|Marvel Cinematic Universe character|
|First appearance||Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)|
|Full name||Michelle Jones|
|Significant other||Peter Parker|
Michelle Jones, also known officially as Michelle and most commonly as MJ, is a fictional character portrayed by Zendaya in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film franchise, an original character within the media franchise that pays homage to Mary Jane "MJ" Watson, a common love interest of Spider-Man in comic books and various media.
She is depicted as a smart, snarky classmate of Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and becomes his love interest in the sequel Spider-Man: Far From Home, a unique aspect for original characters within the MCU franchise and upon Spider-Man feature films preceding it. Initially, Zendaya's role was the subject of controversy, due to the belief that an African American had been cast to portray Mary Jane Watson, though her portrayal of a revealed new character received favorable reviews after the first film's release as a strong female supporting cast member, additionally receiving the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the second film. She is set to return in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).
She has a really cool wardrobe, really funny, lots of literary nods. I like the idea that she’s a real reader and bookish. She always has a big pile of books she’s carrying around, which I picked and obsessed over.
According to Spider-Man: Homecoming co-screenwriter John Francis Daley, MJ was intended as a reinvention of Mary Jane Watson. While her nickname reveal was an homage to the supporting character within the comic books and other Spider-Man media, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed she is an original Marvel Cinematic Universe character. Feige added: "Peter's had a lot of friends over the years in the comics, and a lot of schoolmates and characters he’s interacted with. It wasn't just Mary Jane Watson; it wasn't just Gwen Stacy; it wasn’t just Harry Osborn. So we were very interested in the other characters, and that’s where Liz came from and that’s where the version of the character Michelle came from." Jon Watts, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, likened the character to Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds from The Breakfast Club (1985) and Linda Cardellini's Lindsay Weir from Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000).
The character's full name is 'Michelle Jones', although this name has not been spoken onscreen. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, a view of the character's passport shows only the name Michelle.
MJ is portrayed by actress Zendaya within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a student at Midtown School of Science and Technology, as one of Peter Parker's classmates and friends. Years after Liz's departure, she and Peter start a romantic relationship. MJ is snarky and coy, but also kind and friendly. She often acts as the voice of reason, and she provides Peter with comfort and advice.
Her character is depicted as an intelligent girl and a bookworm; Zendaya described her character as "very dry, awkward, intellectual", having an introverted personality because of her intelligence. Unlike previous supporting female characters within Spider-Man films, such as Mary Jane Watson from the Sam Raimi trilogy and Gwen Stacy from the Amazing Spider-Man films, MJ does not start off as a romantic interest. Instead, the character Liz was created initially for the role of romantic interest to start off with until the sequel. MJ is not depicted as a damsel in distress, unlike Mary Jane Watson in the Raimi films, but like Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spider-Man series, she is willing to aid Peter in his battles, putting herself in harm's way and is also a brilliant student like the Ultimate Marvel incarnation of Mary Jane Watson.
Further information: Spider-Man: Homecoming
In 2016, Michelle, commonly known as MJ, is introduced as a student at Midtown School of Science and Technology and enjoys mocking her classmates, including Peter Parker. She is given the opportunity to take over from the departing Liz as captain of the Academic Decathlon Team, and begins to open up more with teammates, such as Ned Leeds and Parker.
In 2018, she falls victim to the Blip, but later in 2023, she is restored to life.
Further information: Spider-Man: Far From Home
In 2024, MJ attends the school sponsored trip to Europe, where her affections are sought out by Parker and Brad Davis. When she deduces Parker's identity as Spider-Man, MJ helps discover Mysterio's fraudulence, by exposing him as the one who staged the Elemental invasion. Shortly after their trip to Europe, MJ and Parker begin a relationship, and have their first date by swinging in the city, although MJ is later horrified when TheDailyBugle.net's J. Jonah Jameson releases a doctored video of Mysterio and Spider-Man, claiming that Spider-Man is responsible for the Battle of London and exposing his identity as Parker.
According to news media, after the announcement of Zendaya being cast, there was much controversy and speculation sparked on the fact that Zendaya, an African American actress, would be portraying Mary Jane Watson. Media outlets defended Zendaya over the issue, along with the Guardians of the Galaxy film series director James Gunn on social media. Zendaya responded to the rumors of her character as Mary Jane by The Hollywood Reporter in an interview saying:
Whenever we were on set, one of us gets some random character name [on the call sheet]. [Bloggers were] like, "Oh they must be so and so." And we just crack up about it, because it's like, 'Whatever you want to think. You'll find out.' It's funny to watch the guessing game. But of course there's going to be outrage over that because for some reason some people just aren't ready. I'm like, "I don't know what America you live in, but from what I see when I walk outside my streets of New York right now, I see lots of diversity and I see the real world and it's beautiful, and that's what should be reflected and that's what is reflected so you're just going to have to get over it."
She also confirmed that despite the confusion, she is "100% Michelle" and not Mary Jane as many have speculated.
The character of MJ had a positive reception in Homecoming by film critics, with Zendaya referred to as a "scene stealer" in her first major film role, despite her limited screen-time. Caitlin Busch of Inverse felt thankful that the character was not Mary Jane Watson and opined that the original character works better for the film.
The character has also received positive feedback from a feminist perspective, especially in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Karen Han of Polygon felt that the character was a positive representation of strong female characters while additionally Vanity Fair noted how MJ was not portrayed as a warrior like Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter, Lupita Nyong'o's Nakia or Evangeline Lilly's Hope van Dyne but also not a damsel and declared her as the "MJ we both need and deserve". Her personality was reminiscent to as Daria Morgendorffer in Daria to some reporters. Rachel Leishman of The Mary Sue described the MCU version of MJ as extremely important in Peter Parker's life.
Zendaya has won the 45th Saturn Awards for Best Supporting Actress for portraying the character in 2018 through 2019.
Well, we never even looked at it as a big reveal necessarily but more of just a fun homage to his past adventures and his past love. She's not Mary Jane Watson. She never was Mary Jane Watson.