is used as an insult and in a stereotypical manner when Spider-Man says to a male wrestling opponent, “That’s a cute outfit did your husband give it to you?”


  • There are no representations of major characters with disabilities in the film.


  • Most bodies in the film adhere to ideal body types.
  • One of the only fat-bodied characters featured in the film enjoys a jelly doughnut on the school bus.

Suggested talking points

  • Peter Parker hopes to impress M.J. by purchasing a new car so that she will be interested in him. Discuss how, in a capitalist society, products are used as a means to impress others and as a way to measure a person’s worth.
  • In the beginning of the film, Peter Parker is regularly bullied because he is performing traditional masculinity. This is a good opportunity to explain that masculinity can take many forms and that there is no one “correct” way to be masculine. Further, performing masculinity (or femininity) in a non-traditional manner is by no means a reason to bully someone.
  • Overall, the women in the film, especially M.J., adhere to traditional gender roles regarding femininity. Can you think of a female superhero in a film/television show? How did she act? Did she need to be saved or did she do the saving?

Image: Wikimedia.org 

Keywords: Spider-Man, spider man, spider-man, action, adventure, hero, superhero, family, movie, masculinity, gender, 2 paws, two paws, peter parker

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