I never would’ve guessed when I started this series it would hit an eighth installment. What can I say? Peter Parker’s dated a lot of women. This series explores the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) using only Spider-Man comics. Michele Gonzales is an interesting chapter in Peter’s romantic history, as his roommate-turned-drunken-hook-up. Yet the one night stand isn’t what’s most unique about Michele in regard to Peter. Of all the women in his life, Michele Gonzales absolutely refuses to ever take any of his shit. Granted, plenty of women have called Peter out, held him accountable, and challenged his negligence. But Michele does so from the beginning, never accepting a single one of Peter’s lame excuses. She knows what she’s worth. She knows what a healthy partner and/or good person should be. She has no time for bullshit or games. And I love her for it!! Peter’s baggage and bad habits kept them from becoming a couple yet, in that, Michele and Peter’s flirtationship reminds us of what we may be missing out on when we fail to own and address our own issues.
Michele Gonzales is a defense attorney and the sister of NYPD officer Vin Gonzales, Peter’s roommate until he was tied to a group trying to frame Spider-Man for murder and sent to prison. This left Peter living alone in their apartment…alone until Michele comes to New York from Chicago to help her brother with his case. However, Peter is unaware that Michele has moved in, just as she is unaware Peter’s even still living there, as Spider-Man was off with the Fantastic Four in another dimension. They go through life constantly missing each other like the setup for some Hallmark movie meet-cute until Peter comes home one night with his costume in tatters after a battle with a creepy new Vulture and things take a very un-Hallmark turn.
Peter strips off his shredded costume and heads to the fridge for some food. As he stands in the kitchen, naked and eating fresh fruit, he wonders who’s been taking care of his apartment while he’s been gone. Ultimately he figures it’s probably Betty…and then he and Michele bump into each other for the first time. They scream and Michele warns him, “Freeze, weirdo, or I will Muay-Thai your ass into the hospital. Do you understand me? And I will do it! I don’t know who you are or how you got in here, but get the hell out!” Her response tells us so much about Michele. She isn’t another damsel for Peter to rescue. She isn’t the type of girl to be left waiting and worrying. She is competent, confident, and can kick any ass she needs to. Michele Gonzales is a woman who is in control.
They have an awkward and emotionally intense conversation where Peter explains he lives there; he was Vin’s roommate. Michele tells him, “Since when? I got Vin’s key’s six weeks ago, and I’m just laying eyes on you today. I figured you were out of town or dead or something! How did I not hear you come in?” Peter replies, “I’m…gonna answer that with…some clothes on…” and as he goes to change Michele continues, “Seriously perv! I put your mail aside and took like, a thousand messages before it got really tiresome!” Peter says, “Thanks for that! Were people worried much?” Michele tells him, “Does it bother you at all that the universal response to ‘I haven’t seen him around’ was, ‘Oh, that’s Peter for you.’ Anyway, perv, half your friends think you’re Bigfoot and the other half think you’re the Lock Ness Monster. Vin warned me you were a flake but he didn’t mention you were a nudist.” When Peter asks how long Michele will be staying she says, “I am here as long as it takes to settle things! And since I co-signed the lease with Vin, buddy, as far as I’m concerned, this is my place – and I do not have the patience to babysit an irresponsible exhibitionist whose stuff I was about to box for Goodwill! I’m late for an appointment with the D.A., but when I come back, we’re gonna have a conversation about rules around here! Oh and – DON’T EAT MY FOOD!”
In addition to setting up a memorable meeting between Peter and Michele, this illustrates one of those oft-discussed gender biases where women will be seen as “bossy” or “bitchy” whereas men are often praised as being “decisive” or “assertive” for the same behavior. Peter often muses on how abrasive his roommate is – comparing her to Hitler or the Red Skull or, you know, Satan – while also saying how “hot” she is. The thing is, in this scene and in all the conversations like this between Peter and Michele, she is absolutely in the right. Her anger is natural and warranted and Peter deserves that sort of chastisement. Peter almost always does! Yes, he’s a superhero, but even amongst superheroes Peter fumbles more than most. He is constantly overcommitted, stretching himself far too thin to be anything to anybody, driven by a sense of responsibility anchored in trauma left undealt with as he fails those he loves more often than he succeeds. Other superheroes don’t have the perennial trouble with boundaries, borders, burn-out, and broken promises that Peter always has.
