Spider-Man remains as popular as ever thanks to the character's biggest solo movie ever, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is already set for a re-release at the end of this summer. However, the web-slinger is also at the center of some incredibly serious backlash thanks to controversy stemming from the highly-discussed fan film, Spider-Man: Lotus.
Not associated in any way with either Marvel Studios or Sony Pictures, Spider-Man: Lotus centers on a story in which Peter Parker deals with the loss of Gwen Stacy, the effects of which fans saw for a moment in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The movie's first trailer appeared online in October 2021 and racked up an impressive 1.6 million views, but its upcoming release is now under heavy fire thanks to recently-revealed controversy.
The film's leading actor and director, Wayne Warden and Gavin Konop respectively, have faced immense backlash from fans due to a series of racist comments from their social media accounts within the past couple of weeks.
Now, fans are sharing their feelings about everything that's going on, which is a particularly troubling situation with the world's climate the way it currently is.
Spider-Man: Lotus Under Heavy Fire
Warning - The rest of this article contains news about extreme racism, including NSFW language.
The independent fan-made film Spider-Man: Lotus is currently trending on Twitter after news regarding the controversy surrounding its leading actor and director emerged.
Direct messages from leading actor Wayne Warden and director Gavin Konop were revealed, which used extreme racist language that included multiple uses of racial slurs against Black people. The string of messages was believed to include an insult pointed toward Spider-Man: No Way Home director Jon Watts after Watts acknowledged the film's existence, although this specific instance seems to have been proven as photoshopped.
Since then, Warden and Konop have both posted statements on the matter on their Twitter page, with Warden attributing the language to his upbringing and Konop taking a break from social media altogether.
Since then, homophobic messages and voice memos from Konop have also been leaked online. Fans are now sharing their thoughts on the situation, noting how sad and disappointing it is.
@TheQuiver_ pointed out the "major red flags" that should have been raised once it was revealed that Konop didn't pay his storyboard artists after raising money for the film's budget, which was reportedly over $25,000 USD:
"Tbh Spider-Man Lotus had major red flags raised as soon as the director got all high and mighty over not wanting to pay for storyboard artists after raising all that money for the film"
@Jrock2299 shared the sympathy he feels for Watts, who "went out of his way" to praise the fan-made film before fans learned about Konop's reported comments:
"I feel bad for Jon Watts, he went out of his way to praise Spider-Man Lotus, and Gavin had the gall to immediately talk shit towards him while demeaning the people working on his own project. Watts was too much of a class act for this."
@doctorpurpleman looked back to when Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield actually knew about Lotus and offered his support, imagining what Garfield would think as he learned about this news:
"imagine andrew logging into his burner account for the day and deciding to see why Spider-Man Lotus is trending"
@low_res_jpg looked back to his time working on the film as a VFX artist, expressing his shock at finding out why the movie was trending. In a long thread, he explained his lack of knowledge regarding the situation, some of the issues that he personally dealt with, and how he wishes he could be proud of the work that was done on the movie:
"Well, Spider-Man: Lotus is trending again, for reasons no-one could've guessed. Me included. During my time on Lotus I only interacted with a few crew members, but I never heard of any racism going on, past or present. I wouldn't have joined the production had I known. I can speak for the whole former VFX team when I say we do not look back on Lotus as a fond experience, and this is retroactively another reason. While Gavin was not outwardly rude to us (on purpose), there was still a level of disconnect that eventually caused us to quit... I wish I could be more proud of my time on Lotus, because I really learned a lot. It's some of my most technically proficient work, and it's a shame for it to be attached to a project with this type of legacy now."
Update: Twitter user @younityyy, who worked as an assistant director on the project, has now responded to the controversy surrounding Warden and Konop. They have chosen to distance themselves from the individuals and the project, saying that they "did not catch a whiff of this while I was on set, and nobody that I worked with brought attitudes or views like this when they came to work:"
"I befriended Warden & Gavin a little over a year ago when Lotus was in pre-production. I wasn't close with either of them at the times these screenshots have been dated on. I was never even in these group chats. We were not close until Lotus came to formation. If I saw this behavior or anything even slightly resembling this behavior while I was on set, best believe I wouldn't have tolerated that shit and would have been out of there instantly. The words exchanged in these group chats, both the authentic ones and the ones that have been doctored, are absolutely detestable and everything wrong with the industry and the people who run it.
I did not catch a whiff of this while I was on set, and nobody that I worked with brought attitudes or views like this when they came to work. For the most part, the culture on set was positive and bereft of this disgusting stuff. I am disappointed, in shock, and just sad that this is what the project we spent so much time and effort on, has become.
I wish to not speak about the project in the near future because in all honesty, I do not care for it right now. Please keep me out of those conversations. I hope you all can understand. I'm sorry that this is what the project has come to."
More accusations of racism have also surfaced, this time against John Salandria, who played the Green Goblin in the fan film.
Konop has since responded once more on Twitter, calling some of the screenshots going around the Internet fake whilst apologizing for some of the other messages that included racist, homophobic, and ableist language. The director also stated that the film will still be released, saying that he "owe[s] it to those who were promised it for years now:"
"...I do not condone any of the fake screenshots circulating around. I am and always will be one to take accountability for myself and accept where I am wrong; however, many of these are not reflective of the way I currently speak or express myself, and everyone close to me can account for that... While I can't attest to all of them, I can say that some pretty disgusting screen-recordings & screenshots out there are real. In my early years of middle school & high school, the R-word, along with other unacceptable terms such as the F-word, were part of my vocabulary, and I had used them fairly frequently. I'm not proud of it, and I wish I had been more mature to know better than to use them, along with several other immature & nonsensical statements... All I can do is hold my younger self accountable for the messages that were me, just as much as I have held accountability for Warden, for not being cognizant enough to realize the immaturity of what I was sending. I apologize to the communities that these may impact, and I spend most days wishing I could redo those years of my life... The film will be released because I owe it to those who were promised it for years now. Thank you, and I am sorry that these messages and comments were once sent by me."
Lotus Crew Facing Consequences of Accusations
The culture of the movie industry as a whole has increasingly tried to move to a better place over the last few years, although there is still a disturbing amount of controversy that fans see in the spotlight.
Warner Bros. has dealt with its own uncomfortable situations thanks to Ezra Miller's off-screen drama and the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard civil case, but this one from the Marvel side comes as something more unique.
It's still unclear when Spider-Man: Lotus will release to the public, but this news about Wayne Warden and Gavin Konop has put an unavoidable stain on its legacy, particularly with how much hype it had built. Even though there won't be any money made from its debut, it will be something fans use to make sure that standards and decency are accounted for in any kind of movie-making endeavor, professional and amateur alike.