Spider-Man is the superhero everyone wants to be associated with, but most fans are keeping their distance from the Marvel superhero’s latest fan film. ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ was shrouded in controversy even before its release when the man cast to play Spider-Man was labeled a racist. The movie has since been labeled anti-Spider-Man, but many fans still want to understand what ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ is about and why it is so controversial.
The controversy around ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ started in June 2022, when conversations containing racial slurs and abusive language were leaked online. The conversations were linked to both Warden Wayne, who plays Spider-Man, and the creator/director Gavin J. Konop. The movie was dabbed at the beginning of the Racist Cinematic Universe (RCU) by a Twitter thread even before its release on August 10, 2023.
Despite calls for Konop to recast the role of Spider-Man, the creator went ahead with his initial plans. After its release, the Indie movie received many critical reviews as many people argue that the final movie doesn’t match its $100,000 Indiegogo crowdfunded budget. Politics aside, we have to say ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ is way better than its equally controversial counterpart ‘Superman: Solar,’ so let’s delve deeper into the movie and its links to the infamous RCU.
What is ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ about?
The feature-length Indie movie follows Peter Parker as he struggles with his alter ego, whom he blames for the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. His inner struggles cause him to turn hostile to those around him and become insensitive even to those he cares about, including his friends.
Peter spends most of his time in the movie grieving his dead girlfriend as he hangs up his Spider-Man suit, opting instead to let the world burn. However, when a terminally ill boy requests to meet Spider-Man as his dying wish, Peter has a change of heart.
Giving the child his life’s wish transforms Peter as it makes him realize that losing his girlfriend doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. Peter starts to repair his relationships with his friends, encouraged by a parting message left for him on a flash drive by his dead girlfriend.
The movie ends with the friends back on good terms and having a party. Although Peter has repaired relationships, he has abandoned his alter ego for most of the movie when he hears police sirens while on his way to the party, he decides to save the world again.
The movie’s adherence to the character’s storyline in the comics was generally great, as well as the camera work and cinematography. VFX is also good, considering the fact that it is a homemade movie. However, the actors could have used more emotion, and the plot needed more action and speed.
Why is ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ so controversial?
A Twitter user named @Thnnnder released a series of chats with racial slurs and abusive language on June 19, 2022, purportedly made by the ‘Spiderman: Lotus’ lead actor and co-writer Warden Wayne. Despite Wayne’s lengthy apology, blaming his wayward ways on his conservative upbringing and being homeschooled, many people condemned his actions and called for the role to be recast.
The movie’s creator, Gavin Konop, also wrote a lengthy statement defending the actor and calling for restraint. However, a short time later, Konop’s own dirty laundry leaked on Twitter through screenshots of chats just as despicable as those made by his choice of lead actor. Konop released a video on his YouTube Channel addressing and apologizing for his behavior, but the movie’s reputation was already damaged.
Things went from bad to worse when the team of VFX artists hired for the project quit en masse. One team accused the creators of mistreating and underpaying them while another refused to be associated with the anti-Spider-Man-like sentiments used by Gavin Konop and his cowriter/lead actor.
Konop’s close links to Andrew List, who created ‘Superman: Solar,’ another movie linked to extreme right-wing views, essentially sealed ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’s’ fate. ‘Superman: Solar’s’ writer and directors were similarly linked to racist content, leading to fans dabbing both movies as the Racist Cinematic Universe.
While the leaked information involving the creators of both fan movies is extremely despicable, none of them has faced legal action as a result of their purported racist behavior. Some of the content leaked about the creators has also been confirmed to be false or exaggerated, so it is wise to take some of the allegations with a pinch of salt.
How is ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ legal?
Fan-made films such as ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ are essentially illegal, but they are crowdfunded and labeled as not-for-profit, so studios shy away from taking legal action. The only legal route is for the creators to seek approval from the studios such as Marvel and Sony.
Generally, fan movies are seen as harmless because the creators don’t make money from them, and the quality is rarely anything comparable to the studio versions. Since they are crowdfunded and made by fans, studios are generally reluctant to pursue legal action because suing your fans is bad for business.
In the case of ‘Spider-Man: Lotus,’ it is unclear if Gavin Konop sought the legal approval of Marvel and Disney. His crowdfunding campaign raised over $100,000 for the production. The trailer also had over 2.5 million views and received the approval of some previous Spider-Man creators and directors, including Jon Watts.
However, the approval came before the details of Konop and Wayne’s racist conversations were leaked online. The movie received a huge backlash when the controversial chats were released. Since the negative impact of the backlash affects the superhero directly, Marvel could be forced to intervene and pull it down.
Both ‘Superman: Solar’ and ‘Spider-Man: Lotus’ have become symbols of distortion of some of the most liked superhero characters in DC and Marvel. Being labeled as not-for-profit and crowdfunded could, therefore, not be a good enough excuse for the studios to refrain from pursuing legal action and pulling them down because these movies don’t even have the blessings of the fans.
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