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Hollywood studios are notoriously conservative about queer representation, routinely refusing to include LGBTQ characters in blockbuster movies. In the case of Spider-Man, Sony and Marvel even drew up a legal contract to make sure Peter Parker would be portrayed as a straight, white man. Specifically, he’s not allowed to be “a homosexual (unless Marvel has portrayed that alter ego as a homosexual).”
That agreement became public knowledge in 2015, but this week it spawned a strange new conspiracy theory. A slew of Twitter and Tumblr posts claim Amazing Spider-Man star Andrew Garfield was actually “fired” for suggesting Peter Parker should be bisexual.
Remember when Andrew Garfield was wondering aloud why Spider-Man couldn't have a boyfriend?— Pete Milan (@PeteMilan) September 4, 2017
And then he got fired?
Back in 2013, Garfield made headlines by saying Peter Parker should explore his sexuality, wondering, “Why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?” He even mentioned the idea to Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb, suggesting that Michael B. Jordan could play a male version of Mary Jane Watson. Then at San Diego Comic-Con the next year, Garfield extrapolated further, saying Peter Parker would be a more effective underdog character if he wasn’t a straight, white man.
Thanks to a viral Tumblr post about the bisexual Spider-Man saga, a lot of people seem to think these comments precipitated an entire franchise reboot. The post theorizes that Garfield and Webb were fired for supporting the idea of a bisexual Spidey. It even suggests that Webb made real plans for Mary Jane to be male in future movies, potentially explaining why Shailene Woodley’s MJ was cut from Amazing Spider-Man 2.
There’s no evidence that any of this is true. It doesn’t even make sense within the timeline of Garfield’s comments. His first “bisexual Spider-Man” interview took place a year before Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and Sony allowed him to repeat his views while promoting the movie at Comic-Con. And after that, it still planned to make Amazing Spider-Man 3.
As is often the case, the simplest explanation is the most likely. Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed at the box office, and while Sony did have plans for a sequel with Webb and Garfield, it suffered behind-the-scenes difficulties like the departure of co-writer Bob Orci. By 2015, Sony had secured a deal with Marvel Studios to relaunch the franchise within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something fans had wanted for years. That deal required a full reboot, replacing the now 32-year-old Garfield—who by this point was thoroughly disenchanted with “corporate” blockbuster filmmaking anyway. So while it’s true Marvel and Sony are disappointingly conservative about queer representation, they didn’t cancel an entire franchise because Andrew Garfield did a couple of interviews.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor