Gwen Stacy must die. It’s as simple as that.
As the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 approaches, we True Believers understand that Gwen will be getting dropped. Literally. Sure, the trailers are all Electro sucking power out of a cable and the Rhino not looking like some laughable Halloween costume, but beyond the backflips and the saving-random-bloggers-on-the-street antics, there’s an elephant looming: Spidey ain’t really Spidey until he’s accidentally killed his girlfriend through sheer superhuman thoughtlessness.
That’s because Gwen’s death establishes that Peter’s main personal flaw isn’t a quirk or some kind of adolescent one-time jerkishness that he outgrows. If that were the case, then after Uncle Ben’s death, he’d have prioritized his loved ones instead of hanging out on the bridge playing with the Green Goblin as his girlfriend plummeted to her death.
People will mutter “fridge,” but as a staunch feminist and a screaming banshee advocate for women in comics, I strongly feel that Gwen’s death is not a girlfriend-in-the-refrigerator situation. Remember, the Goblin doesn’t kill Gwen – Peter kills Gwen. He breaks her neck when he decides to snag her with some webbing instead of diving after her himself. Rookie mistake? Maybe some other hero. But this kid invented his web shooters (calculus! physics! aerodynamics!) as well as his sophisticated costume (permeability! materials science!) in his bedroom. He knows the consequences of a sudden stop on a falling object. He just doesn’t think. His priorities are completely messed up, just like they were when Uncle Ben died.
If there was ever an argument for flawed, arrogant heroes being the most interesting, then Peter Parker is IT. He’s got serious, consistent perspective issues, and the comics usually telegraph that pretty well. The current Amazing Spider-Man film franchise also does a far, far better job of demonstrating this superhuman’s humanity than the Raimi trilogy did. If they don’t kill Gwen, then the character won’t develop and the series won’t move forward.
Furthermore, Gwen’s actually pretty cool in the latest installation. She holds her own decently well in the high-stakes superhuman community and without her involvement in the plot against the Lizard, Spidey could never have saved the day. Of the two of them, she seems much more likely to succeed outside of the tights, and I can even see her getting a little sick of Peter once the novelty wears off. After Peter, maybe she goes to Columbia and gets a doctorate and gives a TED talk on genome patenting or something. But you and I know that’s not going to happen.
This isn’t to say that I’m looking forward to Gwen’s death. (Actually, I think a movie about her would be much more interesting, but I’m kind of a Fantagraphics-leaning gal anyway.) That said, this is a good opportunity for a movie to do what Gerry Conway did in 1973: end the glamor that surrounds the current depiction of superheroes. Modern movie supers are, at their cores, some of the most Silver Agey depictions of capers that we’ve seen since, well, the Silver Age. The Avengers are fighting for right, Superman’s fighting for right, Batman’s fighting for right, but the studios are all missing the main question behind the mask, the question that half the comics on the shelf wrestle with in every issue: why are they fighting?
As Superman, Zod, and the Avengers all merrily destroy New York City; and Batman’s existence generates a slew of nihilistic anti-heroes to torture the previously ordinarily crime-riddled Gotham; one wonders if it isn’t time for a reexamination of what makes our heroes so goddamned heroic. There’s only one way to do it.
Gwen’s just going to have to die.