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Gavin J. Konop/Youtube

What is the fan-made film ‘Spider-Man Lotus’ and why do so many people hate it?

Filmed on a shoestring budget, this unlicensed 'Spider-Man' movie was embroiled in in a racism scandal.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 8, 2023

Following in a long tradition of fanmade movies, Spider-Man: Lotus was filmed on a low budget, raising $112,000 on Indiegogo. Premiering last week, it’s a non-profit project due to its unlicensed relationship with Marvel. Soon, you’ll be able to watch it on YouTube for free.

Unlike most fan films however, Spider-Man: Lotus has attracted a lot of media attention – and controversy. So what makes this amateur movie so special, and why do so many people hate it?

What is Spider-Man: Lotus?

Directed by Gavin Konop and starring Wayne Warden, Spider-Man: Lotus is an emotional take on the Spidey mythos. It initially gained attention because its first trailer displayed surprisingly high production values, prompting fans to fund a full-length release.

Offering a more character-focused tone than the official Tom Holland movies, the story explores Peter Parker’s grief for Gwen Stacy.

This week Spider-Man: Lotus premiered in LA, with a guest list of excited Spidey fans. However it didn’t earn such a positive response online, mostly due to a racism scandal involving the lead actor and director. So when you look up the premiere, you’ll find a ton of posts joking about it being a Klan meeting and generally mocking the film’s existence:

Why is Spider-Man: Lotus so controversial?

Last summer, fans uncovered racist social media posts from both Gavin Konop and Wayne Warden. These included anti-Black slurs, and the resulting controversy led to the discovery of homophobic voice memos from Konop. Some of the film’s Indiegogo backers asked for refunds, which Konop said “wasn’t feasible” at the time.

Konop apologized for using bigoted language, acknowledging that while some of the viral screenshots were fake, others were certainly real. “In my early years of middle school & high school, the R-word, along with other unacceptable terms such as the F-word, were part of my vocabulary,” he wrote. (Both he and Warden were teenagers when they started working on the film.)

Warden also posted a lengthy apology, saying that he was “raised in a homeschool conservative environment” surrounded by bigoted beliefs. “My ideas of right and wrong were skewed,” he wrote, explaining that he’d worked to change his behavior over the past four years.

However the film’s reputation never recovered from this scandal. Following the premiere this week, people flooded its (now-deleted) Letterboxd page with negative reviews. So while Spider-Man: Lotus managed to attract more buzz than some “real” indie movies, its brand is still inextricably linked with racism.

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*First Published: Aug 8, 2023, 11:42 am CDT