Twitter led SNL producers to cast Betty White as host. Now the viral campaign is afoot to cast Donald Glover as the first black Spider-Man.
And what’s most surprising about the latter campaign is the speed with which this Glover mania has taken flight. In less than a week, the concept has gone from a fringe comment posted in response to an i09 editorial, suggesting a non-white Peter Parker to replace Tobey Maguire, to a trending topic on Twitter, a Facebook fan page, and now a legitimate discussion and debate among online movie pundits. (More at Techland: Spider-Man and How to Kill A Franchise in 20 Easy Steps)
Would Glover make a good superhero? I’ve read various opinions on the matter, all that come to wildly different conclusions. I, for one, thinks he’s hilarious in Community, and believe it doesn’t take all that much to play your standard superhero alter-ego. In a tale like Spider-Man, the story sort of writes itself. Tobey Maguire, not exactly a sex object, could still play plenty romantic. It’s all about the script, and the pacing.
What actually intrigues me far more about the Glover situation is the larger debate that has begun about the value of overnight viral entertainment campaigns. Looking back through time, one can point to both positive and negative case studies. Snakes on a Plane had its moments, but couldn’t the blogosphere have thought of a more interesting cult concept? Meanwhile there were millions out there who tried to save Coco, to no avail.
But Betty White was hilarious on SNL –providing the must-see episode of the entire season – and Glover as Peter Parker would be an ingenious twist to the familiar.
Newsweek came out and said that Twitter should hardly be the ultimate arbiter of taste – and that if Glover gets the part, it should be the result of an audition, not simply retweets. (More at Techland: The Worst Superhero Films of All Time)
But having closely covered the entertainment industry now for more than a decade, witnessing the lack of diversity both in front and behind the cameras, I find something like the Glover campaign refreshing. Hollywood assumptions are being challenged; eyes are being opened. Consensus is being outsourced beyond the white men of the board room to a polarized spectrum of fans, all with different backgrounds, tastes and dreams.
A black comedian as Spider-Man? An 88-year-old hosting a live TV program in late-night? Crazy ideas, yes, but at least new and different ones. And the more dialogue we have about how to take the stale familiar franchises and inject them with something new and unpredictable can hardly be a bad development. And those who poo-poo such random acts of mass creative thinking should remember: Hollywood used to be in the business of capturing the public imagination. The only difference now is that thanks to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, the fans can meet the makers halfway, with a few brainstormed ideas of their own.
Heck, it’s free consulting from your target market; more than just capitalizing on a cultural revolution, casting someone like Donald Glover would make smart business sense.
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