Spider-Man No Way Home: Why Unsubtitled Tagalog Matters

Editor’s Note: The following article contains major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Path Home.Waiting for Spider-Man: No Path Home rivaled that of one of the Avengers movies, and the box office says the same. No way home is the first film to join the global billion dollar club since the start of the pandemic, joining its larger MCU counterparts. The buzz surrounding the film started even before its own marketing campaign, as rumors surrounding No way home started as soon as the credits at Far from home, the previous MCU Spider-Man movie, has ended. With Quentin Beck alias Mysterio (Jake gyllenhaal) using the multiverse as part of its fabricated backstory, enthusiastic fans quickly speculated that more Spider-Man heroes and villains could enter the MCU. With Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse as an introduction for audiences to get used to the concept of the multiverse – which the Oscar-winning film explained and successfully set up – it was only a matter of time before the MCU got involved in the concept in live-action.


Now with No way home confirming so much fan speculation while living up to the hype, the Multiverse has fully arrived in the MCU with Spider-Man’s greatest foes arriving from their respective cinematic universes – notably, Alfred Molinait’s Doc Ock, Jaime Foxx‘s Electro, and Willem Dafoeis the Green Goblin. Some familiar heroes also make appearances, not only of Sam raimi‘sand Marc Webbof films, but also of the Netflix universe of Marvel. With all these characters, No way home manages to juggle the impossible, but the fans were more than satisfied and rewarded. But a specific element of No way home particularly resonated with Filipino fans.

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In one of the most important scenes of the film, halfway through the film, that of Peter Parker (Tom holland) best friends Ned (Jacob Battalion) and MJ (Zendaya) desperately want to get in touch with Peter, who has just suffered the loss of his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) at the hands of Dafoe’s goblin. They are hiding with Ned, where his grandmother (Marie rivera) takes care of them. While Ned laments that he doesn’t have a way to contact Peter, he plays with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) slingshot ring, evoking a portal where a costumed Peter appears. After Ned and MJ call him out, Spider-Man runs towards them, through the portal and into the dining room. But as some impatient fans may notice, her costume has a slightly different design.

When he takes off his mask, he reveals that he is in fact Peter Parker, but from a whole different universe. It is played by Andrew Garfield from The Amazing Spider-Man films from 2012 and 2014. In order to prove his identity, Peter de Garfield hangs a hand from the ceiling. Not satisfied, MJ tells him to crawl. Ned’s Lola intervenes, asking her to clean up a spider’s web in the corner she has never been able to reach. When Ned conjures up another portal, this time to another Spider-Man, that of Tobey McGuire‘s Peter Parker from 2002 to 2007, he is greeted with a welcoming smile from Ned’s Lola. Once Garfield and McGuire figure out what happened and how they, along with Ned and MJ are to find and help their own Peter, Lola complains about the mess they made and brought into the living room from outside. , then notices she goes to bed, fed up with Spidey hijinks.

What is remarkable and unexpected about this scene is the way that Lola de Ned speaks completely in Tagalog while Ned not only converses with her but also acts as a translator, like when she asks Spider-Man to Garfield to clean up the web. Additionally, aside from Ned’s brief translations, Tagalog does not come with subtitles, so only those who understand Tagalog would capture part of Mary Rivera’s comedic performance. In both of my screenings, I laughed alongside other Filipinos who were amused by the Lola de Ned while everyone in the theater wondered what was going on.

Image via Sony

Even the simple detail that Ned calls her “Lola,” the Tagalog word for grandma, is a performing moment Filipinos rarely see on the big screen. Much like the use of Mandarin Chinese in the introduction to the origin story of Tony leungis Wenwu in Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings, the use of Tagalog in No way home is rooted in character. Ned Leeds, played by an American actor of Filipino descent in Jacob Batalon, is Filipino. So why wouldn’t he be in conversation with his grandmother in Tagalog? Especially in Queens, which has its own Filipino neighborhood in ‘Little Manila’. The use of Tagalog is a testament to Jon Watts’ understanding of Ned and New York society.

No way homeThe use of Tagalog by is part of the recent trend of MCU movies that use foreign and non-traditional languages. In addition to the use of Mandarin in Shang-Chi, an integral linguistic and cultural element of Marvel’s Master of Kung-Fu played by Simu liu, Eternals also uses Spanish, Ancient Babylonian, and American Sign Language. This is a significant step forward from Marvel’s previous inclusion of Tagalog – in the Disney + series Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Shanti DopeThe Tagalog rap song “Amatz” is featured in the background when Sam Wilson (Anthony mackie), Bucky Barnes (Sebastien stan) and Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) arrive in the fictional nation of Madripoor. Tagalog should not be an interchangeable language for a fictitious “Asian” place.

Instead, it should come straight from the authenticity of the character and the actor. In No way home, it is logical that Ned de Batalon and his grandmother converse in Tagalog. This is akin to the authenticity presented in the West Side Story in which Steven spielberg pushed for a Latinx casting and also used unsubtitled Spanish. And while some audiences may complain about the lack of captions, their absence conveys an authenticity that feels like real life. No one is walking around with subtitles displayed while they speak, even in English. Representation goes beyond appearances, for languages ​​are just as diverse as appearances.

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James C. Tibbs