I don’t know why it never occurred to me before. But I recently saw the newest Spider-Man movie with my kids, and it totally hit me on a different wavelength than any other time I’ve considered the Spider-Man story-line. As a middle-aged father, sitting in the darkened movie theater with my three adolescent children, it occurred to me:
Could it be that Spider-Man is a metaphor for adolescence?
Think about it: a young person is going along with his everyday life until one day he is bitten by a “radioactive spider.” All of the sudden, his body starts changing. He develops a heightened awareness, or “Spidey-Sense,” of the world around him. He feels icky and out-of-place until he masters his new powers. And then, he ultimately learns the lesson that “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I never really connected with this metaphor until I saw the interaction between Myles Morales and his father. (It’s really not all that different from any of the previous iterations of the dynamic between Peter Parker and his Uncle Ben). Both adult and youth are sympathetic characters. They both want to fight against the evil in the world around them. But they have dramatically different — even antithetical — approaches. Misunderstandings abound. Communication is a challenge. But in the end, they learn how to get along as adults.
I enjoyed the unique approaches to visual design and animation in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I appreciated the fresh take on a familiar story (though honestly, the plot got a bit convoluted at times). But more than anything else, I’m grateful for the way this film got me thinking about parenting, pastoring, and passing along power and responsibility to successive generations, both in family and in ministry.