Spider-Man: Homecoming is without a doubt going to be a major blockbuster this Summer. Tom Holland as the young Peter Parker/Spider-Man is phenomenal and the other cast members shows what happens when they get the casting pitch perfect! But it’s Zendaya as Michelle (is she Mary Jane? who knows) that caught my eye and left me thinking about her character after the movie.
Zendaya being cast as Michelle in a huge tent pole, summer block buster and MARVEL movie when it was announced was huge. Unless you are a parent of tween or teen, you probably have no idea who Zendaya is. My daughter has grown up on Zendaya and all her cute Disney incarnations.
And when you think about the transition of other Disney/Nickelodeon stars into adulthood, there is a real pressure to do more “adult” roles or dress more adult (think sleazy Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke at the VMAs or Selena Gomez in Heartbreakers) or do stupid things to get noticed (send naked pictures to producers ala Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical.)
Zendaya has been very mindful of her transition to adulthood in both her personal life and career – yes she is still the lead on Disney K.C. Undercover and was on Dancing on the Stars (a smart move in my opinion since she has a dancing background and was not well known to most of the country.) She is also a red carpet staple. I do think she takes her visible presence as a role model to young African American girls very seriously.
So her landing a role in a Marvel movie is huge and for a young girl of color it is even a more momentous of an achievement. Yes, we have Zoe Saldana from the Guardians of the Galaxy but remember Zendaya is only 20 years old. It always a young white girl who is cast in these roles and becomes Hollywood’s new “it” girl.
So why do I love her Spider-Man Homecoming character so much and that she is so revolutionary.
1. She wears know no make up throughout the movie. “She is who she is”. The no make up wearing is for white women trying to win Academy Awards or white girls in teen movies who plays the nerd but are seriously a “10” in real life.
2. She plays the “emo “loser” and has no friends. She definitely reminded me of Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club. When you think these type of roles, you think “white girl!” That’s right Hollywood, black girls aren’t always happy or popular.
“Zendaya herself really informed her character,” adds Carroll. “In a school full of really smart kids who build computers at home in their spare time, she’s the kid walking around with a novel in her pocket and any spare moment she has is spent reading.
3. She’s the artsy kid in a school full of nerds.She isn’t loud or the”black sidekick girlfriend” ala Stacey Dash in Clueless.
4. She’s smart!! That’s right people, black girls are smart, they study math and science, they read books and make the honor roll! Don’t want to spoil how this is revealed but yes she is one of the smart kids in the movie.
5. She is radical in a soft and understated way, relating a historical fact about why she doesn’t want to visit the Washington Monument. (It was built by slaves, a fact her “smart” teacher was not aware of.) Her reason may stay with people long after the movie about how they should view historical monuments they visit.
“My character is very smart, intellectual – but I’m not gonna lie: she’s super-weird,” says Zendaya. “She’s super-cool to me, because she’s constantly thinking about something, sits back and observes, and only says little things – but what she does say is very true and real.”
At the end of the day, her character shows that girls of color can be smart, witty and that it’s okay not to be the popular one. And yes it shows girls of all colors it’s okay to be the smart girl, too.
You have to be who you are, your authentic self. “Oprah for the teen set.”
Spiderman: Homecoming Trailer featuring Michelle (Zendaya)
And yes, I highly recommend Spider-Man Homecoming movie for Zendaya and her newly minted superstar co-star Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Read my review of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Zendaya’s response to playing Michelle in her first blockbuster feature film.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens today July 7.
Disclosure: NYC Single Mom attend the Spider-Man Homecoming Press Junket. Opinions are 100% my own.