*Warning Spoilers Ahead
Spider-Man: No Way Home broke records on its opening weekend with a debut earning of $587.2 Million worldwide, but now Jacob Batalon has helped get Fil-Am representation on the big screen. Jacob Batalon broke the stereotype as Ned Leeds, Spider-Man’s BFF, and the guy in the chair and gave the character a new perspective. Opposite from the physical description in the comics, Ned Leeds is a Fil-Am STEM high school student. In No Way Home, the audience gets to see more of Ned’s personal and relatable Fil-Am life.
*Again, Spoilers Ahead!
Early this year, rumors circulated that Disney/Marvel was casting for a “Filipino or Filipino-American female, 50 to 90 years old fluent in English.” Spider-Man: No Way Home was in production and now we finally have the answers! Mary Rivera was cast as Ned Leeds’ Lola!
Marvel and Director Jon Watts do a great job in adding important details that represent a Filipino household. The props from the sewing machine, the pandesal MJ’s holding, and a photo of Ned just tell us were in his neck of the woods. One of the coolest parts is how Tagalog was incorporated in the film! Lola didn’t need any subtitles. Ned translated for her when speaking to MJ and a couple of new BFFs. It showed the close relationship Ned has with his Lola. Many of us can relate to Ned and having translate for our grandparents to help them communicate.
We definitely called that Ned’s Lola would be as funny as he is and that she’ll be everyone’s Lola. Mary Rivera’s Lola wasn’t a small role either. She helped welcome the biggest storyline in the movie, introducing Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man and Tobey Maguire’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Just like many Lolas, she gets them to clean up the cobwebs on the ceiling and scolds the superheroes for making a mess. It’s one of the funniest scenes. Not only that, Marvel had everyone addressing her as Lola. Respect is a huge trait in the Filipino culture and the fact that everyone from Zendaya to Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s characters called her Lola instead of a first name shows how much thought Jon Watts and the crew put into it.
The small details of the scene may get overlooked because of the bigger storyline, but as a Fil-Am, it’s touching. It’s a huge win for all of us and another step towards more representation in media. Mary River was a great Lola, and Jacob Batalon broke barriers playing a main character like Ned. Lola may not have been in the scene with all three Spider-Mans, but it’s probably safe to say her favorite was the OG Peter Parker.
Representation matters. It’s important for the younger generation or any generation to see themselves in mainstream media. Jacob Batalon and Mary Rivera showed what a Filipino apo (grandchild) and Lola’s relationship looks like to people around the world. Something we know well is now portrayed in one of the biggest films this year.
If you’ve read this far and haven’t seen the film, run to your closest cinema and watch it! If you’ve already seen it, time to go watch the film again!
Cover Photo Credit: Spider-Man: No Way Home Twitter