PETER: Some spiders change colors to blend into their environment. It's a defense mechanism.
HARRY: Peter, what makes you think I would want to know that?
PETER: Who wouldn't?
Peter and Harry spot Mary Jane.
HARRY: You gonna talk to her now?
PETER: Oh, no. Come on. You talk to her.
Getting bitten by a genetically engineered super spider gives Peter a host of superpowers, like web shooters and precognition, but one power Peter already had was his ability to blend in. As a social outcast who's secretly been in love with M.J. for more than a decade, the dude has compartmentalizing different aspects of his identity down cold.
UNCLE BEN: No, you're not supposed to run away, but—Pete, look. You're changing. I know; I went through exactly the same thing at your age.
PETER: No, not exactly.
UNCLE BEN: Peter, these are the years when a man changes into the man he's gonna become the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into. This guy, Flash Thompson, he probably deserved what happened. But just because you can beat him up doesn't give you the right to.
Uncle Ben's advice game is strong here. Unfortunately, Peter's petulant teenager game is just as fierce. Ben is trying to tell him that the decisions we make shape our identities, but Peter is too angsty to really hear him—in this moment, at least. After Ben's death, his advice takes on a new significance for Pete.
RING ANNOUNCER: If he can withstand just three minutes in the cage with Bone Saw McGraw, the sum of $3,000 will be paid to—what's your name, kid?
PETER: The Human Spider.
RING ANNOUNCER: The Human Spider? That's it? That's the best you got?
RING ANNOUNCER: Oh, that sucks. The sum of $3,000 will be paid to the terrifying, the deadly, the amazing Spider-Man!
In addition to being a wink to the long-running Amazing Spider-Man comic, this exchange shows how Peter's identity as Spider-Man is still forming and how much he needs some guidance as it develops. We're with the ring announcer on this one. The Human Spider? For real?
MAN (voice-over): The guy protects us, you know; he protects the people.
OPINIONATED COP: Some kind of freakyloo or something. Wackadoo.
SURLY TRUCK DRIVER: He stinks, and I don't like him.
PUNK ROCK GIRL: Guy with eight hands. Sounds hot.
OFFICE LADY: He has those tights and that tight, little—
SUBWAY GUITARIST: Dresses like a spider, he looks like a bug. But we should all just give him one big hug. Look out. Here comes the Spider-Man.
This quick, informal poll of New Yorkers demonstrates how wide-ranging the public perception of Spider-Man is. He's a hero! No, he's a criminal! He's a freakyloo wackadoo!
JAMESON: "Who is this Spider-Man?" He's a criminal, that's who he is. A vigilante, a public menace. What's he doing on my front page? […]
ROBBIE: He's news. He pulled six people off that subway.
JAMESON: Sure, from a wreck he probably caused. Something goes wrong, and this creepy crawler is there. Look! He's fleeing the scene. What's that tell ya?
ROBBIE: That he's probably going to save somebody else. He's a hero!
JAMESON: Then why's he wear a mask? Hmm? What's he got to hide?
Jameson is convinced that Spider-Man is a criminal. However, as long as his antics keeping selling papers, Jameson probably wouldn't care if Spidey was stealing Jell-O from hospital patients and shooting puppies into outer space.
HARRY: You were late again? I don't get it. Where do you go all the time?
Typical Peter. Always so cagey about where he goes, what he does, and how he's in love with your girlfriend and trying to avoid being killed by your crazy-pants father.
HARRY: M.J., why didn't you wear the black dress?
Mary Jane looks at Harry.
HARRY: Just, I wanted to impress my father. He loves black.
MARY JANE: Well, maybe he'll be impressed no matter what. You think I'm pretty.
HARRY: I think you're beautiful.
Harry goes in for the kiss and gets denied.
Harry's identity is shaped by two things: his family's wealth and his dad's rejection of him. He desperately wants to impress Norman, and that includes with whom he dates and even what that lucky lady wears. He's treating M.J. like a prop here. Gross.
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"?
HARRY: All right. I'm sorry. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs—
Mary Jane hangs up.
Harry is wicked jealous of Spider-Man. It says oodles about Harry's sense of self that, when he feels threatened, his default mode is to offer to buy M.J. something, anything, because he thinks it'll make her feel better. Gee, wonder where he learned that technique?
PETER: She doesn't really know who I am.
AUNT MAY: Because you won't let her. You're so mysterious all the time. Tell me, would it be so dangerous to let Mary Jane know how much you care? Everybody else knows.
Recognition flashes across Peter's face.
PETER: I'll be right back.
