Kopaganda in Marvel’s Spider-Man is a symptom of her neoliberal stance

Marvel’s Spider-Man begins with an attack on the Fisk Tower. Spidey fights his way up the skyscraper while taking out dozens of Kingpin’s goons along the way, and when he reaches the top he meets a police bomb squad aiming to help him arrest Fisk. To Spider-Man’s surprise, the cops work for Kingpin. Spidey subdues them and calls his police official, Yuri Watanabe, to let her know that some of her men were on the alert. Yuri does not react to this news and corruption within the police force is not addressed again. There were a few rotten apples that tried to kill Spider-Man, and that was all. From that point on, the police are only represented as trustworthy allies of Spider-Man, and vice versa, although the first mission explicitly shows us that they are not.

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I’m a far cry from the first person to point to Copaganda problem in Marvel’s Spider-Man, but while reviewing the PC port, I couldn’t help but focus on these moments, like the Twisted Bomb Squad in the Fisk Tower, and how they tell what kind of person this Spider-Man is. There is a neoliberal ideology pervasive in Marvel’s Spider-Man that is hard to ignore and impossible to reconcile, given Spider-Man’s history as a working-class hero. Spider-Man is deeply loyal to institutions, such as the police, and is an enforcer of the status quo. Despite being subjected to a near-constant stream of evidence of systemic failure, Spider-Man sees crime and anomaly as a problem created by individuals – a few rotten apples across the Big Apple.

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Shockingly, soon after surviving a police ambush, Spidey almost immediately gets to work fixing high-tech scanners at police stations across New York City. When Batman used a similar technique to hunt down the Joker at the end of The Dark Knight, Lucius Fox was so annoyed by the attack on public privacy that he threatened to resign. In Marvel’s Spider-Man, Spidey is happy to give the police department – who just tried to kill him – the power to keep tabs on everyone in town. The only person to criticize this is J. Jonah Jameson on his radio show Just The Facts. He calls the system Orwellian and a violation of civil liberties, and it is. Jameson spends the rest of the game making an impression on Alex Jones by shouting out conspiracy theories and lashing out at Spider-Man. Every time he talks about the game, he reminds us that his point of view is not one we should ever think of.

So Spider-Man is repairing police scanners all over the city. Between battles with super villains and visits to Aunt Mae’s homeless shelter, Spidey deals with a variety of crimes wherever they arise. One of the most common crimes that Spider-Man can respond to is drug deals. After beating merchants and buyers into a bloody batter, Spidey will always make the same note. “Drugs are probably the most hated criminal activity. Certainly the top five, or the bottom five, but that works.” It’s strange for him to say, considering the other crimes he can stop are kidnappings, shootings, truck bombs and armed robbery. There are constant high-speed chases that involve shooting blindly out of a window, but somehow petty drug deals are Spider-Man’s most hated criminal activity. You’d think that he spent so many formative years helping his aunt at a homeless shelter – not to mention being homeless – that he would have developed a better understanding of systemic problems, but he didn’t.

This Spider-Man sees crime as nothing more than bad guys doing bad things. There is nothing wrong with the police, there is just nothing wrong with the bad cops. There’s nothing wrong with the mayor’s office, he just so happens to have an evil mayor cooking up secret bioweapons. Martin Lee has been turned into a villain through a failed experiment, and his gang of inner demons have corrupted his negative energy. Doc Ock has become evil due to unstable technology in his robotic arms. These are easy problems to solve. All you have to do is hit the bad cops, steal the biological weapon, throw Martin Lee in jail, and disable the chip on Doc Ock’s neck. For Spider-Man, there is never a bigger picture. None of these problems are rooted in anything deeper. When there’s another drug deal five minutes from now, all he has to do is hit them too.

Nobody expected Spider-Man to become a Marxist (that would be cool) but Marvel’s Spider-Man cast Peter Parker as nothing more than a super cop. He literally adopts the name Spider-Cop. He shows up at a crime scene, catches the bad guy, then throws them into the system, trusting that they’ll be dealt with and never stopping to think about whether anything he does actually makes New York safer. JJJ refers to this in another episode of Just The Facts when he explains that there have never been moderators before Spider-Man, but of course, JJJ is a kook. There’s a Ubisoft-like quality to the way Marvel’s Spider-Man takes its tiptoes on the edge of setting a point, but then drops it, perhaps out of fear of irritating anyone, or perhaps, like Spider-Man, trying to maintain the status quo.

Next: Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered PC review: A must restart thanks to the Stellar Steam Deck and very broad support

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