“Face it, tiger… You just hit the jackpot!” is a line so deeply associated with Mary Jane, it’s hard to imagine any other moment that’s as ingrained in people’s minds as this one.
The green-eyed, redhead girl next door is such an important mainstay of the Marvel Universe and yet, more than 45 years after her first appearance her character and role in the Marvel universe is slightly controversial. She lives a party and fun-loving lifestyle – Mary Jane’s initial appearances dealt a lot with her being a popular party girl in high school, and apparently that makes her emotionally vacant. Some people dislike her because they view her as a vain and selfish individual who is only interested in making her modelling and acting career a success.
But that is such an incomplete and narrow view of Mary Jane Watson’s character that it does no justice to the complexity, brightness and endurance that encapsulates her personality.
No moment shows her deep dedication to people is when after the death of Gwen Stacy, she goes to Peter Parker’s apartment to console him over the loss of a close mutual friend. But what does Peter do? He barks at her and accuses her of not genuinely caring. In spite of that, she stays to comfort him. She shows this compassion to all of her loved ones and the greatest thing about that is the fact that in real life, the love for partying and the love for people are qualities that can exist in the same person. In fact, this goes further than that. How many of us can say that they stuck by the people who have shunned them?
Mary Jane loves to have fun – but most of all she loves life and she loves living it. She’s worked as a model, an actress and a business entrepreneur running her own club. She hasn’t always been successful but dammit she loves acting and modelling and that passion touches everyone around her. Nonetheless, she’s also had to face many family issues – her father is woefully abusive, and has caused both her and her sister enormous amounts of pain in her life. Sometimes, she has problems dealing with her relationship with Peter!
It may be surprising to some people who are used to a more clandestine picture of their marriage, but the truth is far from it. Their marriage had many difficulties, ups and downs, twists and turns. At one point, Norman Osborn has such a negative influence manipulating their lives that she begs Peter to quit being Spider-Man for a while and he actually does so happily for a few months. This is Peter Parker we’re talking about – that guy can never quit being Spider-Man – but because of the strength of their relationship he did it.
The emotional, physical and mental strain of her relationship with Peter Parker/Spider-Man would sometimes force her to “take a break” and focus on other pursuits. The most striking moment I can recall is when Mary Jane Watson was kidnapped and held captive for several months and even when she was finally reunited with Peter, she needed time away. She moved to Los Angeles and became engrossed in her work as an actress. That’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that the person we are seeing here is just a normal person like us. Mary Jane Watson could be any one of us. Haven’t we all had periods in our lives when family, friends, work, or school put so much of a strain on our well-being that we just had to take a break and focus on ourselves for a while?
Being married to a superhero isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. But the ups and downs of her personal life make her appreciate the value of life itself; it shows her just how easily things can get screwed up if you let them. For Mary Jane, she knows that if you just relax and keep on living, things will get better because the bad moments are always followed by happier ones. Her and Peter have even separated at times, but they would always find a way to overcome the complications.
Speaking of Peter Parker, she also figured out that he was Spider-Man very early on. She confronts him about it and they come to an understanding. Like adults! I cannot tell you how amazing it is for a relationship built on trust to development this way in a comic book.
Mary Jane is someone who has a rich wealth of life experience – she knows what pain feels like and she knows what happiness feels like – but most importantly she knows that it’s the support that you give and take that gets you through it all. Her undying love for life is her greatest human quality because she inspires people to live their lives to the fullest and love every moment of it. But most of all, she is one of the most realistic characters in comics. Who can say that they haven’t dealt with some of the same problems Mary Jane faced? Or that they need time away from their complicated life?
Why do I love Mary Jane? Because she has so much to teach me about life and about living.