Keeping his real identity hidden is central to Peter's ability to do his job as Spider-Man, but it's also imperative for the security of his loved ones. When he realizes that everybody knows he's head over heels for M.J., including Norman, he knows her safety has been compromised. Big time.
SPIDER-MAN: Don't do it, Goblin!
GREEN GOBLIN: We are who we choose to be. Now choose!
The Green Goblin lets go of Mary Jane and the tramway cable simultaneously.
Gobby's insistence that we are who we choose to be echoes Uncle Ben's conversation in the car with Pete in front of the library. Our decisions—good, bad, and somewhere in the murky middle—determine who we are. Peter, for example, decides to help as many people as possible. The Green Goblin, meanwhile, decides to ruin a perfectly good tramway.
PETER: Who am I? You sure you wanna know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy, little tale, if somebody told you I was just your average, ordinary guy, not a care in the world, somebody lied…but let me assure you, this—like any story worth telling—is all about a girl. That girl. The girl next door. Mary Jane Watson. The woman I loved since before I even liked girls.
For Peter Parker, like most superheroes, love is sacrifice. He's been head over heels for M.J. since they were 6 years old. Even before he started dressing like a patriotic spider and fighting crime, Pete was willing to sacrifice his own happiness for Mary Jane's. That's love, y'all.
UNCLE BEN: May, I'm 68 years old. I'm too old for computers, and, besides, I have a family to provide for.
AUNT MAY: I love you, and Peter loves you. You're the most responsible man I've ever known. We've been down and out before, but somehow, we survive.
For most parents, love equals sacrifice, too. We mean, we're pretty sure Uncle Ben and Aunt May haven't survived all this time by being selfish jerks. It's like Uncle Ben tells Peter, "With great power comes great responsibility." And with great responsibility comes sacrifice. Ask your mom.
MARY JANE: Has he mentioned me?
MARY JANE: What'd he say?
PETER: I said…he asked me what I thought about you.
MARY JANE: And what did you say?
PETER: I said, uh, "Spider-Man," I said, uh, "The great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she's looking back in yours, everything feels not quite normal because you feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited and, at the same time, terrified. The truth is, you don't know what you feel, except you know what kind of man you want to be. It's as if you've reached the unreachable, and you weren't ready for it."
This is the closest Peter gets to telling Mary Jane how he really, really feels about her. He's crazy about M.J., but he constantly locks that away—sometimes for Harry's sake, sometimes for M.J.'s sake. He does what's best for his friends' happiness and security, not necessarily his own.
NORMAN: I haven't always been there for you, have I?
HARRY: You're busy. You're an important man. I understand.
NORMAN: That's no excuse. I'm proud of you, and I've lost sight of that somewhere, but I gotta make it up to you, Harry. I'm going to rectify certain inequities.
Remember how we said earlier that parents make sacrifices because they love their kids? Yeah, well, ol' Norm here hasn't been the most loving parent. He constantly puts Oscorp before Harry. Harry can catch a ride to school in his dad's Rolls-Royce, for instance, but he's probably never gone out in the yard and played catch with his dad.
AUNT MAY: You do too much. College, a job, all this time with me. You're not Superman, you know.
Oh, Aunt May. If only you knew.
GREEN GOBLIN: You've spun your last web, Spider-Man. Had you not been so selfish, your little girlfriend's death would've been quick and painless, but now that you've really pissed me off, I'm gonna finish her nice and slow. M.J. and I, we're gonna have a hell of a time.
The Green Goblin is calling Spider-Man selfish here because Spider-Man turned down his offer to team up and, well, we're not sure what they'd have done together. Cause chaos and destruction, most likely. Norman feels like he sacrificed everything for the good of Oscorp, so when the board forces him out, the Green Goblin is born of his bitterness, loneliness, and desperation for revenge.
NORMAN: Peter. Don't tell Harry.
Question: is Norman being a good dad or a bad dad here? On the one hand, he's sparing Harry from knowing just how terrible dear, old dad was. On the other hand, he's essentially lying to Harry, and, whether it's intentional or not, he's setting Spider-Man up to take the fall for him, as we see when Harry vows revenge on Spider-Man to, of all people, Peter.
PETER (voice-over): No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love will always be the ones who pay.
And that's the sacrifice his friends and family make by loving him. They don't know they're making it, but Peter does, and, boy, does it weigh on him—hence the dramatic, film-ending voice-over.
MARY JANE: There's only one man who's always been there for me, who makes me feel like I'm more than I ever thought I could be, that I'm just…me. And that's okay. The truth is, I love you. Oh, I love you so much, Peter.
