Resilience messages in movies - Into the Spider-Verse

A lot of kids’ movies have resilience messages woven throughout them. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a great example of this. So, what’s the movie about and what are some of these messages? And what does this mean for how we, as parents, can build the resilience of our kids?

The movie is about a teenage boy called Miles Morales who is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. It’s set in a multiverse and is about how Miles works with Spider- characters from other dimensions to save the world from the villain, Kingpin.

For any of us to demonstrate resilience there needs to be some form of adversity. Being bitten by a radio-active spider, as per Miles’ experience, is a perfect example of this.

Once Miles had been bitten and had started to experience his new abilities and comprehend the implications of them, a journey began that required self-confidence, a belief in his potential to learn, an ability to manage his emotions, build relationships and solve problems, self-awareness, perseverance and optimism.

But what did this look like in practice and what specific resilience building tools and strategies did Miles draw upon as he worked with his peers to save the world from the villain? And what does this mean for us parents?

Superman - Into the Spider-Verse resilience messages strong, courage, bravery, step up, perseverance
  1. Managing uncomfortable emotions. Miles experiences his fair share of uncomfortable emotions and he has a tried and tested technique for managing these – listening to music. The viewer regularly sees Miles reach out for his headphones to listen to his favourite track when feeling overwhelmed, angry, afraid or sad. We can help our kids identify what helps calm them down and gently guide them towards these activities when they experience uncomfortable emotions.

  2. Good connection with parents. The presence of Miles’s parents is felt throughout the movie and whilst Miles doesn’t have an easy relationship with his dad the viewer is in no doubt that Miles and his dad love each other and that his dad’s love is unconditional. His parents are interested and invested in him: “Have you done your homework?” and his mum gives him good resilience building messages: “Our family doesn’t run from things”. As parents we have the biggest influence on the building of resilience in our children and we have a real opportunity to connect with our kids, and to be there to support and guide them as they learn to navigate life’s ups and downs.

  3. Strong relationships with others. Miles relies upon the strong relationships he builds with other characters in the movie. His uncle plays an important coaching and mentoring role, and whilst his parents and uncle are estranged this doesn’t diminish his uncle’s importance in Miles’ eyes. He also builds strong relationships with the other Spider-characters, including the two Peter Parkers, who also coach and mentor him, and Spider-Gwen, who, despite an awkward start, he ultimately builds a good friendship with. As parents, we can give our children the social and emotional skills they need to build healthy relationships with others. We can also nurture relationships with mentor figures that they can turn to for support and guidance.

  4. Perseverance. There are lots of examples of characters in the movie experiencing difficult times but keeping going regardless: “Did you get up?” “Yeah, I always get up”. “No matter how many times I get hit I get back up”. Keeping going when things get tough is a key factor in responding resiliently to situations. As parents we can support and guide our kids to do this – this isn’t about pushing through at any cost, it’s about setting goals, practising and not being put off by hiccups on the way. It’s only through successfully navigating challenging times that our children can develop the confidence and inner belief that they can cope after all.

  5. Stepping up and having a go. There are plenty of examples in the movie where Miles steps up and has a go. The viewer sees him jump out of a window to experiment with his new spider-like abilities, in the hope that these would in fact work and that he would stick to the side of the building! Despite experiencing real fear and self-doubt, he also steps up to ultimately conquer the villain, despite his apparent lack of experience. As parents, we can help our children understand that it’s normal to feel fear and that it’s actually here to help us! Sometimes, however, we can be afraid of things that are not actually scary and it’s at these times that we need to step up and have a go.

Practical ideas for practising this at home

Suggested activities:

  1. Learn about the neuroscience of fear and help your child decide which are safe fears that they can make friends with

  2. Talk with your child about who an adult figure might be who they can turn to for support in times of need

Susie Mogg