How strict are the restrictions that Marvel places on cinematic depictions of Spider-Man? This strict: According to a 2011 contract between Marvel and Sony that was discovered by Gawker as part of the Sony hack, Spider-Man films are prohibited from portraying their titular web-slinger, Peter Parker, as anything but a straight white male. These restrictions are part of a set of “mandatory character traits” the comics giant set in advance of 2012’s Andrew Garfield–starring The Amazing Spider-Man; other perhaps more reasonable restrictions prevent Spider-Man from being depicted as a drug dealer or a pedophile. The good news for fans of onscreen superhero diversity is that other nonwhite characters are allowed to take up the mantle of Spider-Man in films … as long as they, too, are straight men. (There is one loophole: Spider-Man can be gay in the movies once a gay Spider-Man exists in the comics.) It’s unclear whether these restrictions still exist now that Sony has partnered with Marvel Studios to reboot the Peter Parker character to fit its ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even there, all the contenders for the role are white, so come to your own conclusions.
Here’s the full set of guidelines that Marvel set in the 2011 contract:
Mandatory Spider-Man Character Traits: Spider-Man (whether Peter Parker or an alternative Spider-Man character) must always strictly conform to the following “Mandatory Character Traits”:
• Does not torture*
• Does not kill unless in defense of self or others*
• Does not use foul language beyond PG-13
• Does not smoke tobacco*
• Does not sell/distribute illegal drugs*
• Does not abuse alcohol*
• Does not have sex before the age of 16, does not have sex with anyone under the age of 16
• Not a homosexual (unless Marvel has portrayed that alter ago as a homosexual)
And here’s the second, more stringent set of standards for the character of Peter Parker himself:
Peter Parker Character Traits. Depictions of Peter Parker or his Spider-Man alter ego must conform to the following character traits:
• His full name is Peter Benjamin Parker.
• He is caucasian and a heterosexual.
• His parents become absent from his life during childhood.
• From the time his parents become absent he is raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City.
• He gains his powers while attending either middle school or college.
• He gains his powers from being bitten by a spider.
• He designs his first red and blue costume.
• The black costume is a symbiote and not designed by him.
• He is raised in a midde class household in Queens, New York.
• He attends or attended high school in Queens, New York, and he attends or attended college in New York City, New York.
A Marvel rep had no comment on the leaked documents.