For decades, superhero stories have hammered home the idea of “with great power comes great responsibility.” Think Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, a constant reminder that we need to use the powers given to us responsibly. Such origin stories start with someone receiving some supernatural power and then learning the hefty responsibility that comes with it. But, Madame Web, the newest film in the Sony Spiderman cinematic universe throws a curveball at this familiar trope.

In the film, Cassandra Webb, a paramedic, awakens to psychic abilities after a near-death experience. Tasked with the responsibility of protecting a trio of young women from a mysterious villain, she must confront her past and grow in her new found abilities. Here, Web isn’t thrust into power and then forced to grapple with its consequences. Instead, she’s presented with a different kind of challenge: take on a crucial responsibility, and unlock the power that lies dormant within her. This twist on the superhero origin story offers a fascinating perspective on how we can see the relationship between power and responsibility.

Responsibility as the Spark

Unlike Spiderman, Madame Web’s journey starts differently. She’s encouraged to embrace responsibility first, setting the stage for a unique path to becoming a hero. The key line in the film flips the script entirely: “When you take on the responsibility, great power will come.” This is the core difference. Here, responsibility isn’t a burden bestowed upon power, but a gateway that unlocks the potential within.

This shift in the narrative emphasizes the importance of character and choice in a superhero’s journey. Web isn’t forced into heroism; there’s no practice scene where she is understanding her powers. She’s thrown into a situation where she needs to help. Here, she actively chooses to take on the responsibility, and that choice becomes the catalyst for her transformation. Contrasting this approach with more traditional origin stories is interesting. Characters like Spider-Man initially struggle to control their newfound powers, leading to mistakes and unintended consequences. Perhaps by focusing on responsibility first, Madame Web becomes a more focused and purposeful hero from the very beginning.

The message of Madame Web resonates beyond the world of capes and tights. It prompts us to consider how embracing responsibility can unlock a potential dormant within. Perhaps taking on challenges and commitments allows us to discover hidden strengths and talents we never knew we possessed. More often taking on responsibility can help us grow in those talents and value them more. This is more biblical understanding of faith as well. Often we think of faith as something we need to have at the start in order to take on a responsibility. However, faith is something that grows when we are willing to make the hard choices and step into the situation we are burdened with.

So, what does Madame Web’s story tell us? It encourages us to cultivate a sense of responsibility in ourselves and those around us. It suggests that true power – the power to make a difference, to be a force for good – doesn’t always come from external forces, but from the choices we make and the burdens we choose to bear. Madame Web may not be your typical superhero, but her journey is more relatable and her power more accessible to the common man. Her story offers a powerful reminder that the greatest power lies within us all, waiting to be unlocked by a commitment to responsibility.


Written by Joshua George