Miles Morales' Hair in 'Spider-Verse 2' Got a Makeover—Spoiler: We Don't Like It
My family loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It was comforting that the first Spider-Man my son knew looked so much like him, an ethnically diverse Black boy with loving parents who pushed him toward excellence. Miles Morales shared the same Afro-Latinx heritage, rich skin color, and kinky hair texture as my 4-year-old. While watching the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 trailer, I expected the same familiar image.
Miles rocked a densely coiled afro with a neat line-up in the first Spider-Verse. It appeared spongy, well moisturized, and perfect for a good twist-out. His signature kinky crown is still full in the sequel but has less texture and looser curls. Some viewers have noted that his skin appears lighter too. This seemingly small change to his hair texture has led to a big conversation around skin color, hair texture, and the lightening of Black characters.
The internet is divided on the issue. On one side, there are the people who believe a shift in hair texture is either a non-issue, a more accurate representation of his mixed heritage, or that we should be grateful for any representation. On the other, there's the argument that there isn't a "mixed look" or a standard "bi-racial hair texture," and the effort reflects the trend of whitewashing Black animated characters.
The conversation has become an opportunity to highlight misunderstandings about race, ethnicity, and Afro-Latinx identity. It's also an opportunity to explore the importance of representation and preserving Afro-centric features like hair texture, skin tone, and facial features.
This isn't the first time viewers have expressed these criticisms regarding how Black animated characters are represented. A similar conversion took place after Princess Tiana, Disney's first and only Black princess, appeared in the Wreck-it-Ralph sequel with lighter skin, a slimmer nose, and a head full of looser, lighter-brown curls.
Colorism has also reared its ugly head in changes to casting in some of the most influential Black family sitcoms. On Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Daphne Reid, a lighter-skinned actress, was selected as a recast for Aunt Viv, played by Janet Hubert. A similar recast happened on the sitcom My Wife And Kids when Claire, played initially by darker-skinned actress Jazz Raycole, was replaced with biracial, lighter-skinned actress Jennifer Freeman. Colorism in entertainment even affects portrayals of real people, such as when Zoe Saldana was cast as Nina Simone, for which the actress has since apologized.
To some, these are minor shifts to fictional characters. But, for millions of Black families, Miles was one of the limited opportunities for their children to see themselves reflected as a superhero. Sony has not yet commented on the changes made to such a significant character. For now, some families might stick to the original Miles Morales.