PETER (voice-over): All I wanted was to tell her how much I love her.
If this exchange made you want to throw your shoe at your screen, we feel you. Imagine how Peter feels, though. If he wants to keep M.J. as safe as he possibly can, that means keeping her in the dark about Spider-Man and keeping his distance romantically. Le sigh.
HARRY: Leave him alone.
FLASH'S CRONY (mocking): Or what?
FLASH: What's Daddy gonna do? Sue me?
Say what you will about Norman Osborn, but the dude does wield a lot of power thanks to his massive bank account. Harry, on the other hand, does not. Here, Flash is making fun of the fact that Harry doesn't fight his own battles—figuratively speaking, that is.
STROMM: We need to take the whole line back to formula.
NORMAN (hissing at Stromm): Back to formula?
SLOCUM: Dr. Osborn, I'm gonna be frank with you. I never supported your program. We have my predecessor to thank for that.
FARGAS: Norman, the general gave the go-ahead to Quest Aerospace to build a prototype of their exoskeleton design. They test in two weeks.
SLOCUM: And if your so-called performance enhancers have not had a successful human trial by that date, I'm gonna pull your funding. I'm going to give it to them.
Norman may be a rich and powerful scientist-businessman (you know the type), but he's not as powerful as the U.S. military. Gen. Slocum uses his powerful position to put the squeeze on Norman…and we know how well that turns out for all parties involved.
UNCLE BEN: Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
Here it is. The line from Spider-Man. The one you've heard quoted by everyone from your mom to your algebra teacher. The reason why it's quoted so often is because it's true. Just look at Peter and Norman, two guys who both have huge amounts of power. One uses it responsibly, and he saves dozens of lives. The other doesn't, and he ends up impaled by his own flying boogie board.
WRESTLING PROMOTER: Stop him! He's got my money!
SECURITY GUARD: What the hell's the matter with you? You let him go! (into his walkie talkie) Cut him off in the lobby, and call the cops!
WRESTLING PROMOTER: You could've taken that guy apart. Now he's gonna get away with my money.
PETER: I missed the part where that's my problem.
Peter is acting like a petulant child here, not like a powerful adult. Because he intentionally shirks his responsibility to stop the robber, not just as a superhero but as a citizen, the robber gets away and, as the cruelest of fates would have it, kills Uncle Ben.
MARY JANE: Don't tell Harry.
PETER: Don't tell Harry?
MARY JANE: Aren't you guys living together? We're going out. Didn't he tell you?
PETER: Oh, yeah. Right.
MARY JANE: I think he'd hate the idea of my waiting tables. He'd think it was low or something.
PETER: That's not low. You have a job. You know, Harry doesn't live on a little place I like to call Earth.
Mary Jane laughs.
MARY JANE: No, I guess not.
No, Harry doesn't live on Earth. He lives way above it, in a swanky penthouse, with his rich, powerful, MIA dad who prefers expensive gifts to hugs (we assume).
GREEN GOBLIN: We killed them.
GREEN GOBLIN: Remember? Your little accident in the laboratory.
NORMAN: The performance enhancers.
GREEN GOBLIN: Bingo. Me! Your greatest creation. Bringing you what you've always wanted: power beyond your wildest dreams.
The Green Goblin is like Norman's id unleashed. If he could have anything, it would be unlimited power.
GREEN GOBLIN: No one says "no" to me!
How come Norman is not used to people saying "no" to him? Because he's got buckets of cash, and with buckets of cash come buckets of power. Once he loses his cushy job, which is another source of power—and of his sense of self—he gets all sorts of desperate.
HARRY: This girl is important to me.
NORMAN: Harry, please. Look at her. You think a woman like that's sniffing around because she likes your personality?
HARRY: What are you saying?
NORMAN: Your mother was beautiful, too. They're all beautiful until they're snarling after your trust fund like a pack of ravening wolves.
Not all rich and powerful people treat others like garbage, but clearly some do. Yuck. We're glad Norman missed out on Aunt May's scrumptious Thanksgiving turkey.
PETER (voice-over): Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: "with great power comes great responsibility." This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man.
We told you Uncle Ben's line about the responsibility that comes packaged with power was important. It's so important, in fact, that it gets repeated at the end of the film, too. Here, Peter is explaining that, yes, sometimes he'd like to just be a regular dude who could take M.J. out for that burger, but he's got those spidey skills for a reason, and protecting the innocent takes precedence over ground beef every day of the week.
