If you sat in the cinema theatre after watching Spider Man: Homecoming saying to yourself, “Wow, having Peter Parker fail so frequently throughout this film and clumsily navigate his way through dangerous missions really has a lot to say about how making mistakes can really be a strong learning experience for a young person to help them to find their calling in life and discover what their true core values are”, then you weren’t the only one, because that’s actually exactly what I was thinking.
Through almost constantly failing to successfully complete a task—any task, Peter actually learns far more from this than if he’d stuck to Tony Stark’s original guidance of just solving the smaller crimes within his neighbourhood. Sure, it would have been far safer, and he would’ve had far, far less near-death experiences, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much more interesting to punch way above your weight and try to fight criminals who could probably kill you in a heartbeat. I mean, maybe don’t do that in real life, but in films it’s pretty cool.
That Literally Makes No Sense. You’re Saying Put Yourself In Danger, But Also… Don’t? What?
Okay, okay, so if we’re applying this in a real-life situation, not everyone has a swanky Spider-Man super suit created personally for them by Tony Stark, and even if they did, it would be far less of a novelty and far more difficult to fight crime and the entire plot of Homecoming would be completely void… But essentially, what I’m saying here is that you’re not a superhero or vigilante (though if you are, cool???), which means you probably aren’t going out at night and fighting crime on the regular. So, you’re most likely not putting yourself in as much danger as Peter was in Homecoming.
HOWEVER. If someone tells you not to do something you really, really want to do, chances are unless you’re very obedient, you’re probably going to do it anyway. Humans do that. We’re stupid. But, it’s the stupidity that puts us in Bad Situations that helps us to learn our boundaries and then avoid those Bad Situations in the future.
But for Peter Parker, this obviously isn’t the case. He continues to do stupid things even after being told, multiple times, “Hey, don’t do this stupid thing.” e.g., when Tony Stark tells him off after having to prevent the Staten Island Ferry from falling apart when a fight between Spider-Man and Vulture goes very wrong. That’s pretty bad. But it’s not actually an entirely bad thing. If you can learn from your initial mistake what your boundaries are, then that’s pretty impressive — most people perform more than one fuck up before they’re fully aware of what they’re capable of. And that in itself isn’t bad; it’s perfectly OK. Just try not to break a ferry in half.
So You’re Saying I Can Mess Up As Much As I Want And Not Be A Bad Person?
Maybe don’t mess up on purpose and then try to cover it up, because that would be a bad thing to do. What I’m saying is that if you eventually learn from your mistakes and then use those experiences to grow as a person, then that’s a decent achievement. Peter never intended to hurt anyone (apart from the criminals already causing damage, which in itself is a whole other argument on whether the use of violence is immoral BUT now really isn’t the time to get into that); all he aimed to do was:
- try and impress Tony Stark
- do a good thing and make New York a more peaceful place (through attempting to return bikes to their rightful owners and unsuccessfully stopping people from breaking into their own cars)
- learn what his purpose as both a superhero and a man was.
When you narrow it down to that, it’s clear that Peter isn’t an inherently bad person. He’s just a teenage boy trying to understand himself better. Weren’t we all at that age? Aren’t we all still doing that now? In the end, when we finally see him succeed and be offered a place as an Avenger by Tony, he turns it down, having learned that he prefers his more humble position as a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and that it isn’t any lesser than any other superhero; it’s just as important.
What Exactly Are You Saying, Then?
Peter messing up took up nearly the entirety of Spider-Man: Homecoming, and as a result of that he was able to develop a stronger sense of self, particularly as a smaller-scale, urban area superhero. In an ideal world, there would’ve been far less destruction (the Washington Monument would have been left in a much better state), and no one would’ve gotten hurt (physically or emotionally), but it’s the consequences of our actions that allow us to comprehend whether we should or shouldn’t do the same thing again. Peter left a lot of destruction in his path, but as a result he then knew what he was capable of, and what he wanted to achieve with those capabilities—which turned out to be turning down the Avengers in favour of looking out for the little guy. Which is pretty damn noble, if you ask me.
Essentially, Peter Parker realised something that couldn’t be taught to him by Aunt May or Tony Stark. They could tell him he couldn’t do certain things, but in the end he had to learn for himself why he couldn’t do those things, and that was knowledge only gained from experience. Even Tony learned something from Peter’s failures: Sometimes you have give people the independence to make mistakes for themselves. Because hopefully, if they’re more like Peter Parker and less like Tony Stark, they will learn from their mistakes and become a better person for it.