72

In the Sam Raimi movie series, Peter Parker was a loser, at least in the financial sense, as a photographer who even needed some financial help from his aunt after graduation. He should be financially supporting his aged aunt and not the other way round. He was a boomerang kid who burdened his aged family which was a shame as a super-hero.

Since he was a gifted science student, he could easily have found a high-paying job in some high-tech area like Silicon Valley. Why didn't he get a better job? Furthermore, he could easily earn big bucks with his super-powers as Spider-Man.

How did he end up as a poor photographer?

  • 62
    Any super hero got their priorities "wrong". If they got their priorities right according to you, they would turn into a super villain. – mathreadler Sep 2 '17 at 9:18
  • 17
    “He should be financially supporting his aged Aunt and not the other way round.” Judgey McJudgerson. “He was a boomerang kid” I believe that refers to a child who moves out of the family home, then moves back in. Peter never did that. – Paul D. Waite Sep 2 '17 at 9:45
  • 21
    There's plenty of tech jobs in NYC, no need to even move. – Shamshiel Sep 2 '17 at 11:48
  • 35
    Remind us just how many streets lined with skyscrapers there are in Silicon Valley. If you use webs to get around, you need to be in a city with many tall buildings. – Mike Scott Sep 2 '17 at 15:01
  • 13
    Silicon Valley had enough "web" spinners, and NYC needed his version of the web more. – Gypsy Spellweaver Sep 3 '17 at 3:49
156

Furthermore, he could easily earn big bucks with his super-powers as Spiderman. How did he end up as a poor photographer?

Peter Parker tried earning money as Spider-Man. While being rooked out of his earnings, he let a thief steal money from the person who cheated him. That thief later killed his uncle Ben.

He was so traumatized by that, that he swore to use his powers only to help people and not for personal gain. He spends most of his free time as Spider-Man, doing heroic things. He doesn't have time left for a real job. Instead, he takes pictures of himself as Spider-Man and sells them to J. Jonah Jameson's newspaper. Since he is Spider-Man, this is easier for him than it would be for another photographer. But he still gets paid as other photographers would.

For the amount of effort he puts into his job, he gets paid well. He just doesn't put much effort into it. So he's always broke. And he can't really put in more effort, as there's only so much of a market for Spider-Man pictures. And that's the only kind of photography that he's efficient at doing. For most other tasks, he has few advantages over other photographers.

It is of course quite possible that he could both make more money and do more good as a scientist or engineer than as a super hero. But his own hangups won't let him do that. He still feels guilty about his uncle's death. He concentrates on directly preventing crime and death rather than indirectly preventing death through scientific achievement.

If that doesn't satisfy you, then it's a plot hole. That is the proposed reason why he works as a photographer rather than a scientist or engineer.

  • 3
    Upvoted your answer. It's a good explanation. I view Peter Parker's financial condition as a weakness in Peter Parker's character. I will even argue he got his priorities wrong. His first duty as a decent normal person is to his loved ones who suffered hard to raise him up. Instead, he became a boomerang kid despite his super-powers and gifts as a scientist/engineer. What's the point of being a super-hero with inspirational slogans like "With great powers come great responsibilities" when he is shirking his basic duty as a "son" to look after his aged aunt who raised him up? – user486818 Sep 2 '17 at 3:47
  • 13
    @user486818 I don't think Peter Parker is neglecting his aunt at all, they always seem to care a lot about each other. Plus, he seems like a good kid, even if you aren't aware he's Spiderman. I wouldn't mind having him as a son. – Erik Sep 2 '17 at 8:21
  • 33
    @user486818 From your comments, I’d guess you’re from either China or Japan. There are huge differences in how notions like filiopiety and financial success are viewed in Chinese and Japanese culture and how they’re viewed in Western (especially American) cultures. Peter Parker does not in any way ‘neglect’ any ‘duties’ he has towards his aunt in Western eyes—quite the contrary. In the circumstances, he’s a very good and helpful nephew/son. If he had done what you suggest he should do, however, he would be severely neglecting his responsibilities to the world. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 2 '17 at 10:53
  • 10
    "For most other tasks, he has few advantages over other photographers." He can get tons of angles other photographers could only hope to get with highly expensive equipment. He'd probably do great as a paparazzi (not that he'd want to, of course). – JAB Sep 2 '17 at 23:57
  • 12
    @user486818 He is not a boomerang kid, he never left home. Also, as Janus Bahs Jacquet said, in the culture he supposed to be a part of, he has no duty of supporting his parents. In this culture, it is their duty to save enough in retirement to support themselves, or hire a nurse/go to assisted living. Some people will support their parents instead, but this is above and beyond their duty. Although I would say that the fact that he is living with her instead of going out on his own is a sign that he IS trying to take care of her, and is not merely for lack of money. – user88476 Sep 3 '17 at 16:30
50

Not everyone is as money oriented as you seem to be. So long as you have enough to live on then why would you want to be a billionaire? Big mansions and shiny cars are all well and good but you just end up paying more money to maintain them. Note also that most tech people & scientists do not end up vastly wealthy. You get good money, but unless you are both skilled and lucky you don't end up as the next Bruce Wayne.

