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The following story contains a spoiler (of sorts) for Spider-Man: Homecoming. If you landed in here and you have yet to see the film, best that you click away to another story for the time being.
Michelle, as played by actress/singer/pop sensation Zendaya, is a mysterious addition to the Spider-Man: Homecoming ensemble. The names of the kids in Peter Parker's inner circle mostly harken back to characters from the Marvel comics -- names like Ned, Liz, Flash and Betty. But there isn't a Michelle in Spidey's history... which is why fans sat up and nodded when, in the final moments of the movie, Michelle revealed that her friends call her M.J.
Ah. That makes sense. Sort of. M.J., of course, is the nickname of Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker's love interest who'd eventually become his wife in the Marvel comic books. And Mary Jane has been portrayed on screen by Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi films. But Michelle isn't Mary, and there is no "J." So when I interviewed Zendaya, I asked her what Michelle's middle name was, and the actress went coy:
Um, I don't know. I think her name is Michelle, and that's all I know. ... Maybe she's like me? Zendaya. She goes by one name. Michelle!
The cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming has been pretty good about protecting possible secrets of characters in this new Marvel universe, and also just professing professional ignorance on the small details of this world. Tom Holland, for example, couldn't tell me whether his version of Spider-Man was responsible for the death of the character's Uncle Ben. That would seem significant, as the event helps form Spidey into the hero that he eventually becomes. And comments that Homecoming director Jon Watts gave me about the existence of a Spider-Sense in the MCU touched off a bit of a firestorm between Marvel fans online. Shocking, I know.
Zendaya's answer opens up a new can of worms. Why do her friends call her M.J.? Even though she isn't Mary Jane Watson, will she eventually become the M.J. in this new Peter Parker's life? After the reveal of the nickname, Jon Watts includes a lingering shot of Michelle watching Peter leave to go meet Happy, and there are plenty of instances where Michelle is hyper-aware of Peter's life happenings in Homecoming. So if the MCU wanted to build on the chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya, it would make all the sense in the world.
Here's Zendaya, dodging my question:
What do you think? Will Michelle become the M.J. in Peter's life? See Spider-Man: Homecoming for yourself, and judge the future.