You know the line. It’s been repeated so many times, in so many reboots and memes and jokes about rice: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Spiderman’s mantra is so cliché, but it also points to a central component of our cultural understanding of what it means to Be A Man.
Let’s start by talking about how Spider-Man gets to this point. (Thanks to my husband for talking through Spider-Man’s origin story with me in excruciating detail.) He is bitten by a radioactive spider, which results in him being able to climb walls and other spider-y abilities. This is the power, which he spontaneously gets without much effort. And what does he do with it initially? He climbs walls for funsies, and he uses his newfound skills to make money. He wants to impress Mary Jane, or be cool, or just goof off. In the throes of his self-indulgent stage, he lets a criminal go, because catching him is inconvenient, and plus, he’s feeling a bit petty – and that criminal goes on to murder his beloved Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben had given him a lecture on power and responsibility just recently, but it took a personal tragedy for Spider-Man to decide that he is personally responsible for making the world better – because he has the power to do so – and to start fighting crime.
So what does this have to do with dukes? Well, I’m glad you asked.
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