Amazing Kids! Magazine

Miles Morales and the Multiverse: How Representation In Films Ripples

By Sarina Patel, Jr. Assistant Editor and Comic Hub Co-Editor

 

“Are you going to finish that?”

Though the cafeteria is buzzing with amiable conversation, I manage to recognize the smile in their voice without even looking up.

When I do, brown curls fill my vision. Somewhere underneath those magnificent spirals of hair is my friend, who we’ll call Sam to respect their privacy, eagerly hovering over my lunchbox with bright, hungry eyes.

Negotiating for a share of my food has become a weekly staple of my high school experience—in fact, peaceful Tuesday lunches no longer exist in my vocabulary.

All of our other friends are eating outside today, so I hand Sam the eroded remains of my lunch, rewarded only with their crooked grin.

Moments like these, when Sam has the audacity to continually beg for my biscuits, often compel me to stop and smile. I often admire Sam’s seemingly endless energy and confidence in every step they take. As a close friend of Sam, however, I know that the mask of self-confidence can sometimes manifest itself as just that. A mask. The same is true for the superhero which Sam reminds me of…Spider-Man’s latest incarnation: Miles Morales.

Aside from both teenagers being ethnically Afro-Latino and their shared interest in designing art, both Sam and Miles have taken great leaps of faith to become confident in their true capabilities. In seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a movie of which I was initially skeptical, I have realized the importance of a character like Miles Morales—not only showing the viewers what it is like to be an empowered minority, but also an empowered teenager trying to find his voice and use it as superhero in New York City, one of the biggest cities in the world.

Calls for diversification in Hollywood have been publicized since the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending on the social media platform Twitter in January 2015. The ethnic, cultural, and ideological diversity exhibited in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, however, is unprecedented…and frankly, a welcome change in the push for greater representation. The Afro-Latino Miles Morales confidently speaks Spanish to his Puerto Rican mother, navigates his identity as a new transfer to a private high school, and experiences the real terror of police brutality in a brief but nail-biting scene where law enforcement attempts to confront him during a fight that I will not spoil. This is all seamlessly interpolated with comic-book text bubbles and realistic superhero structures in what could be Sony’s most beautiful animated film yet.

When asked about this design choice, director Peter Ramsey explained in an interview with Comicbook.com that “It was a way of nodding to comic books and having a little fun with the idea of being able to see people’s words in little boxes near their heads and to give you…usually, another version of what’s going on in the scene without them actually saying it. We’re going to make it feel like you’re in a comic book with Miles and you’re seeing those thoughts represented that way.”

Fellow director Bob Persichetti added, “Those [bubbles] are the kinds of things we felt [were in] homage to comic books but also…really enhanced this feeling of a young teenager who felt uncomfortable in his environment and he felt alone, and it was a really excellent way to underscore that.”

The decision to simultaneously design and write in humane reactions to the conditions that Miles Morales is faced with as a minority and teenager add a heartwarming sincerity and depth to the film.

Though neither Miles nor my friend are perfectly confident superheroes in their own right, watching the film has brought to mind not only a different perspective about my friend Sam or even the world around me, but a renewed sense of responsibility and optimism. The movie really does bring out the superhero in every viewer, encouraging the audience to honor Miles by continuing his colorful mission to illuminate the truth and beauty in the world with an artistic platform, and uplifting the surrounding community with as much gentle love as they can grant themselves…provided they too, take the iconic “leap of faith”.