Most of us are familiar with movie metaphors. We all know that the Narnia movies are full of Christian allegories, that Alien is bursting with rape symbolism, and so on.
But it's easy to forget that almost every movie has some kind of subtext. Writers love that shit, so they work it in wherever they can -- even if they're writing about a cyborg that punches people.
As a result, these half-coded messages turn up in movies you'd never expect.
6Spider-Man: Peter Parker's Man Juice
What You Think You're Watching
Another superhero movie. This time, it's about a shy teenager named Peter Parker who discovers that a genetically engineered spider bite has given him superpowers.
We have jokingly alluded to this before, but Spider-Man really is all about semen. Or puberty. Whatever.
We tend to find Spider-Man easier to identify with than other superheroes. He's not an alien, like Superman, or the son of a major Norse god, like Thor, or a Canadian, like Wolverine. But that's not all we have in common with Peter Parker: His superhero birth-trauma story is one with which we're all painfully familiar -- puberty.
Those were dark years.
At the beginning of the 2002 Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker is timid, puny and closer to his aunt and uncle than to girls his age. That is until one day, when Peter is taking a picture of a pretty classmate, Mary Jane Watson. While gazing, enchanted, at her beauty, he's bitten by a spider. Peter reacts to this event by running home and staring at his bare torso in the mirror, confused.
The next day, Peter's body has changed, and he has developed muscles in new places. But that's just the beginning. Peter's body starts producing, uh, sticky white stuff.
This movie defines subtlety.
The audience watches with vague feelings of discomfort as this teenage boy spends a long time trying to figure out exactly how to produce the newly discovered fluid, nervously telling his aunt to go away when she knocks on the door.
If the superpowers-as-puberty message wasn't intentional in the recent movies, it sure was back when they were being developed. For most of Spider-Man's 49-year history, Peter Parker lacked the ability to shoot webs out of his own body (heh), instead relying on a pair of mechanical shooters that he built himself and attached to his wrists.
This new power of Spider-Man's is prominently featured in an unused script written by James Cameron in 1991. If you still have any doubts about the subtext that's going on here, check out this scene from Cameron's version, in which a newly spiderized Peter Parker wakes up in bed:
Something is causing the sheet to stick to him. He lifts it, revealing a sticky, white mass completely covering him, gluing him to his bedding. It is some silky substance webbing him into the covers. He cries out in dismay ... struggling to free himself from the gluey strands. Where did it come from? He notices his wrists. ... They are oozing a pearlescent white fluid from almost invisible slits about a quarter of an inch long.
See, it could have been much, much worse. It's pretty clear that this metaphor was a deliberate one. Either that, or Cameron has a few things that he needs to work through with his therapist.