His primary mission is being Spider-Man, that's what he wants to do. The freelance photographer gig is perfect for that as it has no fixed schedule. Imagine he was working in Silicon Valley as a programmer where you're expected to be at your desk 9->5.

What does he do when some bridge is collapsing, or a robbery taking place during his working days? Do you not think people might notice that he kept missing a meeting every time Spider-Man showed up somewhere?

His aunt may not be rich but she also seems to be living comfortably, so why would she care that he's not a billionaire? So long as he is happy and fulfilled then that is enough for her.

  • 1
    Definitely sounds plausible, especially given the incredibly high cost of living in and around Silicon Valley. – Darren Ringer Sep 3 '17 at 20:07
  • 6
    Minor quibble -- many programmers in Silicon Valley have flexible hours. But we are still expected to put a lot of time and energy into our work, which is not compatible with the superhero gig. In fact I believe there is a sequence in Spiderman 2 showing how Peter's college work improves significantly when he (temporarily) stops being a superhero, because he is now putting time and effort into the science. – Charles Staats Sep 4 '17 at 16:40
  • @CharlesStaats My hours (I'm a programmer in London) are also fairly flexible. There are still a fair number of meetings I need to attend etc though. If I started regularly missing meetings at random that would be an issue. – Tim B Sep 4 '17 at 17:01
  • For sure. IRL I know quite a number of highly trained/specialized people that don't work in those fields at all as they've landed in totally different industries (even though the pay may be MUCH lower) for a variety of reasons... – Brian Knoblauch Sep 5 '17 at 16:53
  • @TimB “regularly missing meetings at random” I chuckle; no offense. – can-ned_food Sep 5 '17 at 21:07
28

Because Peter Parker's background as a photographer was first established in 1962, a decade before Silicon Valley was even named as such, and subsequent updates and reboots have kept that aspect of the character.

  • 9
    It seems likely that it was possible to make money as a brilliant engineer before 1962.. – Brendan Long Sep 2 '17 at 16:03
  • @BrendanLong Indeed. Look into the story of HP; that happened in the 1930s and could be considered a forerunner of the current silicon valley model. – madscientist159 Sep 2 '17 at 21:39
  • 2
    @madscientist159 What got Harry Potter to do with this? He wasn't even born in the 30s... – Frank Hopkins Sep 4 '17 at 10:20
  • 5
    @Darkwing Hewlett Packard. A relatively small electronics outfit from the 20th century.... (actually very large and very famous for calculators and test equipment!) – madscientist159 Sep 4 '17 at 11:37
  • 2
    There were a few comic book threads where pete tried on the scientist hat, working for Ozcorp and one run by kingpin. Of course those ended up in typical comic book fashion... – Chad Sep 5 '17 at 17:13
13

I think the answers proposed by Brythan and Tim B are true, but I also think it's important to note that a few years ago (in the comic books) Dr Octopus took over Peter's body and had very similar ideas. He started his own company and made a lot of money, which he used to improve his equipment and monitor crime all around New York City which helped him deal with it much more efficiently than Peter.

In many ways Octopus is shown really as a "superior" Spider-Man (as he calls himself). It is implied his arrogance eventually turned him into an inferior one, but I don't think his methods were really debunked (except for the part where he violates people's privacy, but that's a whole other issue and is not integral to the main ideas of the changes he made).

Peter just doesn't work that way. He can't keep a regular job with regular hours because whenever he's aware of trouble somewhere he will try to help the people involved, even if ignoring it might allow him to do something more "efficient". If you want to be cruel about it you could say this is because ignoring a problem occurring right now makes you feel more guilty and more immediately, while not being the best Spider-Man he possibly could be provides a more general sort of guilt which doesn't really motivate a change of behaviour.

My point is, it is definitely implied (in the comic books at least) that he could be a "superior" Spider-Man if he worked differently, but that he's just not up for it. I don't think this is a plot hole since (in my opinion) it is dealt with pretty well.

