There are a lot of good cutscenes in the PS4’s new Spider-Man game. My favourite one was all about a text message conversation.
Around halfway through the main story, there’s an act break. Spider-Man has caught Mister Negative, a.k.a. Martin Li, and in the process reconnected with his sort-of-ex-girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. In this Spider-Man timeline, MJ knows Peter’s secret identity. In fact, the challenges of his superheroic second life contributed to their breakup. Now a reporter for the Daily Bugle, MJ has been chasing down the same investigation as Peter, and the two have been pooling information. Together, they just might be able to stop Mister Negative and save New York. Unfortunately (or, ultimately, fortunately), working together has resurfaced their familiar relationship issues.
Given that Peter’s constantly squaring off against supervillains and their murderous plots, he feels protective of the non-superpowered people in his life, particularly MJ. Mary Jane, however, understandably wants Peter to see her as a partner, and not someone who needs constant protection. She knows she could help more than she does, if only he’d let her. I could imagine a good Ask Dr. Nerdlove letter from either one of them, and the Doc would likely respond with some version of “you both clearly care about one another, so use your words.”
It all comes to a head when Peter’s protectiveness causes him to misread a situation MJ had under control, costing both of them access to an informant with crucial information that could’ve helped them stop Negative’s plan sooner. With the villain finally locked away, Peter tries to call MJ to see if he can smooth things over, but he goes straight to voicemail. Immediately after he leaves a message, he receives a text... from MJ. What follows is an extremely relatable text message conversation, which you can watch here:
If you’ve ever had a strained, subtext-laden text conversation with a significant other or ex, you can probably relate to every part of that exchange. It’s got all the hits: Sentences that don’t end with periods… except for the more emphatic ones that do. Ambiguous language that leads to a misunderstanding but, eventually, allows both people to say what they’re actually thinking. Even the pacing is perfect, with fast follow-up texts stumbling over the heels of their predecessors. The only thing that’s missing is an awkward autocorrect interjection.
Here’s a transcript:
MJ: Not rdy to talk yet
Peter: It’s over, btw
MJ: Over? OK fine
Peter: I meant Li.
Peter: I beat him
Peter: Do you want it to be “over”?
MJ: But maybe it should be
MJ: Need some time to figure some things out
Peter: Sure. Me too.
MJ think we both had different ideas about this ‘partner’ thing
MJ: I need to do some work, i’ll call you tomorrow
We see the whole exchange from Peter’s point of view, so we get his reactions to MJ’s texts as he casually flips and flings himself about Manhattan. We hear the panic in his voice when he realises he might have just accidentally ended things, and sense his anxiety about asking her if she actually does want that. We hear his cautious excitement to learn that she doesn’t, his ongoing lack of understanding regarding what she wants from him. When she types that she needs some time to figure things out, he exclaims his exasperation, but dutifully replies, “Sure. Me too.”
I loved this scene for all of the same reasons I’ve more generally liked how Spider-Man depicts Peter and MJ’s relationship. It’s subtle, relatable, above all believable. It doesn’t feel like a text convo between two fictional characters; it feels like an exchange any of us non-superheroes could have had.