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Pop Culture Advent Calendar, Day 10: Enter ... Spider-Man

Once a day, until Dec. 25, we'll be highlighting a specific small, good thing that happened in popular culture this year. And we do mean small: a moment or image from a film or TV show, a panel from a comic, a brief exchange from a podcast, or a passage from a book.

The fans knew he'd show up, of course.

They'd been reading about the deal Marvel Studios had struck with Sony, who'd held exclusive rights to the Spider-Man character for over a decade - and two film franchises. Fans had read about the casting of young Tom Holland as Peter Parker. They were prepared.

But many casual moviegoers weren't. These were the kind of moviegoers who had streamed out of previous Marvel Studios movies and asked their nerdier friends why Spider-Man hadn't shown up. (Some of them would go on to idly inquire why the Avengers didn't put Superman and Batman on the team as well, and wonder why their friends were glowering at them like that.)

So when he did show up onscreen, nerd and normal alike cheered. Characters were meeting for the first time, but the moment carried all the the weight of a longed-for reunion, delivering a potent dose of a synthetic but nonetheless euphoric nostalgia.

But it wasn't just nostalgia. There was something new in the works here, too: Crucially, Holland's Spidey doubled down on the character's awkward, fannish teenagerdom.

Decades before, when he'd first appeared in the pages of the comic Amazing Fantasy in 1962, he'd been dubbed by his creators "The Hero Who Could Be YOU!"

Moviegoers watched Holland's standout performance, with its twitchy, earnest, adolescent energy that set it so cleanly apart from those of previous Spider-thespians Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and thought (maybe for the first time?):


Story checks out.

Previous Pop Culture Advent Calendar Entries

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.

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