Study Guide

Spider-Man Coming of Age

Coming of Age

Underneath all its spandex suits and violently interrupted concerts, Spider-Man is a coming-of-age story—not just for Peter, but also for M.J. and Harry.

Naturally, they don't all mature in the same way or at the same rate. While Peter suddenly finds himself the man of the house after Uncle Ben's murder, Harry struggles to shake the shackles of privilege and neglect provided by Norman. Mary Jane, meanwhile, desperately wants to ditch her combative home life for the stage, but she finds that there's no easy route from Queens to Broadway.

The teens in Spider-Man inhabit a world where maniacal supervillains are a part of everyday life, but they're still teens who must endure the smaller traumas of young adulthood, too, like broken hearts, empty bank accounts, and infuriating parents.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. How does Spider-Man subvert the conventions of the coming-of-age movie genre? How does it reinforce them?
  2. Why doesn't Harry stand up to his dad more often?
  3. How does M.J. grow over the course of the film?
  4. Give three examples of how gaining superpowers jump-starts Peter's maturity.

Chew on This

Of all three teens in the film, Harry experiences the least personal growth.

Peter's nascent superpowers are a metaphor for puberty.

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