Spider-Man Becomes the Latest Big Movie to Adopt a Social Cause

Sony is encouraging Spider-Man fans to make a difference by volunteering. Cheap promotional stunt? I appears not.

Last summer Spider-Man got a makeover in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, morphing the character from the traditional Peter Parker we all know into half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales, a teen whose family was trying to get him into a charter school. While the latest Spidey film, Sony's upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, takes us back to the Peter Parker era, the studio took a new-school approach to the character's heroism through Tuesday's "Be Amazing, Stand Up and Volunteer" day of service.

Indeed, encouraging moviegoers to make a difference seems to be an emerging film promotion trend. Last spring the release of the Hunger Games was tied to a campaign with World Food Programme and Feeding America to raise awareness about hunger around the world. The campaign asked moviegoers to be a part of solving the problem by making a monetary donation. However, actually getting out there and doing something in your community makes social change a lot more personal.

To that end, Sony partnered with the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. to bring people together to work on a variety of service projects. In Los Angeles, four out of five projects benefited schools and their surrounding communities. In the low-income, majority Latino community of Boyle Heights, 85 volunteers came out to pick up trash, pull weeds, sweep sidewalks, and clean alleys around the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center, which helps 13-to-22-year-olds through both an alternative high tech high school and programs to boost their the learning, employment, and career opportunities in technology-related fields.

Joe Diaz, the center’s coordinator of multimedia says many of the volunteers who came to help are from the neighborhood and have either accessed the center's resources or have family who have done so. Youth in the neighborhood hear the same messages Diaz heard growing up in the community: it's too dangerous to be out on certain streets and participating in service projects will ruin your street cred. That made it doubly inspiring, says Diaz, to see students "taking charge, being the team captains," and "being able to be out sweeping the alleyways, getting involved and cleaning their own neighborhood."

And although it's tempting to see the volunteer day as simply part of a promotional scheme for a movie, Diaz says he views the day "as a longer term opportunity for the kids to be involved in something positive." Once they "get that good feeling from making their community better," he says, "they'll want more of it." The studio's support simply made running a community cleanup easier, Diaz says, since they paid for lunch for the volunteers. However, when a studio rep came by there was no hard sell for the kids to go see the film. The rep, "never even talked about the movie," says Diaz. "He just thanked the kids for coming out."

Diaz believes it would "be a win-win" if more studios promoted their films through service days and worked to build relationships with schools and communities. "Don't get me wrong, I love red carpet premieres," says Diaz, "but the memories of service go a lot further."

Photo courtesy of The Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center


October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less