Gwen sees it happening, everything at once, like she had when Philip plummeted, like she had when that basketball shot at the back of Penelope’s head: there’s … something that flashes across Kessa’s face as she registers him reaching for her, a weariness, a resignation, a kind of dejection that comes with knowing that there’s this man who isn’t going to be deflected and now she’s going to have to tolerate being stroked without her consent, like this is something that happens to her a lot.
And Gwen snaps:
Coffee in hand, she lifts one foot and drives her heel into the back of Neckbeard’s knee, collapsing it so that he falls obligingly backwards into her spare hand. She grabs him by the meat of his neck and pirouettes, bending at the waist so that he lifts effortlessly over her shoulder, sending him crashing down to the floor. Silverware rattles at the impact, and Miles makes a high, startled squeak between his teeth.
Neckbeard groans in shock and pain and rolls over, splayed spread-eagle, and Gwen plants a foot on his chest like she’s going to stick a flag in him and claim him conquered.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: antistar_e has been one of my favorite fanfic writers ever since I discovered her The Social Network fanfiction one cold 2011 evening and devoured every single last one. Later on, one of my friends and I were trying to one-up each other with awesome fic recs until we realized both of us were just reccing her fics at each other. What I mean is, basically, we want to start an antistar_e fanclub. I’ll be president. And when you read today’s rec, hopefully you’ll understand why.
Maggie Fitzgerald and the Saltwater Drip was written for the Heroine Big Bang in 2013. “What if Gwen Stacy were Spider-Man instead of Peter Parker?” antistar_e asks. And thus begins a fantastic adventure. Because why should white guys be the only ones to have an adventure, right? Even our current incarnation of Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, understands that Spider-Man is meant to be a marginalized everyman, and a white, cishet, middle-class nerd is no longer the best representation of that. Emma Stone could be so much more than what the movie role of Gwen Stacy was (she’s already called out Garfield on sexism like a pro), and she would fit seamlessly into this fic’s interpretation of Gwen.
Although the fic generally follows the plot of the first movie, the New York that Gwen encounters and the crime she fights is far from what one might find in a Hollywood movie. This is the New York City that Hollywood won’t give us, the one that’s legitimately filled with people of color, the one where Gwen protects girls walking home by themselves at night, disrupts racial profiling, and defends religious minorities. Gwen isn’t respected because of her rich white girl privilege, either—she’s prominently called out on it. “How about you start listening?” one man demands of her, and Gwen listens and Gwen corrects, just as movie Peter Parker was never given the chance to do.
If it sounds like pure wish fulfillment, that’s because it is. That’s what all fanfiction is—what if they’d done this? Or that? What if someone had meticulously researched the dynamics of gender inequality and intercultural relations in the microcosm that is NYC, sprinkled it with a liberal dash of social media, and framed it through the point of view of a girl with great powers and great responsibility? What if indeed. You can read that story here. At 80k, it’s a long, but enjoyable, enriching, enlightening use of your day.