The recent focus on diversity in Hollywood is important not just because of how rarely many children — and adults — get to see themselves in powerful roles, but also because it helps those in the mainstream recognize and empathize with those who are different from them. (Think about how much Caitlyn Jenner has helped raise awareness of trans issues.) Representation is, often, power.
So when Marvel Studios announced it would be partnering with Sony to relaunch the
Spider-Man film series, many saw it as an opportunity to cast an actor of color to play Miles Morales, the mixed-race Brooklyn teen who replaced Peter Parker as New York's resident web-slinger in the company's Ultimate universe (a now-shuttered imprint that featured younger versions of Marvel's mainstay characters). Instead, Marvel cast Tom Holland, best known for playing the title rolein
Billy Elliot the Musical, as the third Peter Parker this century.
To demonstrate what superhero movies — by far one of the most successful forms of popular American entertainment — could be if they embraced diversity, we asked Bryshere Y. Gray, aka Yazz the Greatest, to pose as Miles Morales for a series of mock posters. He's captured audience attention as the brash rapper Hakeem Lyon on the Fox series
Empire; those same skills would no doubt make him an excellent Spider-Man. "I'm young and pretty and I represent the youth in America and speak to them in a way no one can at this time. I'm the American Idol," he tells us. "And I like to climb and fly through the sky and also would look amazing in the Spider-Man outfit."