NORMAN: You can't do this to me. I started this company. You know how much I sacrificed?!
The board just stares at him blankly.
NORMAN: Oh, Max. Please.
FARGAS: Norman, the board is unanimous. We're announcing the sale after the World Unity Festival. I'm sorry.
BALKAN: You're out, Norman.
NORMAN: Am I?
This might just be the spot where Norman Osborn truly breaks. Sure, the toxic performance enhancers he ingested probably played a role (as they're prone to do), but here is where Norman feels utterly betrayed and sees his world begin to crumble. He built Oscorp; now he's o-u-t.
GREEN GOBLIN: Out, am I?
This callback to that fateful board meeting reinforces the idea that Norman's ousting from the company that has his name on it is what caused him to go full Goblin.
GREEN GOBLIN: We killed them.
GREEN GOBLIN: Remember? Your little accident in the laboratory.
NORMAN: The performance enhancers.
GREEN GOBLIN: Bingo. Me! Your greatest creation. Bringing you what you've always wanted: power beyond your wildest dreams. And it's only the beginning. There's only one who can stop us. Or imagine if he joined us.
Unregulated performance enhancers and major workplace trauma are a lethal combination. For Norman, they result in a totally scary, totally split personality. The Green Goblin is like Norman's id personified. He's thirsty for power and hungry for revenge.
GREEN GOBLIN: What about my generous proposal? Are you in, or are you out?
SPIDER-MAN: It's you who's out, Gobby. Out of your mind.
GREEN GOBLIN: Wrong answer!
Um, we're with Spidey on this one. The Green Goblin is straight up crazy, a maniacal fragment of Norman's fractured mind.
NORMAN: Aunt May, I'm sorry I was late. Work was murder.
Oh, Norman. You have no idea…or does he? As the narrative progresses, it's unclear just how soon Norman becomes aware of the Green Goblin and his actions—and how soon they begin acting in concert instead of as two separate parts of Norman's personality.
PETER: You killed those people on that balcony.
NORMAN: The Goblin killed! I had nothing to do with it! Don't let him take me again. I beg you. Protect me.
PETER: You tried to kill Aunt May. You tried to kill Mary Jane.
NORMAN: But not you. I tried to stop it. But I couldn't stop it. I would never hurt you. I knew from the beginning, if anything ever happened to me, it was you I could count on.
Norman secretly presses a button that calls for his glider, which appears behind Peter.
Here, we finally know for sure that Norman and the Green Goblin are in cahoots. Gone are the days when Norman awoke with zero idea of what the Green Goblin had done the night before. Norman is in on the terror now, as evidenced by the fact that he secretly calls his glider and attempts to impale Peter with it, all while insisting that he would never hurt Peter. Nice try, Norm.
PETER: I read all your research on nanotechnology. Really brilliant.
NORMAN: You understood it?
PETER: Yes, I wrote a paper on it.
NORMAN: Impressive. Your parents must be very proud.
PETER: I live with my aunt and uncle, and they are proud.
TEACHER: Hey, you two! Let's move!
PETER: Nice to meet you.
NORMAN: Hope to see you again.
Oh, they'll see each other again. They'll see each other, punch each other, and roundhouse kick each other in the face. This is the moment where good first meets evil and, oddly enough, these two nerds for nanotech have a lot in common.
HARRY: What was that thing?
PETER: I don't know. Whatever it is, somebody has to stop it.
Yup, that somebody is Peter in the guise of Spider-Man. He's the only one who can stop the Green Goblin, whose capacity for evil is enormous—and aided by fancy military tech.
GREEN GOBLIN: You're an amazing creature, Spider-Man. You and I are not so different.
SPIDER-MAN: I'm not like you. You're a murderer.
GREEN GOBLIN: Well, to each his own. I chose my path; you chose the way of the hero. And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you've done for them, eventually, they will hate you. Why bother?
SPIDER-MAN: Because it's right.
The Green Goblin and Spider-Man lay out their mission statements here. The Goblin's is lengthy, but it boils down to this: "people are the worst. You can work your butt off for them, but, ultimately, they're going to turn on you because that's what happened to me at my job."
Spider-Man's statement, on the other hand, is short and to the point: "helping people is the right thing to do." It's not as verbose or flashy as Gobby's, but it gets his point across. Spider-Man's goodness is fueled by a desire to do the right thing. The Green Goblin is evil because he believes he was horribly wronged.
SPIDER-MAN: It's okay. Your baby's fine.
MOTHER (at fire): Oh, my baby! God bless you, Spider-Man. Bless you.
