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Meaning of My MJ as Tom Holland and Zendaya saga develops

Bruno Cooke September 1, 2021
Meaning of My MJ as Tom Holland and Zendaya saga develops
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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The latest instalment in Tom Holland and co-star Zendaya’s relationship saga came today, in the form of a birthday message – “My MJ, have the happiest of birthdays”, he wrote on Instagram. What did he mean by “my MJ”, and why has it sent so many fans into a dither?

A bit of history

Tom Holland has, since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, played Peter Parker / Spider-Man. His predecessor’s in the role include Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

The character of Mary Jane Watson, aka “MJ”, first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man (comic) #25, in June of 1965. 

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Photo by Robert Marquardt/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

Kirsten Dunst played MJ in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (opposite Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man), while Zoë Kravitz voiced the character in the 2018 animation Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

So, what did Tom Holland’s Instagram birthday message, addressed to ‘my MJ’, mean?

In the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe films Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Zendaya (full name: Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman) plays a character called MJ. However, Zendaya’s MJ’s full name is Michelle Jones.

Producer Kevin Feige called her character’s name a “fun homage” to previous iterations of her character.

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JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE! – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Thursday, May 9, included Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jacob Batalon (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”), and musical guest Vampire Weekend. (Randy Holmes/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images) JAKE GYLLENHAAL, JACOB BATALON, ZENDAYA, COBIE SMULDERS, TOM HOLLAND

Cosmopolitan Magazine took the message as “official” recognition of a romantic relationship. Incidentally, two months ago, Page Six obtained photographs of the pair kissing in Tom Holland’s car. The outlet assumed the photos confirmed longstanding dating rumours.

The inference that follows from Holland’s Instagram birthday message is that, by addressing Zendaya as his MJ, he is embracing, and substantiating – making real – his fictional character’s romantic relationship to hers. In other words, she is his MJ, rather than his character’s MJ.

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Although, of course, the other possible meaning of Tom calling Zendaya “my MJ” is that he’s recognising that in the films, they are romantically entwined – i.e., that she is his character’s beau, rather than his. But it’s unlikely any of their fans will countenance such a possibility.

And Twitter loves it

The on-again-off-again nature of their relationship – at least, in the public imagination – has clearly worked up their fans over the years. 

Now that there is evidence, rather than mere speculation and the will of the public, those who follow the actors on social media have reacted with a mixture of glee, shock and envy.

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One Instagram user commented on Holland’s post: “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO ADORABLE 😭♥️”; another wrote that they “need an MJ” in their life”.

Zendaya and Tom Holland have so far acted in three movies together. They are Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently in post-production).

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.