After an understandably rough first meeting, Michele and Peter begin to develop a friendship. When Michele learns Peter has no date as he’s getting ready to leave for his aunt May’s wedding, Michele offers to go with him. This also shows us the type of person Michele is. She doesn’t know Aunt May nor her husband-to-be, Jay Jameson. She is only beginning to get to know Peter, too. Yet she saves him the awkwardness of going to his aunt’s wedding alone. Let’s be honest. The wedding date is a big deal. Really, there are only two types of people you should ever take as your date to a wedding – someone you are in a clearly defined romantic relationship with (so you know how to answer the questions the date will inevitably bring about the nature of your relationship) or a close friend with whom you’ve no romantic connection (so the “seriousness” of the date won’t be misread and you have someone to talk to, dance with, and get you out of conversations you don’t want to be in). Plus, weddings are fun but being at a wedding where you don’t know anyone save your date can be a lot of fun…but they can make for a long evening sometimes, too. Yet Michele freely and immediately offers to go with Peter.
They go. She’s a fun date. She banters with his friends. They drink together and dance together. And if you’ve ever a) been anxious about going to a specific wedding solo and really wished you had a date and/or b) been the date at a wedding where you knew no one but your date, you can appreciate how awesome Michele is. Then, in the midst of all this, Mary Jane Watson returns. Peter hasn’t seen her since they broke up. MJ shows up at the reception, catches the bouquet…and Peter gets all awkward and sweaty and immediately begins pining and blabbering and doesn’t know what to do.
……annnnd the next morning he wakes up in bed next to Michele. He has a headache and no clear memory of what happened the night before. He expects to find Mary Jane lying next to him and is more than a little shocked to see his roommate and wedding date. He does not react well to the situation.
Michele is understandably angry with Peter. She goes as his date to Aunt May’s wedding. She stands by his side all night as she watches him stare at Mary Jane and listens to him talk about her. Then they come home that night, have sex, and he doesn’t even remember doing it let alone who he’s lying next to. Peter believes he was hung over because he believes he was drunk so he uses that as an excuse for his behavior. However, Peter never drinks and much later it’s revealed he wasn’t drunk then either. Michele tells him he had eleven glasses of “Apple-Ginger Ale. You were so nervous and out of it after a half-glass of bubbly that you never even noticed I was filling your flute with soda. At first, I was doing it to be nice and keep you sober in front of what’s-her-name…but it was so entertaining to watch you think you were getting more plowed, I just kept pouring.” Peter tries to protest saying he was hung-over the next day and Michele reminds him, “Says the guy who’s never been drunk. It was nerves. Maybe you caught a cold.” So not only did Michele go to the wedding with Peter and do all the things a great wedding date should do but she also tried to help save him from embarrassing himself in front of Mary Jane.
Shortly after their wedding night hook-up and the terrible morning after, Peter finds himself kidnapped by the supervillain the Chameleon who assumes his identity (because…comics). Living as Peter, the Chameleon comes home to find Michele wanting to talk. They haven’t since the wedding night debacle and she tells “Peter” she thinks he needs to find a new place, offering him two weeks to do so. The Chameleon listens and then he begins seducing Michele as they fall to the kitchen floor sharing passionate kisses.
Now, this – being kidnapped and doubled by an identity-stealing, masquerading master terrorist – is probably something that doesn’t happen to a lot of us. But what this represents is far more universal. The Chameleon is a supervillain and Peter’s life, because he’s Spider-Man, is constantly turned upside down by all manner of masked menaces. He knows this happens. He knows this hurts his loved ones. He knows this affects all his relationships. He knows this happens again and again and again. Yet he doesn’t change anything. So while we (hopefully!) have never had a supervillain kidnap us to take our identity, we all have faults and flaws and hang-ups and bad habits and unresolved emotional baggage that can be an unfair burden on our loved ones at best and possibly poison our relationships at worse. Whether or not we ever look in the mirror, honestly own those issues, and take the serious steps to try to understand and manage them is something we alone can decide.
