While many of the quippy jokes and tangential references in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse landed with moviegoers, one particular blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag managed to swing its way right over some viewers’ heads. In the spirit of explaining a joke, thus making its farcical nature all the more compelling, let’s break down why one of Spider-Verse’s jokes was kinda funny.
Toward the beginning of the movie, Spider-Verse plays a montage detailing how Miles Morales has matured as Spider-Man since the events of Into The Spider-Verse. Like any iteration of the web-slinger, Miles has experienced the highest highs of cleaning villainy off of New York’s streets and the lowest lows of being at the center of a superhero scandal. Miles’ big scandal, which is presented in the style of a YouTuber apology video, was that he (as Spider-Man) had endorsed a baby powder brand.
To provide context for how bad Miles’ professional oopsie was, his apology video, titled “Spider-Man #2 regrets baby powder endorsement,” somehow sports a whopping 69 million dislikes, despite only having around 10.5 million views (which is still a lot of views, of course). It’s as if people came by the page in droves just to click the thumbs-down. But what exactly was it about Spider-Man’s baby powder endorsement that inspired so much online outrage?
The ongoing theory among fans is that the joke is not so subtly referencing when pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson faced lawsuits from tens of thousands of plaintiffs alleging that asbestos in their baby powder caused ovarian cancer, with a court ruling in 2021 that it owed billions. This year, the company has set aside nearly $9 billion to settle the lawsuits, as reported by NPR.
Given the magnitude of J&J’s scandal, it’s no wonder the denizens of Miles’ world would be so upset, especially with the lackadaisical packaging of their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s Logan Paul-esque video apology. The joke is made all the more hilarious because Miles’ decision to endorse baby powder might’ve been inspired by a moment from the comics when Peter Parker reminds Miles of its ability to “reduce costume chaffing.” With great power, comes great responsibility to not endorse the wrong brand, as it were.