Damsels in distress: Why a superhero’s work is never done - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Damsels in distress: Why a superhero’s work is never done

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2007 2:14 am | Updated: 7:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Lois Lane is in constant need of rescue by Superman. Batman’s various girlfriends always require saving.

In “Spider-Man 3,” girl-next-door Mary Jane once again is used by villains as bait for the web-slinging superhero, who also has to rescue another damsel in distress with whom he has a flirtation.

Forget Kryptonite. Are women the real Achilles’ heel for superheroes? Would these caped and masked crusaders be better off as loveless loners?

“Absolutely,” says Sam Raimi, director of the three “Spider-Man” movies, whose latest installment has Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane used both physically and psychologically by the bad guys to ensnare Tobey Maguire’s Spidey.

“In fact, that’s the path that Tobey’s character, Peter Parker, chose at the end of the first picture,” when Peter decided that with his Spider-Man alter ego, he had to avoid personal intimacy to protect those he loved and to do his job well, Raimi says. “Unfortunately, it’s hard to live up to that ideal, and in the second picture, he weakened and wanted a life with her.”

Laura Ziskin, one of the producers of the “Spider-Man” movies, says Peter tried giving up Mary Jane but later found he could not live without her.

Raimi also found something he could not live without in a “Spider-Man” movie, Ziskin says. In the first movie, Raimi had Mary Jane dangling from a bridge for Spidey to come and save her. In the second film, she’s tied to a pole and being sucked horizontally into a red-hot miniature sun. In the third one, two of the movie’s villains suspend her from a giant web to lure Spider-Man into their trap.

The third movie also features Spider-Man rescuing a new character, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard), who sways from a skyscraper after a crane smashes through the side of the building.

“Sam loves putting a sexy girl in a tight-fitting outfit, hanging from something,” Ziskin says.

They may be eye candy for the audience, but these women in peril certainly make for a harder day at the office for superheroes.

Their jobs would be easier without such emotional ties, Howard says.

“It’s true, it’s true,” Howard says. “It’s heartbreaking for that reason. He’s always having to go and save the girl, then everybody’s always kidnapping the girl. When my husband saw the movie with me a few days ago, he turned to me and said, ‘Mary Jane’s been through a lot.’ ”

Besides physical danger, Mary Jane faces endless emotional turmoil in “Spider-Man 3.” Her Broadway career stalls, and she finds herself jealous of both the success boyfriend Peter has found in the superhero game and the adoration it brings him.

A stolen kiss between Gwen and Spidey especially galls her, opening the door to further complications in the love triangle between Mary Jane, Peter and their old pal Harry (James Franco), now Spider-Man’s sworn enemy.

While Harry and new villains the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace) exploit Spider-Man’s feelings for Mary Jane, Maguire says the hero still is better off with her in his life.

“I just think they know they can get him that way. The villains would find him one way or the other. We’d have to create something for the villains to get to him. It’s kind of the most obvious way in, I guess,” Maguire says.

“And it’s nice, it adds dimension to his character. I mean, I guess, if he disconnected (from) his emotions or his feelings or his sense of duty, then he would be better off, because he’d just go, ‘Oh, well, people will survive this, it’s not my responsibility.’ ”

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