I love Spider-Man. As a kid in the 90’s, the Spider-Man cartoon was on at the same time, every day, without fail. I used to fantasize about shooting webs from my wrist and swinging through whichever building I was in, whether it was the gym or church.
Spider-Man, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, might be the best entry into the web-slinger’s universe yet. If the entire game was just swinging through a very realistic depiction of New York (minus some of the Marvel Universe locations), it still would have been a good game all by its lonesome. The physics they implement in the game factor in gravity, the angle of a swing, and more to make webbing around the city that never sleeps so pleasurable that I found myself sometimes just swinging around for the fun of it. However, the fine-tuned combat and sleuthing elements are also a pleasure to do. Outside of some repetition issues with exploration and boss fights, the game is nearly flawless.
But what really endears the game to me is that they put your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler in the position of being the best friend and greatest asset of New York City’s finest. The relationship that Spider-Man has with the NYPD is so tight that Spidey and NYPD Captain Yuri Watanabe have a running joke that one of the web-slinger’s alter-egos within his alter-ego is “Spider Cop.”
It’s a relationship that makes you feel good about being Spider-Man. That you’re actually helping keep New York safe alongside those who keep New York safe.
And this bothers members of the left. Kotaku writer Tim Rogers commented that Spider-Man should be called “Unpaid Pig,” and that Spidey’s love of the police earns him the “narc” label.
wow spider-man loves cops like WAY too much
what a narc
like i always knew he was a narc though like this is kinda mondo gnarly narkin over here
nice graphics though
— tim rogers (@108) September 9, 2018
According to social justice left driven gaming site Kotaku, Heather Alexandra’s “Spider-Man‘s Take On Police Feels Out Of Touch,” Spider-Man’s friendliness and helpfulness towards the NYPD leaves a bad taste in their mouths because the NYPD are not the stand-up good guys that the game portrays.
Alexandra spends time knocking one of the first missions in which you activate security towers that allow the NYPD and Spidey to keep track of crime around the city, and complaining that the web-slinger is complicit in creating a surveillance state for a police force that is inaccurately portrayed compared to its real-life counterparts who kill and jail innocent people of color.
She sums it all up in the last two paragraphs:
Spider-Man’s simple presentation of crime and policing feels tone-deaf in the modern age, when more and more people are growing aware of the class and race dynamics of policing. This isn’t to suggest that the game needs to take a break every ten minutes to infodump real world statistics, but games are released in the context of their time. We’re post Edward Snowden, living in the age Black Lives Matter. Last week, Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment. This is the world we live in and the world Spider-Man was released into. While it might be nice to escape into a world where these problems don’t exist, that is a luxury that countless people cannot afford.
Spider-Man’s portrayal of policing feels divorced from reality, to the point that it feels out of line with Spidey’s comic book heritage. Comics often speak to what’s happening in the real world. Captain America assumed the role of Nomad in 1974, the same year that Richard Nixon resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate Scandal. The X-Men have a history of allegorical representation of minoritized and persecuted groups. Spider-Man doesn’t seem interested in reacting to the real world. My colleague Tom Ley wrote about this at Deadspin, noting that nearly every side activity involved aiding the police. This stands in contrast to games like Spider-Man 2, where Spider-Man returned as many lost balloons as he webbed up muggers. Instead of being part of the complex life of the city, this latest Spider-Man sees a black-and-white world of cops and robbers. He aids in state surveillance, standing unquestioningly alongside an overly idealized caricature of the police. He’s still friendly, but I don’t know if he’s part of the neighborhood now.
Tl;Dr: “It’s the current year, and Spider-Man is helping fascists. Where’s my political messaging?”
Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a fan of a surveillance state either. The presence of red light cameras at various intersections in my city of Dallas get my blood boiling, but we’re talking about a game mechanic that allows you to participate in stopping crimes that, from what I can read, members of the left oftentimes don’t want to stop.
straight up refusing to do the the 'bust a drug deal' side missions
— art vandelay🌐 (@vinylmonster) September 9, 2018
He’s such a narc! I have such a hard time doing any crime missions that are just busting up drug deals.
I’ve started thinking there must be some Fentanyl-level drug wreaking havoc in this version of New York just to get past it.
— Brenton Ward (@brentondanger) September 9, 2018
I had this exact same process the first time he got giddy about busting up a drug deal.
— Spencer Jay (@Seademond) September 12, 2018
Personally, I’m all about legalizing marijuana. I’m not exactly sure why it’s illegal, and even my now-retired police officer of a father agrees, but let’s not pretend that there aren’t drugs out there that flat out cause the collapse of entire communities and that New York is a prime target for some of these drug pushers. Halting the spread of hard drugs is a good thing. Just ask San Francisco, which actually helps with spreading it and is suffering greatly for it.
That police are imperfect is a straight given. The police are staffed with imperfect individuals who make honest to God mistakes like we all do. Sometimes those mistakes result in horrible endings. Sometimes those horrible endings aren’t mistakes at all, and the police are completely justified in the lethal force they used despite narratives to the contrary.
I think criminal justice reform is a very real necessity, but if you’re going to convince me that the police are a negative aspect of our society, then Spider-Man needs to bust your next drug deal. I’ve seen first-hand what the police do on more than one occasion, and I can tell these people who cling to every anti-police social justice narrative they hear that if there were no police, they could kiss the society they love goodbye. The insulation that the police give our Kotaku writer friends from the darker elements of civilization seems to have spoiled them into believing that the police should be criticized instead of applauded.
Yes, Spider-Man does toss out a lot of the mistakes police make in order to craft the narrative that these are New York citizens on patrol compared to, not only the criminal elements, but the mercenary group that moves in to take over the security of the city. Alexandra complains that the police “don’t feel like an integrated part of the community.” Is she playing the same game I am? Though they don’t go into a lot of detail with individual events or the lives of certain police officers — save the excellently done characters of NYPD Officer Jefferson Davis and Captain Watanabe — the police are portrayed as what they are, for the most part, citizens who have volunteered to put on a badge and run toward danger in order to protect citizens, even if massively outgunned and outnumbered.
Regardless of the mistakes police make — and even some of the intentional evils some officers engage in that make me want to punch walls — that is the police the vast majority of the time in our country. People like you and I who put on a uniform and do their level best to keep the proverbial wolves in the hills. All the while their mistakes — and too often, not even mistakes — are painted as evil and sensationalized, sometimes to the point where they spawn actual riots within cities over a perceived injustice.
The police aren’t perfect, but I’m damn glad they’re around. Their depiction in Spider-Man is a refreshing and deserved hat-tip as it paints them as the good guys that they typically are.
Being ultra-critical of something always makes the worst elements of the thing being criticized seem like the biggest aspects of it, and in the left’s constant use of critical theory, they truly believe that the better aspects of our society are too imperfect to warrant this kind of praise or depiction.
Thing is, if the police the left love to criticise so much disappeared tomorrow, they’d be the loudest group wishing they were back the day after.