COP (at fire): There he is! Don't let him get away! Hold it! Hold it right there! You're under arrest. I'm taking you in.
Spider-Man literally just saved a baby's life in front of this cop, and still he thinks that Spider-Man is a criminal. Sheesh. Maybe the Green Goblin has a point.
AUNT MAY: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us—
The Green Goblin blows up Aunt May's bedroom wall. She falls to the floor, screaming.
AUNT MAY: Deliver us!
GREEN GOBLIN: Finish it! Finish it!
AUNT MAY: From evil!
We're not going to lie: this scene is a little on the nose. If you had somehow missed that the Green Goblin is seriously evil—maybe you decided to go mow the lawn for most of the movie's second act?—now you know.
MARY JANE: But do you think it's true, all the terrible things they say?
PETER: No, no. Not Spider-Man. Not a chance in the world. I know him a little bit. I'm sort of his unofficial photographer.
With his trusty camera in tow, Peter is on a one-man mission to improve Spidey's public image.
GREEN GOBLIN: This is why only fools are heroes. Because you never know when some lunatic will come along with a sadistic choice: let die the woman you love, or suffer the little children.
Well, at least he's acknowledging he's a sadistic lunatic. He may be evil, but at least he's self-aware. Maybe there's hope for him—yeah, probably not.
GREEN GOBLIN: Make your choice, Spider-Man, and see how a hero is rewarded.
This statement suggests that the Green Goblin once viewed himself as a hero, perhaps of science, business, or maybe both. Everybody is the hero of their own story, we guess.
NEW YORKER #1: Leave Spider-Man alone! You're gonna pick on a guy trying to save a bunch of kids?
NEW YORKER #2: Come on up here, tough guy! I got a little something for ya! You mess with Spidey, you mess with New York!
NEW YORKER #1: You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!
Finally, the public is #TeamSpidey. All it took was the Green Goblin threatening to murder a bunch of kids and some redheaded woman, and destroying the historic Roosevelt Island Tramway.
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.
Harry is at that age where he desperately wants to fit in, and it's hard to fit in when you roll up to a class field trip in a $300,000 chauffeured car.
FLASH'S CRONY: Jesus, Parker, you are a freak.
Peter's glee turns to confusion and concern.
HARRY: Peter, that was amazing!
After Peter uses his spidey skills to beat up and humiliate Flash, he's stoked. Then he realizes how thoroughly weird it was for everybody watching. Well, everybody but Harry. Peter is a freak if he does and a freak if he doesn't.
PETER: Quit worrying about me, okay? Something's different. I'll figure it out. Stop lecturing me, please.
UNCLE BEN: I don't mean to lecture, and I don't mean to preach. And I know I'm not your father.
PETER: Then stop pretending to be!
When Uncle Ben tries to empathize with Peter and dole out some useful advice, Peter is in full-blown teen angst mode. Instead of listening to Uncle Ben, Peter explodes on him. That "stop pretending to be my dad" part? A brutally low blow.
PETER: I can't help thinking about the last thing I said to him. He tried to tell me something important, and I threw it in his face.
AUNT MAY: You loved him, and he loved you. He never doubted the man you'd grow into.
Here's the thing: Peter may have been a huge jerkwad the last time he saw Uncle Ben, but as Uncle Ben was trying to tell him in that moment, Uncle Ben was a teenager once, too. He knew how hard and all-around confusing it can be to be a teen. Aunt May knows that, too.
PETER: That's great, M.J. You're doing it. You're living your dream.
Enrique comes out of the Moondance and yells at M.J. from across the busy street.
ENRIQUE: Glamour girl! Your drawer was short $6! Next time that happens, I'm gonna take it out of your check! Excuse me, Miss Watson? I'm talking to you! Hey!
MARY JANE: Yes, Enrique! Okay? I get you.
ENRIQUE: Well, it better not happen no more, you hear me? Don't roll your eyes at me.
Mary Jane opens her coat to reveal her waitress uniform.
MARY JANE: Some dream, huh?
Mary Jane is embarrassed that her big dream of becoming a Broadway star hasn't panned out yet. But she and Pete have been out of high school for, what, a few months? C'mon now. Growing up doesn't mean giving up on your teenage dreams, but it does mean realizing that you're actually going to have to work for them.
MARY JANE (sarcastically): Thanks for sticking up for me, Harry.
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!
While Peter and M.J. are growing older and wiser and becoming more independent after graduation, Harry is still stuck under his dad's thumb.
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.
Harry may think he sounds like, well, Dirty Harry here, but he doesn't. He sounds like a kid.