Everyone can pretend, but can everyone say they see themselves in characters represented through various artistic mediums? It hits the soul differently, at least for me it did. Spider-Man: Miles Morales for PS4/PS5 gave me an experience I didn’t know I needed.
My name is Radames Lillo. I’m Puerto Rican. I’m from Philly. I just celebrated my 31st birthday, I’m enjoying my 2nd year of marriage to my beautiful wife, Jasmine, and I get to take a moment to hang out with you, the Noire Life Media audience family. We get to celebrate Black History Month together, as a family. And I never felt more at home in a video game than in Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
I’ve never even seen or experienced in a video game what I experienced in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. If you don’t know the character. Here’s a little history on Miles Morales, a black and Puerto Rican teenage boy that would take over the mantle of Spider-Man.
Back in 2010, writer Marc Bernardin wrote an article asking the question, why does Spider-Man have to be white. His argument? That anyone could be under the mask. The internet went into a frenzy. Many stated that since the original creators created Peter Parker, the original Spider Man, to be white, that the character had to remain white. I chuckle at the thought. Does music not transcend cultures? Do we not share recipes or order food of other cultures? What does it say about our society if the representation of fictional characters we see on the regular, or at the highest rate, are white?
In 2012, Sony released The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, but there was a moment before the movie was filmed and casted the many petitioned for Donald Glover to play the titular character. Glover even showed interest.
In August 2011, Miles Morales was introduced to the world in the comic book Ultimate Fallout #4, written by long time Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis. Miles would take over the mantle of Spider-Man following the death of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man.
In 2018, we were blessed with a double serving of Miles Morales. On the big screen, we got to see Miles shine in the animated hit Into the Spiderverse, and we were able to bring Miles into our homes with Spider-Man: Miles Morales video game. We finally got to see a black/Puerto Rican hero, not just be a hollow shell of a character, but actually be fully rounded and immersed. He speaks Spanish to his mother and friends, he has curly hair, and he’s brown. I can see my little brothers, cousins and others represented in this version of Spider-Man. I begin to find me under the mask.
Find me under the mask…
When Spider-Man launched onto Sony’s PS4 in 2018, we knew we would get to engage in the adventures of Peter Parker Spider-Man, which we did. But we also were hinted at a new experience.
At this point, here are a couple spoilers for both Spider-Man PS4 & Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
In an early mission in Spider-Man PS4, Spider-Man, Peter Parker, is assisted by an officer. The officer is later revealed to be Miles’ father, Jefferson Davis. Because of his bravery and his assisting Spider-Man, the city gives Officer Davis a medal. But at the ceremony, there is an attack and Davis is killed. Throughout the rest of the game, Peter and Miles build a relationship. Miles learns of Peter being Spider-Man, and eventually he himself is bitten by a spider that gives him powers similar to Spider-Man. By the end of Spider-Man PS4, there’s a hint of Miles becoming Spider-Man, and going on his own adventures.
If I’m being honest, I truly believed we would be seeing Miles Morales as a supporting character in the next Spider-Man game, starring Peter Park. I was happy to be wrong.
On November 12, 2020 Spider-Man: Miles Morales was released. Saying this game is something different is an understatement. This isn’t a copy and paste video game starring a black faced Peter Parker. Miles is his own person. He has his own motives, personality, and environment. And you feel that.
The game actually opens up with Miles on the train, and this small clip is also used as the games’ home screen. What is Miles’ first task? Well, his mother calls and asks Miles to pick up some items from the bodega, but before he can make it to the corner store, Miles is called onto a mission with Peter Parker Spider-Man.
I won’t go into details on the full story of the game, you will just have to play for yourself. But what we’re actually discussing is much deeper than that. And I’m so happy the developers understood what was at stake.
After his father’s death, Miles and his mother moved from Brooklyn to an apartment in Harlem. As the game progresses, Miles and his mother unpacks more and more items, and the transformation of the apartment is astounding. As you walk around the apartment you will notice Puerto Rican flags all over, paints of Puerto Rican images. There are little coqui frog figures all through the apartment and paintings of The Three Kings.
Even outside the apartment, there are flags and murals representing Puerto Rican culture.
The scene in the game that inspired this article was actually a Christmas dinner. As you walk over to the kitchen, you can see Miles’s mother has cooked rice, beans, pasteles, and more. It reminded me of when my grandmother had cooked. The experience felt all too familiar. It made me feel that someone of my background actually could be the hero. I know this will have lasting effects on younger generations.
Representation matters. Some people need visual proof, before accepting their own significance. The truth is anyone can be a hero. Find you under the mask.