There is a certain romance to a love unrequited. That’s what we are taught, what has been ingrained in our heads since the days of cartoons with their eternal suitors, never suited, and in books and films where the protagonist strives but never to have.
And then there is Spiderman. Spider Man. Stupid red and blue comic hero who, truth be told, i never liked very much. He caught my childhood attention as a cartoon because he was smart, and witty, and had my name, but he never played a favorite in my world of superheroes. I eschewed his toys. I rarely bought his comic. But his movie. How could i resist his movie?
Overwrought, overly animated, amateurishly directly, but oh that acting. Tobey, sweet Tobey who i’ve hated in every role he’s ever played because in reality i suspect i don’t like him at all, he brought poor Peter Parker to life in front of my eyes. Peter, me, that space that we’ve always shared inside of my head.
It wasn’t really Tobey, though, not at all. It was Mary Jane.
Mary Jane, a big-haired, ever-changing cipher in the comics, once upon a time so patterned after a certain Julia that Ms. Roberts seemed all but cast in the role. Yet, times change, and people win Oscars for terrible boring movies with no momentum, and Peter remains eternally youthful. And so, you see, it could not be Julia.
That cipher was rewritten, scripted into the house next to Peter’s with the awful never-seen father yelling from within, eclipsing – nay – supplanting Gwen Stacey to ensure that this re-imagined Mary Jane Watson was and could be the one and only ultimate love of Peter’s life.
This changed the nature of Peter, and Spiderman. He stopped being the underdog – he never let Gwen fall off of that bridge because he saved her (as MJ) in the first movie when she was – by comic book rites – supposed to plummet to her death. And he killed Green Goblin in the process. What a debut.
Really, they had no choice. If they had killed the father-figure and the girl it would have been too punishing and, after all, they weren’t about to bring Uncle Ben back to life. Dead Uncle Ben is the cornerstone of all things Spidey. But, Peter was supposed to have lost so many things, to have lost Gwen and to be afraid to ever love anyone else again. So, to make Peter the eternal underdog, they withheld Mary Jane. Teased us with her adoration, baseless, lacking foundation, but so tangible in the ever-hurt eyes of the estimable Ms. Dunst, and proving her to be ultimately unattainable at the end of the first film in that crushing, crushing scene in the graveyard.
I may have liked Spiderman 2 less than I liked its predecessor. Raimi is a hack, with his horror conventions and his guest stars. It had its comic book moments, but it was also too heavy handed, never funny or fierce enough. Tobey as Peter worked only so much as Tobey as an everyman, and Dunst as MJ was limp. Lifeless. Not the headstrong MJ of the 300s of Amazing Spiderman.
What was perfect, undeniable true, was that longing. That always wanting, never having, delirious joy in seeing, pain in saying goodbye. The tension. The tension was true Spiderman, tearing him and her apart at once, weakening him in its strength and strengthening her in her resolve. It was the dramatic backbone of the first film, and the entire skeletal structure of the second.
It was all in Kirsten’s eyes. She took the girl, the too-perfect blind date oft-pushed by good old Aunt May in the comics, and turned her into something altogether different. Symbolic. Real. There could be no Spiderman without this Mary Jane. She was as instrumental as poor dead Uncle Ben or that nameless robber and ever-suffering May. In the cinematic universe, she had been woven in so tightly, so close to the center, that Spiderman could never exist without her. In her absence, he could do nothing but unravel.
Kirsten brought tears to my eyes in every scene for being that perfect thing – that unrequited, unobtainable love, eternally romanticized and forever untouchable. Only movies show us that touch, thrill us with that perfect kiss or that glimmer of recognition in her eyes, pools of unwavering truth and belief, frightening in their realness in every scene she plays.
I have had a crush on Kirsten ever since she played against Mr. Cruise. I fancy that i look a bit like him sometimes, sans snaggled tooth, i think because that would put me closer to her. The flowergirl in my father’s wedding was perfectly little and blonde, like her, and i juxtaposed the two in my fantasy-life until high school as the girl who played my unrequited love, unsuspecting but strangely dedicated to the eternal leading-on of me.
I feel sometimes that i live to be lead on. Did i get into the right college? Did i get the part? Did i get the job? The thrill was never in the answers, but in the anticipation. This site is about anticipation; it is my endless anxious wanting to know but loving the wanting and the not knowing, the delicious tension therein. My writing, at its finest points, is searching for something just outside its grasp, trying to attain the unattainable, to pen a sketch of an infinitesimal gap between me and something or someone else that at that frozen moment in time i cannot, and will not, ever have.
Kirsten’s eyes drew tears in my own, half drunk and staring at the screen, because in Spiderman she is it. She is my crush. She is the juxtaposition, the wanted but never had, the just two steps away. Maybe i should have acted. Maybe i should be in film. We are the same age, Kirsten and i. I could be her leading man.
We all aspire to have the perfect, filmic ideal, but we so rarely do. Now, staring into my twenties, i see joy in the successes more modest, and the achievements actually had rather than those merely anticipated. I suspect, nay, predict, that my lips will never touch Kirsten’s, in reality or as the wanly beautiful Mary Jane Watson. She, and the woman she played in the movie i did not like but eminently enjoyed, are the perfect representation of that unrequited love.
And then, at that teary wishing-it-was-me-in-the-ripped-up-suit-saving-her moment, i looked beside me, and realized that i have it. Her. That thing, that never attained thing, too perfect so that it can be endlessly redescribed by the imperfections that we call art. I remember the scant days between courting and kissing. I hid them from this website almost presciently, as if i knew that in describing the agony of the indescribable tension that i would eventually have to admit that i had overcome it, turned it from dreamed to dreamt. It’s on another page in a different place, and i rarely hint at it at all to this day. But I love Elise, love our stupid quirky banter from computers across the room more than i could ever imagine loving that unrequited, untouched tiny Kirsten-thing in my head. I reject the imagined perfection. Because, no matter how perfect our imagined life might be, how could it be better than what i am living right now?
I did not like Spiderman 2. You should go see it, and for every contrived moment, or bad shot, you should think about Peter, Peter Parker, and how he wants such simple things but goes to such extraordinary lengths in his not having them. And you should want to be him, swinging high above New York at twenty-four frames per second, twenty-four hours a day for all of your life. And, then, you should realize that like any art, Peter is a glistening imperfection, endlessly torn between want and have so much that we are drawn in droves, record setting droves, to watch him flail between the two, a gossamer moth torn between the Sun and the Moon.
You should go see it, and realize that your life is a higher art than art, because it is crystalline in its perfection, alive instead of celluloid, yours instead of everyone else’s. And you should leave pleased.