The scene from Episode 8 “Reunion” shows Holland on the receiving end of an anal sex encounter with another man he meets up with in a gay nightclub bathroom. The Spider-Man: No Way Home actor’s face, which is decorated with black eyeliner in the episode, is pressed up against the restroom stall during the sequence as he embraces the man behind him. Viewers had some starkly differing opinions on what they thought of Holland’s departure from his red-and-blue spandex acrobatic stints as the web-slinging wall-crawler.
Tom Holland gay sex scene in The Crowded Room. pic.twitter.com/S1mAhB9BvX— Itboytrends ♡ (@itboytrendsnyc) July 15, 2023
Some have expressed their displeasure with seeing Holland simulate gay sex on-screen in the Apple TV+ series, writing “not my Spider-Man” in social media posts to vent these frustrations.
bro spider-man taking backshots wtf goin on 😂😂 that’s not my spider man— Dylan Moore (@dxlanm_) July 15, 2023
yea he's fried bro , and some of y'all be saying that's the best Spider-Man , he not my spider man https://t.co/aUSbiym6FP— Alex Mason (@whoisalexmason) July 14, 2023
Not my Spider-Man bro 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/NinUjmDLI6— Richie (@MidnightRichie) July 15, 2023
However, others pointed out that other Spider-Man actors, namely Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, have played gay characters in the past or engaged in behavior that many would call homoerotic, like when Garfield kissed Stephen Colbert on the lips during an appearance on the comic’s late-night show.
These same users thought that criticism of the show exposed the “homophobia” of those who openly expressed their dislike of The Crowded Room scene.
Tobey has played a gay role before, same as Tom, and Andrew wanted HIS version of Peter to date Michael B Jordan. Y’all running out of Spider-Men I fear… https://t.co/sE69O9oLRz— mal! (@photonsmight) July 15, 2023
No way people are saying “not my Spider-Man” about Tom Holland because of The Crowded Room. Then who is your Spider-Man because they’ve all played LGBT roles at some point 😭— Joe (@hzjoe03) July 15, 2023
However, one social media user said that their distaste of The Crowded Room and Holland in the show isn’t rooted in the fact that he participates in a gay sex scene. They also claimed that the majority of the show’s detractors aren’t criticizing it because of “Reunion,” but because the series has a poor depiction of dissociative identity disorder and that they thought Holland’s acting wasn’t compelling in it.
Who is saying this? Tom Holland acting in The Crowded Room sucks because it's a shitty representation of DID. https://t.co/7t19LXzXUI— Wyatt (@tellme_wy) July 15, 2023
There’s an interesting similarity to be made in the reverse-career trajectories of Holland and Hollywood mainstay Robert Downey Jr., who is currently making the rounds promoting Christopher Nolan’s grand opus, Oppenheimer, which he says is “the best film [he’s] ever been in,” with The Crowded Room controversy.
Downey Jr.’s breakout role was Julian in the film Less Than Zero, based on the Brett Easton Ellis novel of the same name. In it, Downey Jr. played a fatalistic young man who became dependent on drugs and engaged in sexual acts with men. Years later, the actor would go on to have a career resurgence following 15 months in state prison, one that culminated in him becoming a globally recognized talent again who kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in his role as Tony Stark in Iron Man.
Holland’s superhero career started in the MCU, and it seems he’s attempting to move away from more PG-13 and family-friendly fare. His role in The Devil All the Time saw him participate in graphically violent scenes, one in which he kills fellow MCU co-star Sebastian Stan in the gritty flick. Now, like Downey Jr.’s Julian in Less than Zero, Holland also plays a deeply troubled man who engages in sexual intercourse with men in The Crowded Room.
The Kingston, U.K. actor has gone on record to state filming the Apple TV+ series has been so emotionally draining that he’s decided to go on hiatus from acting for the time being. Even before the release of the bathroom scene that depicts Holland being penetrated by another man, The Crowded Room has received some dismal reviews from critics, culminating in a 30% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Audiences seem to have a different assessment of the show, however—the review aggregate website says that viewers have given overwhelmingly positive markings for the show, which stands at a 90% “fresh” approval rating.
The Daily Dot contacted Apple TV+ and WME, the agency that represents Holland, via email.