If you do not read Amazing or Superior Spider-Man comics, then you are likely unaware of Peter Parker’s death and his body’s continuation. Here is a quick summary! Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock) was dying and he switched bodies with Parker. Full on Freaky Friday, except for Do. Ock knowing exactly what is happening. And, you know, Parker figuring it out and trying to reverse it with science. To make it short and not so sweet, Doc Ock becomes Superior Spider-Man and makes a lot of changes to Spider-Man’s methods.
So, what do I have to say about this change. First, I am enjoying it. Second, I hope it is over soon. Doc Ock is a terrible Spider-Man. Many of the things that made Peter Parker so great are just gone. The quips fail, assuming they are attempted at all. He is a dick and far too confident. He is also quickly falling back into his villainous patterns.
Other than my interest in this story-line and how it relates to Parker, Spider-Man, Doc Ock and the relationship between these characters, the change can lead to some interesting questions. Mainly, how closely linked is the physical body to the mind?
Doc Ock fully takes over Parker’s body, although he has to eventually expunge Parker’s memories or risk the personality reasserting itself. Doc Ock’s personality is only minimally affected by Parker’s memories and his actions are still very clearly those of Doctor Octopus. He tries to be a hero, but the megalomania and selfishness that made him a villain starts to slowly assert itself. The ease of this change and how intact Doc Ock’s personality remains indicates a ranking of the personality (or soul, maybe) as more important than the physical form.
This swap is from a male body to a male body. How might it differ, then, if it were between a male body and a female body? Would the personalities have the same smooth transition or would there be personality hiccups blamed on biology/hormones/etc.? Would the implication be more cultural or physical?
I think that the answer in terms of what would likely happen in the story line is pretty straightforward. There would be a lot of gender mismatch jokes, although whether or not it would take a cultural or biological angle is really going to depend on the creative team.
What I find more interesting, however, is what this might mean in a real world swap. Of course, this is a massively complicated question that is really a lot of other questions stuck together. What portion of our personalities and actions are based on nature or nurture? How would this swap even work and how would the new brain adjust to the transplanted personality? How quickly would someone adjust to these new social expectations?
In the end, though, I think that the smoothness of this transition indicates that we consider the personality separate from the body. I see this idea as positive. If people can see that a personality is not indicated by the body (its appearance, genitalia, attractiveness, etc.), then people will have an easier time accepting others, for example various members of the queer community, for what they actually are and not what they appear to be.
These questions may have been in the writers’ minds, but I doubt it. They are, I will admit, a bit of a stretch from the story. However, I think that a lack of considering them makes the resulting implications all the stronger. The structures which make up cultures are rarely ever built consciously. Many of the results of these structures are often not the goals. Therefore, if an unconscious gap or positive is present, then all the better. Having structures change unconsciously, likely means more effective and solid structures.
Seriously, though, they need to bring Peter back, because I am sick of Doc Ock’s B.S.