Marisa Tomei’s portrayal of Aunt May in the MCU’s Spider-man films represents a departure for the character in a number of ways. She’s younger, sassier, and more easy-going than in past interpretations. This Aunt May is the epitome of cool aunt, and according to a new interview, the character came very close to being a cool gay aunt.
For those who don’t know, Aunt May is Spider-man/Peter Parker’s parental guardian (given that he’s an orphan). Traditionally in the comics, she acts as a source of guilt and responsibility for Spider-man—a kind, feeble, elderly worrywart who is in constant need of protection. This is what makes Marisa Tomei’s self-assured Aunt May such a refreshing change. And speaking to Geeks of Color, Tomei explained that she wanted to take the character’s modern interpretation even further.
Before the idea of Happy and Aunt May came to be, Marisa Tomei said she wanted Aunt May to have a girlfriend. #SpiderManNoWayHome
— Geeks of Color #BlackLivesMatter (@GeeksOfColor) December 19, 2021
When asked about May’s relationship with Happy Hogan—Spider-man’s former contact with Iron Man—Tomei said, “I really feel that their relationship is more off than on.” In Spider-man: Far From Home, the two are revealed to have been having a fling while Peter Parker was on a school trip abroad. There’s a bit of comedy where Parker confronts them, and they each have wildly different ideas about how serious their relationship is, with May being more on the casual side. “I think they’re friends,” Tomei explained, “…There’s no one else they can talk to right now [about Peter’s alter-ego]. They like each other enough, they had their fun, their fling, but they’re still cool.”
This is where things get interesting: Tomei went on, “Before even the idea of Happy showed up, there was a moment where I felt that May should be with a woman.” In her mind, while the character would have been broken up by Uncle Ben’s (her husband’s) death, this would also have given her a new lease on life, an opportunity to reexamine herself and her relationships.
Tomei recalled, “I really wanted [producer] Amy Pascal from Sony to be my girlfriend. I was like: ‘No one even has to know Amy, I’ll just be in a scene and you’ll be over there and it’ll just be like a subtle thing.’” Sadly, the filmmakers did not take the bait.
Tomei’s is not the first depiction of Aunt May as younger and a little more hip (the Ultimate Spider-man comic reboot featured a younger Aunt May with a pixie haircut), but writers have not gone so far as to give her a healthy sex life—much less a gay one!
Although as Tomei explained, “No one went for it at the time,” queer representation is slowly but surely (but I must emphasize slowly) changing in the MCU. The recently released Eternals introduced audiences to the MCU’s first gay superhero, Phastos, including an onscreen kiss. Loki had a passing reference to his bisexuality in his titular Disney Plus show. Valkyrie was also referenced as bisexual in a cut scene from Thor: Ragnarok, but her sexuality will reportedly to be explored in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. And the new Hawkeye series introduces Bombshell, a partnered lesbian mercenary.
While Tomei’s suggestion seems to have come a little too soon for Marvel (I guess 2018 was an entirely different era), we now know that these conversations were being had (if ignored) at Marvel. At the very least, we’ll add this to the pile of evidence in favor of gay energy in the Spider-man franchise.