For Peter, more often than not, he doesn’t and we see this unwillingness to even acknowledge his responsibility in the mess that is his life embodied in his flirtationship with Michele. Understandably, after their passionate make-out session on the kitchen floor, Michele begins to see her relationship with Peter changing. She starts to think of them as a couple. When Peter eventually escapes and regains his life, he doesn’t care whatsoever how the Chameleon’s time posing as him may’ve affected Michele emotionally. Which, overstressed and burnt out superhero or not, is a DICK MOVE. Peter becomes resentful and angry with Michele for presuming they are a couple and, in that anger and resentment, he lashes out at her. How would any normal, sane, logical person respond to that real truth as an answer to such inexcusable behavior?
Michele – “Where have you been? We’re supposed to have dinner with the senior partner of my firm and his…”
Peter – “I was out with the Swedish Women’s Water Polo team for all you know Michele! And it’d still be none of your business! BECAUSE WE ARE NOT DATING!! WE WERE NEVER DATING!!”
Michele – “You know, I’m getting a little tired of your games.”
Peter – “Games? What games? Game over! I’m taking my ball and going home!”
Michele – “First we hook up at your aunt’s wedding reception, which we agree was a mistake…”
Peter – “It was a mistake! It was a mistake!”
Michele – “Then when I try and toss you out, you start swapping spit with me on the kitchen floor.”
Peter – “I can’t believe I’m going to say this…but at this point…screw secret identity…*sigh.* That wasn’t me Michele! I know it sounds completely insane…but you were really making out with the Chameleon, a supervillain – a master of disguise – posing as me. I’m sorry. I should have told you the truth sooner.”
And she punches him square in the face and I love it.
I mean, what in the actual heck Peter?? There is no regard for her emotions here. There is no regard for her as a human being with needs and a perspective and a vantage point outside of his own. All he sees is his own annoyance and he blurts out the truth – something which would never, could never, sound believable – in an attempt to get out of a situation he doesn’t like. So, to Michele’s mind, after hooking up with her and making out with her, Peter doesn’t even respect her enough to break-up with her as an adult. I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was three-years-old but I fully and freely admit Peter Parker has done some douchie things. This is one of the worst (it’s not as bad as how he ended his relationship with Betty Brant but he’s still being an insensitive ass here).
In the wake of this they continue to live together and, while Peter knows how he hurt Michele, he goes on with all manner of romantic pursuits. He flirts. He dates. He has sex. He pays attention to more women romantically at one time than at almost any other point in the history of Spider-Man comics…all while largely ignoring Michele.
Peter constantly pines over Mary Jane and tries to reconnect with her, hoping to recapture their old flame.
As Spider-Man, he reconnects with the Black Cat as they begin a fun, flirty, friends-with-benefits relationship.
Peter enjoys flirting with and occasionally dating Norah Winters, a co-worker at the Front Line newspaper.
And, worst of all, there’s Carlie Cooper – a woman who really likes Peter but, while he likes her and calls her to hang out whenever he wants company, he never responds to or acknowledges her romantic interest.
So yeah, Peter Parker has a lot of issues and, during the time Michele Gonzales was a part of his life, he was interested in owning and solving none of them. But she let him continue to live in their apartment. She helped him when he needed it. She treated him with the respect he deserved. That doesn’t mean she didn’t stand up for herself and maintain her own boundaries in some of the most creative ways, wielding the most exquisite sass.
Michele locks Peter out of the fridge, as she paid for all the food in it.
She shoves all the shit he leaves laying around their apartment down the garbage disposal.
She calls him out for invading her personal space uninvited.
Michele charges him for all the freeloading he is constantly trying to do (which, c’mon Peter, even if you are off all the time fighting evil with the Avengers, you still have responsibilities if you live with other people. It’s called being a decent human being).
She paints “their” apartment just as she wants it because she is the one who pays for everything.
Through it all, we see Michele still has confusing and complicated feelings for Peter. How couldn’t she given their history?! She doesn’t allow herself to be a doormat nor will she be disrespected. But she is open to something with Peter should he ever get his shit together. Michele even communicates this to Peter clearly on several occasions.
However, Peter can never meet her there. He won’t begin to do the work on himself he needs to do to give Michele anything resembling a real, healthy relationship. Despite what a drag of a human being Peter was to Michele the majority of the time they knew each other – all the head games, emotional confusion, being chronically late with his half of the rent, asking for favors, ignoring her personal space, leaving his stuff laying all over the apartment, letting his cavalcade of would-be paramours parade in front of her, blowing out fuses, eating her food, all his sarcasm and snide remarks, and on and on – Michele was still there for Peter.
