Of the many memorable components of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, arguably the most effective element was J.K. Simmons' pitch-perfect personification of J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons wholly embraced the larger-than-life character, managing to make him not only hilarious and charming as he barked demands at Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker, but found the perfect balance of being cartoonish while also grounded in the reality that Raimi's films established. In that regard, news having emerged that Simmons could appear in upcoming Spider-Man projects as the interpretation of the figure we saw in Spider-Man: Far From Home's mid-credits scene excited a number of fans, but with the character clearly lampooning InfoWars' Alex Jones, seeing such a character in future films could soil any scene in which he would appear, due to the dangerous and divisive influence of the real-world figure.
The power of Simmons' performance as the character is evidenced by how no other iterations of Spider-Man have attempted to re-cast the role. We've had multiple actors play Spider-Man, Aunt May, and Mary Jane, but nothing even close to JJJ has made its way to the big screen since Spider-Man 3 in 2007. Anyone who saw Far From Home knew the power of the performer when he appeared on screen, shouting his typical insults about Spider-Man being a menace to the people of New York City, a conspiracy which falls in line not only with how the character is depicted in comic books, but also fitting in line with the Marvel Cinematic Universe's reality. Sadly, the filmmakers made specific decisions to replicate not only Jones' attitude, but even recreate the look of his talk show.
This isn't to say that Jameson and Simmons should be absent from future MCU films entirely, as there are a number of storytelling opportunities available to Marvel Studios which could distance the character from what we saw in that mid-credits scene. In an unexpected development, Sam Raimi is returning to Marvel with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which is sure to explore a number of different realities. With that film set to debut before a new Spider-Man, a variety of different justifications could lead towards the more traditional concept of Jameson back running the Daily Bugle, or doing virtually anything that will move him out from behind the desk of a web series, being made the official JJJ of the MCU.
While Jones might often be connected to conservative figures and values, he has personally described himself along the gamut of having conservative, paleoconservative, and libertarian ideals on different occasions. Far more important than how he labels himself, New York magazine labeled him as "America's leading conspiracy theorist" back in 2013.
Far from being a partisan issue, Jones has been attempting to plant the seeds of division and distrust among his followers for decades, claiming back in 1995 that the government was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 20 and injured more than 100, with Timothy McVeigh ultimately being found guilty of 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. In subsequent years, Jones has claimed the 9/11 attacks were also organized by the government, in addition to claiming that shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 26 and 17 dead, respectively, were "false flag" operations and no one was actually killed.
Anyone familiar with YouTube knows that the service aims to allow freedom to its creators, regardless of how hateful and vitriolic those perspectives might be. As a testament to just how dangerous Jones and InfoWars is, YouTube permanently banned Jones from the service due to "child endangerment and hate speech." Subsequently, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Periscope, and Mailchimp banned Jones and various InfoWars-related accounts from their services due to multiple instances of attempting to incite violence and the frequent use of hate speech.
While some audiences might argue that the similarities are loose, co-writer Chris McKenna made it clear that it was their intention to replicate Jones' persona.
“Something that had been floating through this entire movie was the idea of ‘fake news’ and how can you believe everything you see?” McKenna shared with The New York Times last summer. “We had been toying with the idea that Mysterio would turn Spider-Man into a villain, just like he did in the comic books, and it felt like that then tied into this J. Jonah 2.0 as the Alex Jones of the MCU.”
The MCU has never shied away from embracing real-world politics for its fictional worlds, especially in films like Black Panther, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Captain America: Civil War, but having a surrogate for Jones in a film inadvertently serves as the glorification of such a person. The overall attitude and agendas between Jameson and Jones are absolutely aligned, so it's easy to see how the filmmakers would equate the two and they likely don't realize how much strife they're causing viewers. Were a person whose child died in one of these tragedies to seek escapism by seeing a new Spider-Man film, only to be subjected to watching a surrogate of the person who claims that no one even died in an orchestrated event, would cause more turmoil than it would be worth to serve as a parody of the recognizable and dangerous conspiracy theorist. Despite this portrayal aiming to be somewhat satirical in nature, it still humanizes him, to some degree, and softens the actual dangers he represents. The issue extends well beyond whether your beliefs align more with conservative or liberal values, as Jones has disrespected the deaths of victims from all walks of life.0comments
Given the talents of Simmons and the character's passionate following, both the actor and the fictional character deserve more than being equated to a hate-filled maniac who has been de-platformed by organizations which are the biggest proponents of free speech in the world, and audiences deserve more from the MCU, too.
Spider-Man 3 is set to land in theaters on November 5, 2021.