Spider-Man has been around for over fifty years, now.
In that time, the character’s backstory has seen relatively little meddling—unless you read all the “new” comic book stories from his childhood in which he spends most of his time on a smartphone.
Sure, some elements of the Spidey mythos are a bit old-fashioned nowadays. The Daily Bugle should have crumbled decades ago—which is probably why J Jonah Jameson has a TV show in the comics these days instead.
One of the most glaring products of Spider-Man’s time, though, is the beefy school bully, Flash Thompson. This character has evolved a lot over the years, too, even spending a while as Venom, because for some reason every key person in Peter Parker’s personal life needs to have a supervillain alter ego.
(Sure, Flash’s Venom was technically a good guy, but it was a rough ride at best, ethically speaking.)
Flash Thompson feels awfully Biffy to the casual observer—“Biffy” here being a word that means, “in the manner of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future”. He’s an enormous moron with a penchant for picking on kids who are smaller than him, and trying to steal your girlfriend.
By all rights, this is an archetype that should have faded into obscurity decades ago, and yet, every modern retelling of Peter Parker’s origin story assumes that the school bully is an essential ingredient of the mix.
We need to see Peter Parker suffer. Flash is, in the Ultimate comics, the Sam Raimi movies, and even the Amazing Spider-Man film, the instrument of Parker’s torture.
Some of these versions of Flash are more successful than others. Tobey Maguire ends up face to fist with the enormous mountain of a man that is Joe Manganiello—apparently in this retelling of the story, Flash is a thirty-seven year old man who is so dense that he’s still endlessly repeating his last year of high school.
Then, in Amazing Spider-Man, Flash is the kind of twenty-something-year-old who you worry might cut you if you’re riding an inner-city bus after dark. He’s also actually not that threatening to Extreme Sports Peter Parker, and the two share an oddly touching moment partway through the movie.
So if Beefcake Flash and Let’s Talk About Our Feelings Flash have both already been done, and if Marvel wants to modernize their bully caricature a little bit, what can they do?
How about having a kid who genuinely feels like a real, modern bully?
In other words, a troll. The kind of bully who uses Facebook as a weapon to make someone’s life miserable.
Here’s what Tom Holland has to say on the subject of Flash in Spider-Man: Homecoming:
“When they cast Flash Thompson they knew they didn't need a 6ft 5in jock to beat Peter Parker up. They needed a rich, smug kid commenting on how bad his trainers were.”
This is how we’ve ended up with a Flash that’s played by Tony Revolori, who was Zero Moustafa in The Grand Budapest Hotel. We can assume he’ll be a slimy, annoying, “my father will hear about this” kind of villain.
You know, a Malfoy.
Isn’t that what we really want from a Spider-Man movie? To see Peter Parker in a battle of wits with Tom Felton?
Just imagine the fanfiction!