  • 4
    "I think the three answers proposed here are all true" Which three? There are now seven answers, including yours. It's always best to avoid writing that only makes sense if the reader sees the exact same screen as you. New answers are added over time, their ordering changes as the votes add up, and different users can select different answer orders anyway. – David Richerby Sep 4 '17 at 7:17
  • 1
    can you named that comic book? – user902383 Sep 4 '17 at 9:12
  • @DavidRicherby Yes, I guess that's true. In any case I mostly agreed with only two answers. – Wade Sep 4 '17 at 14:37
  • 1
    @user902383 which one? I think Octopus takes over Peter's body in issue 700 of The Amazing Spider-Man, and then his story is told in The Superior Spider-Man, and then Peter comes back in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 3. – Wade Sep 4 '17 at 14:38
10

The other thing to remember is that when Peter Parker becomes spider-man, he is only a high school student. Usually, if you want a job as a research scientist, that requires a PhD unless you are a total super-genius. And even then, you need the opportunity to demonstrate your brains to someone who would hire you, which a high school genius would be unlikely to get.

For many years of the Spider-man comics, Parker was a high school student, followed by college student (at Empire state U) followed by graduate student. Eventually by the 1980's comics, he had dropped out. But for a pretty long run of the comics, he was arguably on the path to becoming a research scientist, and supporting himself with his photography. His exploits as Spider-man basically prevented him from finishing grad school, which is difficult even if you don't have a secret double-life. A lot of people pursuing STEM PhD's fail to finish.

5

Do you have any idea how many "gifted (computer) science students" there are in Silicon Valley that aren't able to find a high paying job? Peter would've just been another bright kid in a sea of bright kids.

Having lived here my entire life, I can tell you that just being smart/gifted/etc. isn't nearly enough to give you much of an advantage over the massive competition you'll face trying to get in with any of the big tech companies around here. It's way more about knowing the right person at the right company, and being in the right place at the right time.

  • Maybe that is because you have lived there all your life. Does not make at all as good a story as "look what guys we managed to attract to move all the way over here". – mathreadler Sep 5 '17 at 8:48
  • Sure there's loads of transplants from all over the world too. But the OP was only asking about why Peter didn't just come here as if that would have meant an instant hugely lucrative career because he was bright. I'm just pointing out that purely based on intellect, I doubt he would have a lot of advantage here. – Jonathan van Clute Sep 5 '17 at 15:09
  • But then he wouldn't have become a hero, but a boring over-worked office squirrel. – mathreadler Sep 5 '17 at 18:07
  • Of course. But the question was asked so I answered. – Jonathan van Clute Sep 5 '17 at 19:49
5

You forget Peter's primary motivation.

Peter feels compelled to use his powers for good above all of his other personal wants and needs. This means dropping personal social obligations at a moment's notice, foregoing more profitable work, damaging romantic relationships and disappointing family, friends and mentors.

Peter needs to be able to pick up and leave at a moment's notice. That's not possible in a full-time job. It's certainly not possible in a junior scientist role in a lab (an option that has historically been an option for him). Working as a freelance photographer allows him the flexibility to be Spiderman. Being Spiderman coincidentally gives him the opportunity for exclusive photos of Spiderman in action. This balance allows him to make a living while fulfilling his obligation to use his powers for good.

All of this is motivated by the firm moral grounding Peter learned from uncle Ben. Peter's firm adherence to the requirements of that moral framework are his way of honoring Ben's memory and also an attempt to atone for Peter's feelings of guilt over the circumstances of uncle Ben's death.

4

The world was a different place in the 1950s. People made less money and science was not a glamor job. Programming did not even exist. In fact, when I first started programming in the 1980s there were very few programmers at all and no regular jobs programming. Back in those days, "programming" was a near-minimum-wage job and very few people either wanted or got such jobs. Software was a low-rent business. Even the most expensive programs (mostly games) and spreadsheets like Lotus 1-2-3 sold for $50 on floppy disk. It was not a path to riches.

Of course, in the 1950s computers did not even exist (except for few mainframes). To get a job in science in those days, you had to work for a big company like Alcoa or DuPont or Dow Chemical, and such jobs were limited to people with PhDs in chemistry, not high school kids.

Peter's job as a photographer was actually a really good job for a kid in those days. Being a photographer for a newspaper was way more glamorous than being a scientist in the culture of those times. Also, working as a stringer like that was a sort of job that was open to kids.

  • The question seems entirely focused on the movies, which are not set in the 1950s – AncientSwordRage Sep 5 '17 at 10:19
  • @AncientSwordRage While true, the movies are basically set in a neverwhen that's specifically designed to support characters developed in the 50's. – deworde Sep 5 '17 at 11:14
3

Because he wants to help people using his powers. So he chose his passion as work (as he likes photography) in which he'd be comfortable to do the heroic things easily. So he earns as much he needed to live. As a photographer he can be outside near the crowd, where the most villains attack, so he can easily save people.

As a science area tech worker, he'd be limited to a office from which he can help people easily. And if he gets a job, he has to be fired from his job due to his absence (otherwise he has to work remotely).

protected by Edlothiad Sep 4 '17 at 18:55

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.