Finally, the image of MJ over the years has largely been sexualized, but has also propagated other stereotypical perceptions about women.
MJ as a multinational icon – USA
MJ was created by american writer Stan Lee and designed her image to reflect that of the ideal american woman. Her first television appearance in the 1969 cartoon, Spider-Man, she was an aspiring actress who had difficulty finding a job in the various production agencies. She was finally hired for her first job as a journal photographer when head director of the Daily Bugle saw her one evening in her cocktail dress.
This was the first highly sexualized depiction of MJ and has been the most popular rendition of the character to date, setting the bar for the future MJ’s to come. In 2001, she was depicted in the House of M comic book series, where she was a world-famous actress who has succeeded in the film business and plays in several blockbuster movies alongside Spider-Man.
Her design in this series represents a highly plasticized representation of MJ, depicting her with features very similar to images of women who have undergone plastic surgery. In 2002, MJ was played by actress Kirsten Dunst in the movie adaptation of the popular comic book series.
Spider-Man, 2002: MJ is depicted in a wet shirt.
Spider-Man 2, 2004: MJ is depicted, again in a wet shirt and this time in bondage.
The screen captures from the movies above also indicate that the MJ created for the silver screen was made for a more mature audience, taking the liberty to revealing more intimate aspects of her in a more “adult” setting. The movies were rated PG-13, whereas the comics were meant to be appropriate for all, and thus the directors were able to heighten the objectivity of her womanhood.
In the MC2 universe, MJ is depicted as a widower to her dead husband Peter Parker, and is left alone to raise their daughter. In this timeline, MJ is a fashion designer and runs an underground merchandising business to sustain the necessary living conditions for her daugter, implying that she needed to resort to illegal acts to be able to provide sans the father of the children.
Most recently, MJ appears as the lead female role in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, as a high school girl with attitude. Her career interest in this series is to become a “caring teacher” or a journalist, two very typical female professions propagated by androcentric ideals.
Overall, the image of MJ has been consistent over the years and does not reflect the progress that Western society has made in altering the perception of women’s image over the last 50 years. This is especially worrisome as the target audience for these comics, shows and movies, is mostly pre-teen and teenage boys and girls.
MJ as a multinational icon – India
Meera Jain, the Indian equivalent of MJ plays the role of the love interest in the India created Spider-Man series, Spider-Man India. In this version of the superhero universe, MJ is a popular high school student who wins the affections of the boys around her with the help of her looks.
MJ as a multinational icon – Japan
In Japan, MJ appeared in the mangaverse edition of Spider-Man, as Spider-Girl, depicting one of only three occasions where she has superpowers. Her manga representation is typical to that of Japanese Anime in the sense that she is highly sexualized and dawns a costume more revealing than concealing.
She also appeared as Hitomi in the Japanese live-action television rendition of Spider-Man, where she was known for being the ditsy girl in school who had a crush on the main character, Takuya.
MJ as a lesbian icon
Arguably the most controversial depiction of MJ came in the Exiles series, where MJ was Spider-Girl in a universe where Spider-Man never existed. Here she was shown as a lesbian and was designed to feature all the “butch lesbian” stereotypes: short hair, muscular, masculine features, etc. In this series, MJ is often seen in “bedroom” scenes with her significant other and with a very heavy emphasis on her romantic relationship rather than her crime-fighting abilities.
Other fan-created depictions
Aside from the official representations of Mary Jane, lots of fan art has been created to depict MJ. These represent the image that the creators of MJ have left with their audience over the years of personification and reflects the impression that readers and viewers have of MJ. The reason why I chose to express the representations of MJ in Fanart is because they are up the individual artist to render her however they wish, reifying her as a representation that is normally created for the audience.