Episode 35: 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Gets a New Trump-Era Supervillain

July 12th 2017

ATTN: Staff

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It has been difficult to avoid viewing pop culture through the lens of politics since the contentious 2016 election. Twitter quickly morphed the Super Bowl into an election-night metaphor (and the advertisements took a political tone) and the Academy Awards were similarly distorted to fit political narratives. Late-night television has thrived in this antagonistic climate, and "Saturday Night Live" has found its voice yet again, in mocking President Donald Trump.

In scripted entertainment, television shows are adapting—even in ways that feel a little "on the nose"—to Trump.

And in the world of feature films, we're only just staring to see the first explicitly Trump-era pictures coming out. While "Beatriz at Dinner," starring Salma Hayek was an obvious attempt to contend with Trump's America, a film that movie-goers may not have expected to tackle such themes is the super-hero blockbuster "Spider-Man: Homecoming."

"Homecoming," the latest reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, features a villain named the Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) who can be described as a former working-stiff who turns to crime due to economic anxiety, leading Rolling Stone to label him in a headline as a "Sympathetic Trump-Era Supervillain." Rolling Stone continues:

"Nobody involved with Homecoming has claimed that this Spidey reboot is some sort of political commentary. But in the press notes, director Jon Watts does explain his conception of the Vulture by saying, 'I really liked the idea of having villains with problems that people can relate to. It's not about world domination; it's not about some crazy revenge plot; it's about not having enough money to get by and really wanting to have a place in the world.'

"Financial stability and pride in one's work: Those sound like the talking points at a populist candidate's stump speech, but in Homecoming, they're also the anxieties that drive a regular Joe to become a supervillain. Just as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a relatable high-school kid – he's no mighty Kryptonian or brooding Gotham billionaire vigilante – so too is Toomes a plainly average guy, lacking the brilliance or outsized menace of Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin. Instead, his most powerful, dangerous weapon is his belief that he's been shafted."

Over at Vulture (the publication, not the villain) they write:

"In short, the Vulture is the first supervillain who seems like he voted for Trump. Hear me out. He’s a guy with a working-class past, but who long ago obtained a substantial amount of wealth — and nevertheless continues to act like he’s a put-upon, blue-collar prole. His blood foes? Government bureaucrats and bleeding-heart elitists. As he puts it at one point, 'The rich and the powerful, like Stark, they don’t care about us.' I’m not saying Trump voters are supervillains, just that Adrian’s motivations have been demonstrated to be all too narratively and experientially potent in the months preceding the movie’s release. His grievances pack a believable wallop."

"Got Your Attention's" Mike Vainisi takes the argument one step further, saying that Adrian Toomes (the man who becomes Vulture) is similar to Donald Trump himself. Not the supervillain part, but that despite garnering wealth, he has maintained an ability to connect to the working class and wields a resentment to bureaucrats and perceived "elites" to connect with his base.

Beyond debating this supervillain, the "Got Your Attention" cast also discusses Donald Trump Jr.'s email scandal, different cultures' wedding traditions, and Lena Dunham's dog.

Podcast notes:

Read more about the stories we did (and didn't) talk about this week on "Got Your Attention."

  • Twitter battle: Donald Trump vs. Chelsea Clinton.
  • What is going on with Trump's voter fraud commission? ATTN: explains.
  • Rob Kardashian, Blac Chyna and revenge porn.
  • Patton Oswalt is getting backlash from fans for remarrying 15 months after he lost his wife.
  • Lena Dunham is back in the news because she decided to “re-home” her dog Lamby. The shelter called Dunham out, disputing her claims of previous abuse. But a HuffPost writer chimed in with a different reason she was annoyed: the use of the word “mom.”
  • The old stereotype of Jews and money—and a Jay-Z lyric.
  • Here's how alcohol affects a long-term relationship.
  • New York Magazine published piece titled titled “The Uninhabitable Earth” about the devastating impact of climate change. (Everyone should read it.)
  • Two big things going on in healthcare—one is the debate over the GOP health care bill, and the other is single-payer in California.

What is the "Got Your Attention" podcast?

If you've ever wondered how the staff pitch and select the stories that you read or watch on ATTN:, we're giving you an inside listen. ATTN: Media is excited to announce "Got Your Attention," a podcast where ATTN: staffers compete to have their pitches accepted by our host — while also unpacking some of the week's most important headlines.

The game is simple: Three ATTN: staff members—Senior Analyst Katie Fleeman, Senior Editor Sarah Gray, and Senior Social Trends Editor Omri Rolan—pitch their best stories to our host and Head of Editorial Mike Vainisi. If Mike picks their story, they get a point, and the four discuss the story.