The hilarious NBC sitcom “Community” is on a short list of things we love as much as reading comic books. So cast member Donald Glover — aka junior college jock, Troy — had G3 at biblioteca when he began campaigning for the Peter Parker role in the forthcoming “Spider-Man” film reboot. Glover is a gem on a show filled with them, and the studio would be smart to take his interest seriously. The fact that he’s African American isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity to breathe new life into a movie franchise that’s grown a little tired. Here’s why putting Glover in red and blue tights makes perfect sense:
Filmgoers need a reason to care.
The last movie in the Tobey Maguire-led trilogy was released just three years ago, so when news of a reboot began circling a few months ago, even hardcore geeks were asking, “Why?” Spider-Man hasn’t been gone long enough for us to miss him, and there’s a big cloud of been-there-done-that hanging over this idea. Casting someone unexpected — like a nonwhite actor — would certainly heighten filmgoers’ interest, and you could do worse than a guy on a critically acclaimed TV show.
Glover’s a good actor.
When you can hold your own in a scene with Chevy Chase, you’re obviously doing something right. Comedic acting is harder than it looks, and Glover’s take on Troy, a less-than-brilliant former high school football star, is endearing and frequently LOL funny. He’s handsome but accessible in that boy-next-door way, and Glover could easily amp up the intelligence to play reluctant superhero Peter Parker. He’d be awfully cute in glasses, not to mention the suit.
Spidey is familiar enough to re-imagine.
With three very recent live-action movies on DVD shelves, Spider-Man is well known to the general public — so familiar that taking him in a direction shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Besides …
Kids don’t care that much.
On an Around Comics podcast several months ago, one of the panelists mentioned that his nephew, who is white, had this reaction to Ryan Reynolds’ casting as Green Lantern: “Green Lantern’s white now? Aw, man.” This kid had grown up on the Justice League Cartoon Network series, in which the resident Green Lantern is a black man, John Stewart. I could be wrong, but the racial freak-outs — at least as far as entertainment goes — seem to be more of an adult specialty.
Peter is an outsider.
Peter Parker’s origin story is full of teen-outsider angst, and take it from me: Few things are more ‘outside’ than a black, adolescent geek. Glover could take that aspect of Parker’s life in a whole ’nother direction.
While we’re on this topic, can the filmmakers please cast a better Mary Jane this time around? It would be cool for the studio to cast a talented, non-white performer in that role, too, but that (unfortunately) might be asking too much. If so, I hereby nominate cute-as-a-button Alison Brie, another fabulous “Community” cast member. She and Glover have such good chemistry, and in her recurring role on “Mad Men,” she’s proven that she can do drama as well as comedy. Bring on the Clairol #44 red hair coloring, and it’s a wrap. Hollywood, you’re welcome!