Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Title

Into the Spider-Verse: Cultural Identity in Spider-Man Media


Whittier Scholars Program

First Advisor

Scott Noon Creley


Superheroes have become a popular genre that is becoming more successful at creating box office records. As the superhero genre becomes more popular, more superheroes have been created as symbols that reflect the increase of cultural identity representation in contemporary media. Spider-Man is a superhero that also reflects these cultural identities by offering more diverse and relatable variants of the Spider-Man character that allow him to normalize and address their presence in media. This paper aims to analyze the different cultural identities that Spider-Man media can connect to and how this connection can lead to a greater understanding of cultural identity throughout media. This analysis considers four films of Spider-Man media including Spider-Man (2002), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). Looking at the Spider-Man films through Marxist theory will aim to analyze how Spider-Man is a representative of the working class struggling against an exploitative capitalist system. Another approach this paper will consider is cultural theory which will analyze how Miles Morales is a culturally significant Spider-Man figure due to his ability to prove that minorities can also hold the Spider-Man title without being bound to the original story but extending further on what the Spider-Man identity represents. When studied through the lens of feminist theory, Spider-Man media reveals the evolution of women in the universe of Spider-Man media, where women have grown from damsels in distress into characters with more agency and ambition. Through a queer theory analysis, it is revealed Spider-Man takes on a role as a symbol of queer community’s struggle to become accepted in a heteronormative society. Overall, Spider-Man has grown into a diverse character that can connect to many cultural identities in order to normalize diverse voices in the media. Through this analysis, a new perspective on Spider-Man is revealed as an adaptable symbol for various cultural identities to be represented and creates opportunities for more to come.