By John Tuttle
2019 was a year in which the cinemas were full of tales of superheroes and supervillains, one of which was our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Tom Holland reprised his famous role in Spider-Man: Far from Home, the second installment in Holland’s series of films. In it, he attends a high school field trip, which takes him to a handful of beautiful European locales and gets entangled in a web of espionage and battling evil, while all the time trying to keep his superhero identity secret from his classmates.
It is under this premise that Spider-Man: Far from Home unfolds and presents a secular discourse on the truth, that vital element of living and of thinking which has become so confused and distorted historically as well as in our own modern age. Count the times the term “truth” is distinctively, strategically employed in the dialogue of the film. The audience is meant to pick up on this. This essay shall explore the numerous instances in which a discussion or illustration of the truth appears in this story. Ultimately, we will see how this theme displays the righteousness of preserving truth, while evil seeks to always twist the truth.
She Deserves the Truth
While in Austria, the bus full of teens makes a stop, at which point Peter Parker confronts a woman alone in a shady, secluded room. There she bestows upon him a black suit, a European equivalent to his Spidey suit he left back home. The woman instructs Peter to promptly remove his clothes to don the new suit. If the moment was not embarrassing enough, a fellow student, Flash Thompson, walks in on the scene, catching the superhero with his pants down in proximity with the woman. Flash quickly snaps a picture.
Peter tries explaining himself. Flash brushes it off and assumes that the woman was a prostitute whom Peter was going to sleep with. The hero denies it, but Flash is convinced and determined to show the incriminating image to MJ, Peter’s crush. “She deserves the truth,” states the inadvertent intruder (who is a rival for MJ’s affections). And here is a point that is to be agreed upon. As skewed as this young man’s intentions are, it does not detract from the reality of his words. MJ deserves the truth.
Human beings were made for truth. Anything apart from the truth is a fabrication woven out of ideals and aspirations that are something less than real. Settling for anything but the truth is to descend into a fantasy of falsehood. All people are called to truth, to authenticity, to judgment. We long for the discovery of truth. This is why we have investigative journalists. This is why people want to be dealt with in honest and transparent ways, not in half-truths or withheld facts. This is what all the sciences strive to ascend to. This is what human beings are called to ascend to – truth.
All superheroes are distraught by a single shared burden: carrying the secret of their alternate identities. To whom can I reveal my secret in safety? Who should know and who should not know? Certainly the latter ought to outweigh the former for the logical reason of maintaining one’s efficiency as an undercover crime-fighter.
However, it could also be said that expressing the truth is a relieving, liberating act of self-giving. Truth is meant to be recognized and accepted as it is crucial to our human nature, a great goal to which we aspire. Truth serves as a building block, a cornerstone, a foundation for a strong culture and for a coherent intermingling within society. Regardless of how personally painful the truth may be, its revelation serves to build up relationships. Relations cannot be based on lies. Thus Peter, wishing to grow closer to MJ, takes her into his confidence and reveals his secret identity to her. From there on out, their relationship only grows stronger.
Objective vs Subjective Truth
Being a secular discourse on truth, Spider-Man: Far from Home brought up the two chief opposing ideologies regarding truth. Namely, the notion of objective truth and that of subjective truth. MJ quotes futurist author George Orwell in the statement, “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.”
MJ, implying that times are changing, uses the excerpt as a tactic to illustrate that there is usually no singular side to a story. However, if this ideal of subjective truth is more closely examined (outside of the dialogue of the film) it allows for the perversion of truth to the point that it is anything but the truth. Subjective truth, that secular religion championing acceptance without any boundaries, even those rooted in natural law, is a tool of the advocates of political correctness. Subjective truth becomes little more than personal tastes, preferences in relation to one’s comfort, and dictums laced with bias.
So, in fact, the only truth there can be has to be universal and whole. It does not matter whether or not the truth is accepted by people. Truth remains true as it is based upon natural law to which all of nature, all of the cosmos, must conform. All of reality must adhere to truth, and in its absence a fantasy is constructed. Just such a fantasy, in very straightforward and melodramatic fashion, can be found in the illusions generated by Mysterio in the movie.
Representation of the Media
The light in which the media was portrayed in Spider-Man: Far from Home was an interesting addition. Particularly, in one of the infamous post credit scenes, a media outlet has some breaking news to deliver, news that is crucial and severely detrimental to Peter Parker.
On a broadcast, the news anchor, J. Jonah Jameson, displays a video showing Spider-man supposedly ordering a drone strike on civilians. In the same clip, Mysterio proclaims Spider-man’s true identity: Peter Parker. In a world run wild with the fear of fake news, and in a world where biased news is very much real, it is safe to say this sequence of the film bore another message concerning truth.
Just because a thing or an incident is perceived one way, does not mean it, in fact, went that way. To one of his peers, it had seemed as though Peter was about to “hook up” with a woman. Yet, the truth says otherwise. It appeared that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were helping Spider-man when it was, in fact, two Skrulls, shapeshifters introduced in Captain Marvel. Once more, this video seems to show Spider-man wantonly commanding a slew of drones to massacre innocent lives. Yet, it is simply a clever edit of rearranged sound bytes that give this perception.
Ultimately, this video is an example of what may be authentically labeled “fake news.” On a side note, it should be mentioned that the outlet’s “anonymous source” was not a reliable one. According to the ethics of professional journalism, the provider of information can be listed as anonymous only if the reporter knows the provider to be in a reliable position to offer the information. However, we the audience are aware that the source is invalid, but the news station received an anonymous video clip and published it as if it were fact. This itself is sketchy, unprofessional journalism, and the validity of the content becomes questionable.
Mysterio’s Perversion of Truth
According to his MCU depiction, Mysterio was once an optimistic entrepreneur-minded employee of Tony Stark who was wronged by the overpowering, narcissistic billionaire Tony Stark. Mysterio, jealous of the fame and love which Stark received during his lifetime, seeks to take the place of the late Iron Man. He sets out on his goal by first employing all the bedazzling effects of a modern-day filmmaker as projected from an army of drones, generating a grand network of illusions. Through these illusions, he spreads mass hysteria in the hopes of ultimately making himself appear as a hero, vanquishing terrible monsters that are only as real as a child’s imaginary companions.
Like Syndrome from The Incredibles, Mysterio seeks the applause and adoration which the media and society showered upon a proven hero, Tony Stark. During an epic battle sequence between Spider-Man and Mysterio, the villain proclaims one of the most powerful, most alarming lines of the film: “I control the truth; Mysterio is the truth.”
Here, Mysterio proclaims that the truth can be whatever he chooses it to be. Mysterio’s take on truth is the ultimate example of subjective truth. Mysterio’s “truth” is his own; it would be defined as subjective. And, as we see in the film, what he provides is a lie, not the truth. He allows his fantasies to permeate and pressure the world as he looks on. This is what he has given to the world – not truth but an awakening terror unleashed for his own selfish endeavors.
If we look again to that line, Mysterio is the truth, we see a parallel which is in direct attack on Christ. For Christ pointed to himself as the way, the truth, and the life. Mysterio is not only recognizable as a threat to society. He also serves as a direct destroyer of nature, the truth of reality, which God created. He positions himself as an enemy to Christ. His goals are in utter contradiction of those of the Son of God. This makes Mysterio a villain of a deeply sinister sort, when viewed from this religious standpoint. Furthermore, in a primarily philosophical manner, Mysterio illustrates the corruption and inadequacy of so-called “subjective truth.”