Despite his inability to pay anything on time, she gives him the fair change he’s owed when the painting came in under bid.
Michele offers to advise, free of charge, three high school girls who volunteer at a homeless shelter who were inspired to do good because of Spider-Man.
When Michele comes to realize she may be wrong about the type of person Peter is, she freely admits it to him. And as soon as he genuinely apologizes to her for how he’s acted towards her, Michele immediately forgives him.
Michele Gonzales is such a good person. She’s smart and sassy and doesn’t take any shit from anyone either. She is also so much more together than Peter Parker is and he could learn a lot from her. Ultimately though, Michele and Peter were never going to work as a couple. No matter how much potential they had nor how good they could’ve been together, Peter wasn’t in a place to even begin addressing any of his own deep-rooted problems let alone begin working on and fixing them. This can be hard, when a relationship ends (or didn’t even get the chance to properly begin) because of all the personal shit we aren’t really acknowledging, owning, or seeing. And as long as we aren’t really acknowledging it, owning it, or seeing it, then we’re just going to keep making the same mistakes and finding ourselves in the same unhealthy, red flag-filled relationships and/or watching the good ones pass us by. Sooner or later we have to acknowledge, own, and see our own issues and take the steps to address them or we’re never going to be able to find a healthy, nourishing, symbiotic relationship.
More often than not, that’s something Peter is unable to do. So, when we find ourselves making the same mistakes over and over again or even being unwilling to see let alone address our own issues, we find a lot of solidarity in Peter Parker and we see those faults writ large in the flurry of his almost-romance with Michele. Conversely, if we are willing to acknowledge, own, and see our own issues and take real steps to fix them, then we can find ourselves in a place where we could make something work with a partner as fantastic as Michele Gonzales.
Want more of my li’l series exploring romantic archetypes using Spider-Man comics? Well you’re in luck! Check out:
Spider-Man and the Black Cat: Flirting with Perfection to see how the Black Cat represents those people we know may be wrong for us and/or we know it won’t work out with in the long run…but we’re drawn to them all the same and we seemingly can’t stop flirting with or the pursuing them no matter how hard we try :).
Spider-Man and Mary Jane: Soul Mates? (Y/N/Maybe) for an examination of Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, with a focus on the question of Soul Mates as well as the classic romantic tropes of the will-they-won’t-they and best-friends-first relationships.
Spider-Man and the Spider Family: A Look At What Might Have Been… to contemplate the “What if…?” people we think of when we consider our romantic “what might have been”s care of the alternate reality series The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy: All the Beautiful Angst of First Love to consider how Gwen Stacy has far more significance than just “the girl who died” and how her relationship with Peter perfectly presents all the awkward, cringy, and still oh-so-magical moments of the first time we fall in love.
Spider-Man and Silk: You Gotta Love A Physical Attraction to look at Peter and Cindy Moon’s relationship as an example of those people who inexplicably turn us on. The attraction, the draw to these people, is like a force of nature, completely beyond our control. It’s fun buuuut complicated without romantic feelings, too.
Spider-Man and Captain Marvel: The Super Friend Zone which uses the one date Peter and Carol Danvers went on as the frame to examine the friends we’re attracted to, the nature of “the Friend Zone,” and what we do when we start to feel a li’l romantic and/or sexual chemistry percolating in a platonic pairing.
Spider-Man and Betty Brant: Complicated Affairs of the Heart uses one of the oldest characters in Spider-Man’s character history to explore everything from first crushes and first dates to the confusing pull of falling in love with someone who’s married.
Spider-Man and Mockingbird: The Allure of the Workplace Romance looks at Peter’s relationship with Bobbi Morse during his time as CEO of Parker Industries to consider why we are so drawn to the workplace romance…and what awkwardness may be waiting for us if it doesn’t work out.
Spider-Man and Jessica Jones: Harkening Back to the High School Crush opens the door to reminisce about allllllllllll those awkward, anxiety-filled high school crushes we had and could never find the courage to act on while also considering the influence we may have on all the people we hardly know who come in and out of our lives.