Does the character of the newest Spiderman film, Madame Web, have the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis?
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Does Madame Web Have Myasthenia Gravis?

Does Madame Web Have Myasthenia Gravis?

By Kate Stober
Image © Marvel. Source: Marvel Database.
Image © Marvel. Source: Marvel Database.

On February 14, a new Spiderman film hits theaters: Madame Web. Dakota Johnson stars as the title character, a young woman who develops clairvoyant powers and must find out why.


Madame Web is based on a character from the original Spiderman comics. She debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #210, published in 1980.


According to Marvel Database, Madame Web (née Cassandra Web) suffers from the rare neurological disease myasthenia gravis. She is blind and confined to a web-like life-support system designed by her husband. Though she can’t move or use her eyes, her psychic “second sight” lets her see far beyond her New York apartment, helping Spiderman battle the bad guys.


In the comic, Madame Web is illustrated as an older woman wearing a blindfold, seated in a custom chair with tubing and wires reminiscent of a spider’s web.


But if you watch the movie trailer, you’ll notice there are no characters matching this description. In fact, Madame Web appears to be young and working a physically demanding job as a paramedic.


So what gives?


At one point during the comic’s run, Madame Web goes through a transformation – she gains both immortality and youth, seemingly cured of her myasthenia gravis. Later, she is facing death and passes her powers on to another character, Julia Carpenter aka Spider-Woman. (What about her immortality, you might ask? All we can guess is that the writers needed a fresh storyline!)


© Sony Pictures. Source: Fandango.

The movie features this younger version of Cassandra Web, who debuted in the comic more recently.


We’re disappointed the movie chose not to feature a lead character with a disability, but we’re hopeful that the movie’s release will spur conversations about myasthenia gravis.


Because while the Spiderman universe is fictional, this rare neuromuscular disease is not.


More than 700,000 people worldwide are affected, including approximately 70,000 Americans. MG causes extreme muscle weakness and profound fatigue. While there are treatments, there is no cure, and many people live without adequate disease management or access to effective medical care.


Like the original Madame Web, many living with MG find themselves connected to machines to stay alive. They might need mobility aids like wheelchairs, support from CPAPs or ventilators to help them breath, and infusion IVs for life-saving medication.


Also like Madame Web, MG patients are mentally strong, powerful, and resourceful.


Learn more about myasthenia gravis on the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America website or sign up for our mailing list.

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