‘For me, the image of an unarmed biracial teenager with his arms up immediately evokes the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” chant. It’s a phrase that some Black Lives Matters protestors are still using in 2020 to call out police brutality. But even if audience members don’t make the same connection as I did, they can still recognize how unfair it is that Miles is held at gunpoint for something he didn’t do, and how terrified he is in that moment. Whether viewers are aware of what real-world connections the scene evokes or not, they are still exposed to an important lesson. It’s an image that simply wouldn’t have carried the same weight if we didn’t see Miles’ true face.
I could go on forever about all the subtle touches that made the story of Miles Morales such a beacon of representation when it was released…but the film’s many accolades speak for themselves. Into the Spider-verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated feature film. And it did so without turning Miles into a spider (or a verse, or anything else) in telling his story. Audiences watch him defeat supervillains and earn the respect of allies, seeing him as a biracial teenager for the movie’s entire runtime. It’s a sentence that bears repeating: Miles is himself the entire time.’