Welcome back to Nerds & Beyond‘s first Women’s History Month series! As a reminder, throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting different women in pop culture — fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — who we think exemplify accurate and honest portrayals of women in the mainstream media and use their voices to empower and uplift.
If you’re a woman who is a fan of comic books and superhero movies, then you know that women are not always represented in the best way possible. All too often are women in superhero movies used as decorative objects to further the stories of male heroes — but this is not the case in The Amazing Spider-Man franchise starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Stone portrays Gwen Stacy, the first love of Peter Parker’s life … however, she is so much more than just that.
Gwen Stacy in this franchise is what I wish every non-hero girlfriend in superhero movies was. Gwen is incredibly intelligent, working for Oscorp as an intern while attending Midtown High, where she will also graduate as valedictorian. Not only is her intelligence a drawing point for Peter, but Gwen actually ends up saving the day in both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, sacrificing herself in the end to save others despite what it means for herself.
“It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us, too. There will be days when you feel alone, and that is when hope is needed most. No matter how buried it gets or how lost you feel, you must promise me that you will hold onto hope. Keep it alive. We have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you is to become hope – people need that. And even if we fail, what better way is there to live?”Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Gwen’s intelligence is not her only strength … she is also courageous in the face of human and incomprehensible danger. In The Amazing Spider-Man, we see Gwen stand up to the school bully, Flash, when the only other person willing to do so is Peter Parker. We also see her go after the Lizard (her boss at Oscorp) in this movie with nothing more than a sporting event trophy, keen on helping Peter in his fight and not willing to leave all of the work up to him. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we again see Gwen refuse to be left out of the fight, as she refuses to allow Peter to fight Electro without her (and helps him magnetize his web-shooters).
Not only is Gwen admirable for her courage in the face of immense danger, she is also admirable for the personal boundaries and self-love she enacts throughout the films. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we see Peter and Gwen going through a back-and-forth relationship following Peter’s promise to her late father at the end of the first movie. This is clearly emotionally taxing on Gwen, who wishes Peter would take her wants and needs into consideration rather than his own. Eventually, Gwen breaks up with Peter so she can be free of this emotional whiplash and to focus on herself — even getting into Oxford and planning to leave the country to pursue her education. Unfortunately, because her and Peter do end up back together … she never gets the chance.
While Gwen is ultimately and unfortunately lost due to Peter’s love for her and her refusal to stay out of the fight, her time as the web-slinger’s partner proves that women in superhero movies can be so much more than decor.
Check out a featurette from Sony Pictures featuring Gwen Stacy and cast commentary on the character from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 below.