Page 3 Profile: Spider-man, superheroic web-slinger


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The Independent Online

With great power comes great responsibility…

…To eat kosher, attend synagogue and observe Shabbat.

Sorry, what?

Spider-Man, the superhero alter ego of Peter Parker, is Jewish, apparently. The actor Andrew Garfield, who played the title role  in The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 and who is reprising the role for the new film The Amazing Spider-Man 2, has confirmed the character’s Jewish roots.

They attended each other’s bar mitzvahs?

“Spider-Man is neurotic. Peter Parker is not a simple dude. He can’t just switch off,” Garfield told Time Out. “He never feels like he’s doing enough. And Peter suffers from self-doubt. He ums and ahs about his future because he’s neurotic. He’s Jewish. It’s a defining feature.”

Aware that he might have made a rather sweeping generalisation the British-American actor added: “I hope Jewish people won’t mind the cliché, because my father’s Jewish.”

Oh, well that’s okay, then…

Regardless of Garfield’s hackneyed understanding of Jewishness, his theory regarding the web-slinger’s Semitic origins is backed up by decades of analysis. Some Spidey scholars believe the story is an allegory for post-War US Judaism.

How so?

The angst-ridden teenager, Parker – a classic klutz, who is targeted by bullies – hails from Forest Hills, Queens, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in New York.

When he is bitten by a radioactive spider he acquires superhuman powers of incredible strength, agility and the ability to cling to walls, and goes on to fight evil by adopting an alter-ego; it was not uncommon for Jews to conceal their identities to avoid further persecution after the war. What’s more, he often uses Yiddish slang.

This all sounds like a lot of speculation to me…

Take it from Stan Lee, then. The comic book pioneer – who created Spider-Man in the 1960s with writer-artist Steve Ditko – once compared his most famous character to the David of the Bible.

In the Old Testament Book of Samuel, King Saul sends soldiers to kill David, who finds a cave where a spider weaves a giant web to hide and protect him.

Lee wrote: “To me you can wrap all of Judaism up in one sentence, and that is ‘Do not do unto others…’

“All I tried to do in my stories was show that there’s some innate goodness in the human condition.

“And there’s always going to be evil – we should always be fighting evil.”