Missing the Signs: Imperfect Allyship and the Re-examination of Personal Biases
AbstractLet us begin with some recent popular culture. Consider the excellent film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse released to theaters in late 2018.1 At a point in the movie, the intrepid heroes Miles Morales and Peter Parker sneak into a lab run by corporate scientists, for plot reasons. During this scene, we discover that the lead scientist, a woman, turns out to be Olivia Octavius, a female version of the famous Spider-Man nemesis, Doctor Octopus/Doc Ock. While watching the film, my friend and I turned to each other and gasped like pre-teen boys; we had not seen it coming. And yet the movie warns us a moment before the reveal that we need to challenge our assumptions, as Parker quips, "I re-examine my personal biases," after being told that the head scientist, who he thought was a man, was in fact a woman. The writers of the movie left clues throughout the story making it clear that not only would a major antagonist be a woman, but it would also make sense and not be a big deal. However, I think a lot of us long-time Spider-Man fans were genuinely surprised, as we overlooked the tells throughout the film, noticing only after the fact, to our surprise and, perhaps, embarrassment. Peter Parker had to re-examine his personal biases, but so did a lot of moviegoers.
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