I think everyone has to agree that, from the original Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, the third film is probably the worst. Oh, it’s still entertaining as all hell; I’ll even say I prefer it over the ones starring Andrew Garfield. No offense to anyone that likes that version of Spider-Man. I just like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy of films because, despite it coming off as incredibly cheesy by today’s standards, they’re still really fun movies that have a distinct cartoony and comic book tone to them.
One of the things I didn’t like in Spider-Man 3 when I first saw it was the scene when the Venom symbiote started to influence Spider-Man into being much more ruthless, in turn making Peter Parker becoming much more of a jerk. This version of Peter Parker became known as Emo Peter Parker for obvious reasons.
I just hated Emo Peter Parker because of, well, how douche-y he was acting. He was basically acting all cool, hitting on the girls he passed by, dancing on the street and simply being a clear jerk to everyone.
That was then.
As the years have passed and, thanks to an Internet meme, Emo Peter Parker became more widely known as Bully Maguire, I’ve come to appreciate the scene a whole lot more. Initially, I started to like it just because of how silly it was. I liked it because of how cheesy it all was. But, as even more time has passed, I’ve now grown to really like the Bully Maguire scene. Not because of how silly it is but because of how it actually works within the confines of Sam Raimi’s trilogy featuring the Wall-Crawler and how it does show a little bit more of Tobey Maguire’s take on Peter Parker.
To kind of summarize why I now see how Bully Maguire fits incredibly well with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, I guess we have to delve a little deeper into Sam Raimi’s direction of the character. His version of Peter Parker does basically follow the blueprint of how he was in the original Marvel comics. He was a smart but introverted teen who just so happened to get bitten by a radioactive spider, gets spider-like powers, his uncle dies because he failed to stop a man earlier in the day, learns that with great power comes great responsibility and he uses his newfound powers to fight crime and help the helpless. We all know the story by now, don’t we?
The only real difference is how dorky they made Peter Parker. To be fair, the Marvel comics version of Peter Parker was a nerd, to be sure. He would dote over his Aunt May and the like. However, he was still sociable and had friends. As a matter of fact, Marvel comics version of Peter Parker had a very active social life.
In the Sam Raimi movies, they certainly downplayed this and this version of Peter Parker was definitely more dorky and lacked a lot of the social acumen the comics version had. He only had one close friend, Harry Osborne, and, if you really look into it, he didn’t even get close to Mary Jane until high school, despite the two of them living next door from each other. The only other people he seemed to have a relationship with was his teacher, Dr. Curt Conners and Betty Brant. I’ll also include Ursula, the daughter of his landlord. But Aunt May doesn’t count, okay?
This is a far cry from Peter Parker’s cavalcade of friends. Not only did he have the aforementioned Harry Osborne, Mary Jane Watson, Curt Conners and Betty Brant, Peter also was close to people like Gwen Stacy, Ned Leeds, Debra Whitman, Flash Thompson, Sha Shan Nguyen, Glory Grant, Cissy Ironwood and Randy Robertson, to name a few. These are just a few of Peter Parker’s friends from the Spider-Man comics. I’m not even including his relationships with the other Marvel superheroes here. So, you can see, the Marvel comics version of Peter Parker, despite him supposed to be portrayed as a “loser” has at least some social skills.
So, it does reason that Sam Raimi’s take on Peter Parker was to really push the “loser” identity on the character. With that in mind, it would be safe to assume that this version of Peter Parker doesn’t really know how to act “cool” with other people. He may think he has an understanding of what being “cool” is but, in actuality, he doesn’t.
This is where Bully Maguire enters the picture.
Without his regular inhibitions to keep himself in check and the symbiote unleashing his darker side, Bully Maguire is what this version of Peter Parker thinks is cool. I mean, what he’s doing is supposed to be cool. Strutting down the street is supposed to be cool. Not caring about what your teacher is saying is supposed to be cool. Hitting on women without worried about being shot down is supposed to be cool. Standing up for yourself is supposed to be cool.
So, isn’t Peter Parker supposed to be cool when he does all of these things? He’s doing everything right… but it’s just doesn’t work out because it doesn’t come off as cool.
In fact, in the commentary track of Spider-Man 3, the cast just laughs at how geeky the moves are and Tobey Maguire recalls Sam Raimi telling him to “tone down the cool” because, simply put, it’s not supposed to be cool.
Bully Maguire is supposed to be a douche. This is someone who’s trying to emulate who’s cool but doesn’t really get how to act cool. You’re supposed to dislike him and be disgusted with what he’s doing because what he’s doing is unlikable and disgusting! Once I understood that, it just clicked. The scenes that I originally hated became a highlight for me.
Of course, I can still enjoy it for being the fountain of memes it became. I can still like it ironically because of how bad and silly it all looks. However, now that I understand why Bully Maguire acts this way, this does add a whole other layer to this version of Peter Parker that shows that this is more than just Tobey Maguire acting like a big ol’ douche.
What’s your take on Emo Peter Parker/Bully Maguire? Do you prefer calling him Emo Peter Parker or Bully Maguire? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
2 thoughts on “Spider-Man’s Bully Maguire Scene is Good… Unironically”
I’ll admit, I thought the scene with Bully Maguire was a little silly and over the top but I did enjoy it. You do actually make a good point about how this is what Peter thinks is cool rather than him actually being cool.
I’m a diehard Raimi Spider-Man fan and I’ve always thought this! Thank you for writing it! I always thought it was a really interesting choice to have Peter behave SO unsympathetically in a Spider-Man film.
I actually wrote an article once (years ago) that included a deep dive into this scene and what it says about Peter’s relationships with women, let me know if you ever wanna see it!