Fear the Spider, Admire the Man
Me and spiders have never gotten along. There is no sense for me to acknowledge their existence as they are merely a small part of my life. Unfortnately, for the purposes of storytelling, I must admit I have a strong case of arachnophobia.
Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. This can range from being terrified by the common Daddy Long Legs to the Goliath Bird Eating Spider and is no easy phobia to deal with. My case is not as severe as others as Daddy Long Legs I am okay with. That is the only form of “spider” I draw the line at.
My archnophobia stems from the cruel conincidence that is watching Arachnophobia as a child. The film dealt with spiders invading a town and killing people with Jeff Daniels as the hero and John Goodman as an exterminator. The climax of the film involves Daniels going to town on not only the little spiders, but a big motherfucker of a spider that is horrifying beyond belief. At one point, it jumps towards Daniels and Daniels lights it on fire. A big ass spider is horrifying enough, but attach flames to it and it is from the seventh layer of Nopeville.
This film terrified the utter hell out of me. Those arachnids with their beady eyes, their skinny legs and their frames unknown to man haunted my dreams. I necer wanted to see one spider ever again.
The Universe Decided Against Me
One to two weeks later at my elementary school in my Whittier White childhood, my teacher was out for the week and hired a sub. The sub was not only a teacher, but an expert of exotic animals. She was a small Asian woman who was very friendly and knew how to grab kids’ attention.
The first day she came to sub, she brough out a ball python. She made the class write in our Spartan journals about our experience and what they appraciated about each creature she brought in. Me and snakes are friends as I always loved how they moved without the need for arms or legs, so I wrote about that. It was a joy to see and hold, leaving me curious to see what was next.
The next day, we were getting ready to learn about the exciting new animal she was to bring for us to see and out came a Red Rose Hair tarantula. I remember seeing the hair of it with its red stripes and the slow unerving crawl it had going up the sub’s arm. I immediately started crying in front of my peers whike trying to ask politely to sit down because tears and snot were building inside of me. I was wrecked with fear and pure embarassment. The horror was real and I did not want to partake in seeing the face of that “thing.” A few of the kids laughed as I sat in my chair away from them to write about the tarantula in my journal. I was the only one.
I am 23 years old as of this writing and still a wuss about them. I cringed going through photos of spiders or tarantulas in books and turn away from them if they are on screen. I get anxious at pet stores in when I pass by their glass rooms fearing they can break fee. I cannot pass through the Animal Planet section at Toys R Us due to the giant remote control tarantulas and plastic giant spiders. It’s practically a sad curse. This has led to an interesting question from my friend Jerry.
“Wait, you hate spiders, but you love Spider-Man? How the hell does that work?”
My answer was persistence. The real answer is sort of odd. Smack in between X-Men and Power Rangers was your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in Spider-Man: The Animated Series on Fox Kids. He was (and is) a hero I absolutely love. Raised in Queens, New York, Peter Parker was a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider, harnesses the amazing power of one while balancing great responsibility and considered by J. Jonah Jameson to be menace to the city. He gets around by crawling on walls or swinging via web shooter technology he built on his own. He has a sense of danger when something is by and superhuman strength. He is also witty, curious and intelligent on par with Tony Stark.
He is also human like the rest of us. He constantly deal with too many things at once while fighting the likes of the Sinister Six. Be it his relationship with Mary Jane Watson, his talks with Aunt May or dealing with his boss wanting pictures of Spider-Man, Peter is always trying to get his shit together. As a kid, being Spider-Man to fight crime and save the world is a dream. Being an adult, being Spider-Man would definitely suck to add to the work load in place.
I love seeing him come in to save the city from Mysterio. I loved his constant banter and comments toward the world around him just treating it as another day in New York. I enjoyed that he dealed with real issues from the death of his first love Gwen Stacy to his own struggles of his balancing act of his hero life and reality. He is a simple concept of a man with superhuman ability, but has the complexities a majority of us have.
Every iteration on has treated special attention tto getting that across. Tobey McGuire’s portrayal embracedd the role of his hero world while Andrew Garfield’s portrayal embraced the person behind the mask, yet they both remembered reality had to set in every now and then, for better or worse. I have yet to see Captain America: Civil War, so I do not know how Tom Holland pulls it off, but I have heard spectacular things.
Peter is relatable in many ways, but he is the exact same in ability as the thing I fear the most, so what gives? It comes down to the honest answer of cruel irony at face value, but there is another layer to it for it personally.
I took some time to really think about that question and realize the difference. The simple answer would be that one is fictional character that is human and the other is a real creature that I do not like. The more complex answer is I never built comfortablity with spiders, but I built a layer of comfort with Spider-Man.
Spider-Man always made me feel comfortable to be into or be surrounded by because he was a regular guy that happen to be a superhero. I embraced his character in countless TV shows, films. video games and in music (more so the Ramones cover of the 60’s TV theme and less Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark). I built that comfortability by relating to what the character is. Spiders are another matter.
I never built the comfortability with them as I would with a dog or a cat. I always pushed them aside or ran at everyminstance of their mention of image. I am still surprised I sat through Chamber of Secrets at this point. Lately, I have been thinking of giving them a chance since I already am comfortable with small plastic toys of them and images of their eight-legs on the internet and can stand next to smaller ones. I should probably start to build comfortablitiy, but in baby steps. I am not going to just waltz into a Petco and say “can I please put the tarantula on my hand?” as a stsrt, but just be closer to them.
It is an odd answer to come up with, but that is why I am able to embrace one over the other. I fear the spider, but I admire the man.
Now, Man-Spider is a different story.