In Into the Spider-Verse, Miles struggles to balance his masked superhero duties with the normal pressures of being a teenager. He has to keep his grades up, avoid embarrassing himself at school dances, and avoid his anxious parents’ scolding about his choice to become a superhero.

But when he is not juggling his homework and masked life, Miles hangs out with his best friend Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and his brash sidekick Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), both of whom are also Spider-People from different alternate universes. Miles’s relegation to a second, highly stylized animated storyworld functions to differentiate him from the mainstream MCU Peter Parker and minimize his significance within the franchise.

This relegation is enabled by the film’s central theme that “anyone can wear the mask.” Like colorblind racial ideology, this proverb implies that superhero identities are egalitarian and that race should not matter, a sentiment that echoes the discontent many white comic book readers had with Marvel’s decision to introduce a black Spider-Man.

Into the Spider-Verse features a letter column in which one self-described value reader celebrates Miles’s debut and is then chastised by another for “thinking that diversity is more important than continuity.” This is just one of many ways in which the film strategically revises the character and his world to reaffirm that white grievances over affirmative action can still be fanned into flames when superhero franchises diversify their characters. This is what makes Into the Spider-Verse so successful at engendering white grief even as it empowers underrepresented audiences. Miles Morales Mask

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