14 Times “Spider-Man: NWH” Addressed Mental Health

Initially, I was worried about how the film would portray the villains and their mental illnesses, but I was blown away by how compassionate Peter was toward his adversaries when I finally saw it.

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The film shows Peter encountering villains from across the multiverse, but instead of just sending them home to die, he tries to cure them of their powers with the hope to give them a second chance at life. It’s a sympathetic and inspiring move on Marvel’s part, so in the spirit of self-care, let’s all look at the 13 Times Spider-Man: No Way Home addressed mental health.



The Superpowers

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The villains’ powers in the film seem to act as metaphors for mental illness, with Norman and Otto’s powers being directly linked to their psychology. Also, the term “cure” is thrown around to describe getting rid of their powers, making them sound more medical. Though it’s not as easy dealing with mental illness in the real world as in the film, No Way Home still encourages its audience to show more empathy towards people living with it.


Norman at FEAST

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Mental illness is commonly (but not completely accurately) associated with people experiencing homelessness, and the film uses its displaced villains to address this issue. For example, when Norman Osborn shows up at Aunt May’s shelter right off the streets, we see how lost and confused he is as he asks for help. He tearfully expresses how he has nowhere else to go, has no family, and struggles to control his split personality. This is arguably Osborn at his most sympathetic, and the fact that May encourages Peter to help him shows how much of a philanthropist she really is.


“You Are Amazing”

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When all three Peters talk about the weirdest villains they’ve ever faced, Peter-Three calls himself “lame” for lacking a cool rogues gallery. In an obvious easter egg moment, Peter-Two argues against this and calls him “amazing,” urging him to say that he is. This is an endearing moment that shows Peter-Three starting to overcome his low self-esteem, and we should all be able to see how amazing we truly are.


Norman and the Goblin

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Norman Osborn’s most notable trait, aside from his green costume and glider, is his evil split personality. While this depiction of DID is a problematic product of its time, No Way Home at least shows that Norman is trying to rid himself of his dark half instead of succumbing to it, as symbolized by how he destroys his Goblin mask. Though the Goblin claims that Norman is hiding from who he truly is, the latter remains strong and refuses to let his disorder control who he is.


Otto Returns

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After creating a new inhibitor chip for Doc Ock’s tentacles, Peter attaches it to him, and Otto finally regains control over himself. With his tentacles no longer speaking to him in his head, Otto turns back into the kind and gentle man he once was, proving Peter’s point that even the worst villains can have a second chance with proper help.


The Villains’ Gifts

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When Norman’s Goblin persona re-emerges, he tells Peter that he and his fellow supervillains don’t need to be changed and that their powers are gifts. You’d rarely find yourself agreeing with the Green Goblin, but it actually encourages a more positive view of oneself and any personal conditions. However, the fact that these villains irresponsibly use their powers for evil makes them a curse to everyone else.


Peter Helps Electro

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After Electro loses his powers, Andrew Garfield’s Peter speaks to the fallen villain, who laments turning back into a “nobody.” Peter argues that he was never that, and he helps his adversary back up in a touching display of compassion. All Max ever wanted was for someone to notice him and be his friend, and it’s heartwarming to see Peter reach out to him and give him the love he wanted for so long.


Peter Battles Strange

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When Peter learns most of the villains die in their universes, he decides to prevent Strange from sending them back to their worlds and their doom. Peter argues that they can give their villains a second chance at life, while Strange maintains that they can’t change their fates any more than they can change who they are.

It’s the classic argument over executing criminals instead of giving them the help they need to live happy, healthy lives. The American justice system has a stigma against those with mental illness, but if we think like Spider-Man and work on providing care and therapy for them instead, we could succeed in reducing recidivism and executions.


Peter’s Tragedy

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After the Green Goblin murders Peter’s Aunt May, our hero reaches the lowest point in his entire life. We can see the pain and sorrow in Peter’s eyes as J. Jonah Jameson blames him for May’s death, which rings more true as he blames himself for bringing the Goblin to his world. Pain and suffering have always been associated with Spider-Man ever since he blamed himself for Uncle Ben’s death, but we have never seen him hurt quite like this. There’s only so much great responsibility that one person can carry.


Peter Gives Up

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After Peter loses his Aunt May, he is left so depressed, that he is ready to send the villains back to their universes to die, saying that it’s “not [his] problem.” With this line, he sounds like Tobey’s Peter did when he let Uncle Ben’s killer run free, showing how he’s given up being the hero May believed in, thinking that she died for nothing. Losing a loved one can really strike a blow to one’s well-being, but the loss that Peter suffered in this film nearly made him lose all hope in general, showing how depression can take down even the mightiest of heroes.


Peter-Three Lost Gwen

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When Peter finally meets his two variants face-to-face, the latter share the pain they felt when they lost someone they loved. Andrew Garfield’s Peter recounts the agony of losing Gwen Stacy and how he tried to keep fighting as Spider-Man for her. However, he says he also became bitter and more aggressive, which caused his crimefighting persona to consume his life. This is a prime example of how trauma dominates someone’s life, and it’s a shame that this is what this Peter had to go through since we left him in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.


Remembering Uncle Ben

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Just as Peter-Three remembers the death of Gwen Stacy, Peter-Two recalls the night his Uncle Ben was murdered. He talks about how he wanted to kill the man he thought was responsible, but when he got what he wanted, he didn’t feel any better. This Peter shows that revenge isn’t a healthy thing to pursue in life, and he keeps Peter-One from getting revenge on Osborn and going too far at the end of the film.


Peter-Three Saves MJ

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After the Green Goblin shows up and bombs the Statue of Liberty, MJ nearly falls to her death in a repeat of Gwen Stacy’s death. Thankfully, she is saved by Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, and the tears of joy he sheds displaying how the weight of Gwen’s death lifted off his shoulders. Though he can never bring her back, this Peter was able to heal and alleviate some of the guilt he carried for so long by saving MJ, giving his variant a chance at love that he lost long ago.


Peter Pushes Forward

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After Peter saves the world and has everyone’s memory of him erased, we find him living in the city by himself. Peter shouldn’t have to live sad and alone like this, but he thing to do so to protect his loved ones. Though it seems like he’s given up on being happy, after talking with Happy at May’s grave, Peter is inspired to keep protecting the city as Spider-Man, realizing that everything she stood for did not die with her. Peter may never get over May’s death, but the least he can do is live on and keep fighting.

Do you agree with this list? Were there any other moments that I missed? Please let me know in the comments section below. And remember, if you or someone you know is having a hard time with their mental health, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Even heroes like Spider-Man need help every now and then, and you can be a hero too just by reaching out. Remember what Aunt May said, “When you help someone, you help everyone.” Stay amazing!

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