So much movie-making these days seems tragically engineered towards ginning up that one perfect shot, expression, quote, needle drop, or moment that’ll go bonkers viral and juice the box office receipts. But as any student of the extremely online will tell you, rarely can you manufacture these memes. They must happen naturally — catch us off guard with our defenses down so they can worm their way into our internet-addled brains and become a part of our cultural fabric (for at least as long as our attention spans will allow).
Madame Web, the newest addition to the cinematic Spider-verse, reached these heights spectacularly when its first trailer dropped, and star Dakota Johnson put everyone in a chokehold with her cosmically bored line reading of a piece of exposition: “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died.”
It was a truly beautiful moment — not that it seemed to get people excited about Madame Web, but at least it got them talking, and isn’t that half the battle? Wouldn’t you want to reward those who paid good money to see Madame Web if only to hear that lone line in context and gain some deeper understanding of the tragedy endured by Johnson’s character, Cassie Webb, following the death of her mother in the Amazon while she was researching spiders? Especially in the sacred space that is the movie theater, where, as we’ve been told so often, heartbreak can, in fact, feel good.
Well, the cowards took it out. “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died” does not appear in Madame Web.
Sure, as noted by Vulture, which first pointed out the line’s absence, the movie does technically show you Cassie’s mother in the Amazon researching spiders right before she died in its very first scene. But so what? Just give the people what they want, especially if you’re just going to truncate the line to “She was researching spiders.” Snooze.
Despite the line’s absence from the movie, it sure does seem like it’s all anyone can talk about when it comes to Madame Web (besides how bad it is). In an interview with HuffPost UK, Johnson was inevitably asked about it and replied that she had “no idea what it’s about.”
The interviewer then tried to suggest the line went viral because people were trying to figure out what it meant out of context, instead of just flat out saying what was likely closer to the truth — that people thought it was a dumb line delivered with no sauce. Frankly, the famously blunt Johnson might’ve respected that. Instead, she replied with the obvious: “But isn’t any sentence out of context… out of context? What a silly thing… ‘He was in the Amazon researching spiders with my mom before she died.’ That seems like a basic storyline to me, but maybe I’m just underneath it.”