Dakota Johnson as Madame Web: Some Thoughts

Dakota Johnson is going to play Madame Web in Sony's Spider-Man universe. Some view this as disability erasure.
Dakota

Dakota Johnson is going to play Madame Web in Sony’s Spider-Man universe. Some view this as disability erasure being that Madame Web was an older woman with a form of myasthenia gravis. Who used a life support machine. This article implies that Johnson will play the Julia Carpenter version of the character. In that case, why not just call her character Spider-Woman? Surely this would sidestep the issues inherent to casting an able-bodied actor. Portraying a character best known for being disabled. Perhaps we’ll see Johnson’s Julia Carpenter become disabled in a similar vein to James McAvoy‘s Charles Xavier in X-Men First Class.

 

Comics vs Screen

I’m aware that Julia Carpenter becomes paralyzed in the comics. Moreover, she becomes blind after the first Madame Web transfers her psychic abilities to Carpenter. Although there is a lot of potential for Sony to show how someone able-bodied copes with becoming disabled. The real question is why not cast a disabled actor in this role? This would depend on how close to the comics the Sony Madame Web adheres. This video states that a blind actor would not be cast due to issues choreographing the fight scenes possibly we could see Johnson’s Madame Web become an Oracle-like figure. Who helps other heroes using her psychic powers.

 

Disabled character, disabled actor?

Comics regrettably have a few characters who throw off their disability as the plot demands. As I mentioned above the issue is that a well-known disabled superhero in Madame Web is going to be portrayed by a non-disabled actor. I’d say that Sony could get around this problem. By casting Dakota Johnson as the Jessica Drew version of the character who is able-bodied. Notably, both Cassandra Webb (the first Madame Web) and Julia Carpenter are or become disabled during their character arcs. Certainly, these characters should be played by disabled actors. Although I have confidence in Johnson’s acting ability my own view is that disabled actors should play disabled characters.

 

Star power

It’s clear that Dakota Johnson is a big name. She also has that everywoman quality with an edge of mystery that would be great for Madame Web. Undoubtedly this is the reason behind her casting. Although the MCU has cast Lauren Ridloffa deaf actor, as Makkari in The Eternals (which we reviewed). As well as Alaqua Cox as Echo in Hawkeye. It seems a shame that a disabled actor cannot take centre stage as the hero of their own story. We could maybe have seen a Legion-like show in which Julia Carpenter, played by a disabled actor. Hears Cassandra Webb’s voice in her dreams. Thus starting her on a psychological journey to become Madame Web’s successor. Of course, more disabled comics writers and actors are needed to tell their stories authentically. Then we’ll see true disability representation.

 

What do you think of Dakota Johnson’s Madame Web casting? Do you think the role should have gone to a disabled actress? Please leave a comment and remember, there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

I'm an autistic writer who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. I'm also an actor with Theatre of the Senses.
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