Spider-Man 2 faces backlash over Miles Morales’ new dreadlock hair

Spider-Man 2 faces criticism over its portrayal of Miles Morales' new high-top dreadlock fade.

Spider-Man 2 faces backlash over Miles Morales’ new dreadlock hair
Published by José @ PC Game Spotlight 10 months ago

Spider-Man 2 is being met with some early criticism over its portrayal of Miles Morales’ new look, which appears to include a high-top dreadlock fade. As Black representation in Video Games continues to be an important conversation, the Spider-Man 2 footage has prompted some to question why the iconic Spider-Man character would have such an option in the game, despite the fact that other Marvel characters like Sam Wilson, formerly known as Falcon, have had similar hairstyles.

Hair in games is an often underappreciated aspect of character creation, with white characters typically having a wide range of hairstyles to choose from, while Black characters are typically limited to improperly textured afros and cornrows. In the case of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the previous game in the franchise, players were critical of Miles’ outdated haircut.

Authenticity in Representation

Aerial Knight‘s Never Yield developer Neil Jones emphasizes the need for authenticity in representing Black hair in games. In this case, Jones says the developers “got it right” with Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but they “got it wrong” with Spider-Man 2.

“In Never Yield, we had a lot of consultation with people about their hair, and about their style, and about the way that they wore their clothes,” Jones says. “Because we wanted to do it justice, because we wanted to get it right. And we did. We did get it right. We did Miles’ hair right.”

“We did get it right with Miles but not with Spider-Man,” Jones continues. “Spider-Man is getting a high-top dreadlock fade, which is a lesbian haircut. He’s going to a Black barber shop and getting a lesbian haircut. Which is funny but also not funny, because it’s so overused.”

The issue of representation in hairstyles is one that extends beyond Black characters. For instance, in the new Spider-Man 2 trailer, Tony Stark can be seen with a rather unique hairstyle that includes a series of miniature dreadlocks, a type of dreadlock that Black people are likely far less familiar with.

Black Hairstyles and Authenticity

However, Jones says that because of the history of Black people being portrayed in media with specific styles of hair, the need for authenticity with Black characters is even greater.

“We’ve had over the years, from Roots to Empire, to Moonlight, very specific Black hairstyles that have been used to represent us,” Jones says. “And here we are in Spider-Man 2, where Miles is getting a very specific hairstyle, which is what overused, stereotypical Black hairstyles are.”

Jones says that more variety in Black hairstyles is needed to avoid the trope of using the same haircut for Black characters, but that the texture of Miles’ hair in the trailer is seen as misrepresentation.

“We need to do away with the idea that texture is a Black thing,” Jones says. “If you look at Miles, he has kinky hair. He has really tightly coiled hair, and that’s the texture that Black people have. But in the trailer, his hair is very straight. And that is seen as misrepresentation.”

Blessing Adeoye Jr. and Neil both acknowledge the issues raised in the video, but they also appreciate the new look for Miles.

“I see the criticism, but I’m still going to rock it,” Neil says. “I can’t wait to play as Miles.”

Blessing says that the developers should “hire some Black artists and developers,” so that such hairstyles are taken seriously.

“It’s not something you can just throw out there,” Blessing says. “Black people have a specific hair texture, and you have to respect that.”

Neil emphasizes the importance of listening to Black voices in the room, especially when it comes to Black hair.

“If you have a Black voice in the room, you have to listen to them,” Neil says. “You have to take their criticism, because they have the expertise. You can’t please everyone, and there will always be criticism. But if you’re going to make a Black character, you have to get it right.”

The Progress Being Made

While the video, compiled by YouTube channel Game Closet, does illustrate a need for more communication and consultation between developers and Black hairstylists and stylists, it’s important to note that, while there is a long way to go, the industry is slowly starting to take Black haircuts seriously.

For instance, in the case of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the film’s director, Bob Persichetti, said that one of the reasons Miles’s haircut was so important was because the filmmakers wanted to get it right.

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