Note: This post contains spoilers for “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Read on at your own risk.
For much of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the longtime comic book love interest of Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), Mary Jane Watson, is nowhere to be found.
It wouldn’t be a hugely surprising creative decision on the part of the filmmakers — after all, the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies didn’t feature Mary Jane at all.
That is, until the end of the movie — when it’s revealed in a subtle line of dialogue that Mary Jane has been present all along.
It turns out that the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” version of the love of Peter Parker’s life is played by Disney Channel star Zendaya when her character, Michelle, says that “my friends call me MJ,” which is how many characters in the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel universe often refer to Mary Jane Watson.
TheWrap reported on the true identity of Zendaya’s character back in 2016. At the time, the reveal met with mostly positive reactions to her casting in such an iconic “Spider-Man” role, shifting MJ away from her usual white, red-haired depiction.
Throughout “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Zendaya’s character goes by the name Michelle. She’s an abrasive loner of a character with some of the movie’s best jokes. When Peter (Tom Holland) and bestie Ned (Jacob Batalon) discuss how the pair should stop staring at Peter’s crush Liz (Laura Harrier) before it gets creepy, the movie cuts over to Michelle, who quips that they’re already creepy. “You guys are losers,” Michelle tells them.
When Ned responds to ask why Michelle sits with the pair, she returns, “I don’t have any friends.”
Michelle goes on through the movie as an ever-present jokester who might have a crush on Peter. She voluntarily attends detention in order to draw the people there in their moment of “crisis,” and she greets Peter and her other pals with her middle finger.
But Michelle is undoubtedly Mary Jane, as evidenced by a tease at the end of the movie, when she remarks that “my friends call me MJ.” Spider-fans already know that MJ, short for Mary Jane, is the nickname by which Peter regularly refers to the woman who becomes his girlfriend (and eventually his wife in the comics).
In the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” trilogy, Mary Jane was played by Kirsten Dunst, a version of the character who was a bubbly but struggling actress and Peter’s next-door neighbor, whom he’d harbored a crush on since childhood. Zendaya’s abrasive and hilarious MJ is quite a different character, but like many of the changes to the Spider-cannon that pop up in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” this one is a flip of the usual Spider-script that’s a great change.