Study Guide

Spider-Man Harry Osborn (James Franco)

Harry Osborn (James Franco)

Harry is the man in the middle.

He's in the middle of a love triangle with Peter and Mary Jane and he's in the middle of the conflict between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin—even if he doesn't yet know just how deep his connection is to those two men in tights.

This Is My Son, What's-His-Face

For all his rich-kid pull, we don't envy Harry. For starters, his dad basically neglects him because he's too wrapped up in his work—first at Oscorp and then as a psychopathic supervillain—to take a genuine interest in his kid or what he's up to.

At the same time, Harry is totally dependent on his dad and his hefty bank account—and his classmates know it. The Osborn family's affluence is a source of humiliation for him. When Harry tries to stand up for Peter, Flash and his crew of doofuses use Norman's power against him:

HARRY: Leave him alone.

FLASH'S CRONY (mocking): Or what?

[…]

FLASH: What's Daddy gonna do? Sue me?

What Harry has his dad has provided. He seems to earn very little for himself, and it makes him uneasy and embarrassed.

That unease just makes Norman mad at Harry, whom he sees as an ungrateful problem child. Check out what happens when Norman gives Harry a lift to school:

HARRY: Can we drive around the corner, please?

NORMAN: Why? The entrance is right there.

HARRY: Dad, these are public school kids. I'm not showing up for the field trip in a Rolls.

NORMAN: What, you want me to trade in my car for a Jetta just because you flunked out of every private school I ever sent you to?

Harry wants to blend in. All teenagers do. Harry may have nice clothes and a fancy ride, but he's still a social outcast, just like Peter.

A Chip off the Diamond-Encrusted Block

Even though Norman is often MIA and treats Harry like a jerk, Harry admires him. And even though Norman is a bitter, classist, woman-hating buttwad, Harry still admires him.

Take Thanksgiving, for example. When Norman bails on the dinner Harry arranged so that his dad could meet M.J., Harry lets Norman have it out in the hallway. Norman then tells Harry that M.J. is low-class trash he should use up and throw away. In response, Harry…well, he doesn't really do anything.

When Harry returns to the apartment, M.J., who heard the whole nasty exchange (ouch), sarcastically thanks her boyfriend for sticking up for her:

HARRY: You heard?

MARY JANE: Everyone heard that creep.

HARRY: That creep is my father, all right? If I'm lucky, I'll become half of what he is, so just keep your mouth shut about stuff you don't understand!

Oof. Harry, your daddy issues are showing.

Harry is impressed by his dad's wealth and power when he should be horrified by the way he spoke about his girlfriend. While M.J. and Peter are growing up after graduation, finding jobs and navigating the complicated waters of adulthood—jobs, rent, horrible bosses—Harry is still a total daddy's boy.

Harry has learned from his dad that money fixes all problems. Got an angry employee? Throw some more money at him. Scraped your knee? Slap a $20 bill on it. Girlfriend's got a crush on Spider-Man because he saved her life? Buy her something, anything, so she won't ditch that zero and get with a literal hero:

HARRY (on the phone with Mary Jane): "Incredible"? What do you mean he's "incredible"? No. All right, wait. Stay there. I'm gonna come over. No, I'm gonna come ov—all right. Fine. Will you call me in the morning, and we'll go and have breakfast and…um…I want to buy you something. Because I want to. It'll make you feel better. Okay. And what do you mean, "incredible"?

Peter smiles.

HARRY: All right. I'm sorry. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs—

Mary Jane hangs up.

Some things—and some people—just can't be bought.

Harry starts to learn this important life lesson when he stumbles across Peter and M.J. holding hands in Aunt May's hospital room. Later, he tells his dad:

HARRY: You were right about M.J. You're right about everything. She's in love with Peter.

Lil' Gobby

Harry's response to Norman's death also shows his childishness. He immediately swears revenge on Spider-Man. He has no idea what happened, but he metaphorically pounds his chest like an ape and says he's going to get Spidey. That's not how grown men react; that's not how reasonable men act.

The thing is, Harry isn't a man. Of all three teens in the film, he experiences the least growth. At the end of the film, he's still a boy, a boy who unwittingly vows to make Spider-Man pay…to Spider-Man:

PETER: I'm so sorry, Harry. I know what it's like to lose a father.

HARRY: I didn't lose him. He was stolen from me. One day, Spider-Man will pay. I swear on my father's grave, Spider-Man will pay.

Whoops.

Harry is a loyal friend to Peter, for the most part—that whole asking-M.J.-out thing because Peter was never going to was a little suspect. We even get the idea that he wants to do what's right, but he just doesn't know how. He grew up admiring his father, and his father turned out to be a homicidal maniac.

The end of Harry's narrative arc in Spider-Man sees him super angry, still wealthy, and ready to both unravel and violently lash out at those whom he feels have wronged him.

Looks like, in the Osborn family, the pumpkin bomb doesn't fall too far from the vine.

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