There’s no doubt in my mind that our current politically charged moment had a significant influence on how Insomniac built its vision of Manhattan in Marvel’s Spider-Man. J. Jonah Jameson is now functionally a conservative talk radio host, the phrase “fake news” makes at least one appearance, and one set of side missions slathers on the anti-corporate, pro-environment messages pretty thick.
And you’ll certainly see shades of Donald Trump in Norman Osborn, the businessman-turned-politician who serves as New York’s mayor in the game. His iconic hair from the comics—close-cropped, aggressive widow’s peak, inexplicable texture that looks his head had a run-in with a Burger King flame broiler—is nowhere to be seen, replaced by a sweeping, gravity-defying coif. This Obsborn’s face is a little more pillowy, his eyes a little baggier. Hell, he even gets buddy-buddy with some Slavs to help take down his opponents and improve his odds of winning an upcoming election.
But what you won’t find in Spider-Man is Trump Tower, the Fifth Avenue skyscraper closely associated with the president. Instead, in its place, you’ll find the Rand Building, home to the fictional Rand Corporation. That’s the company owned by Danny Rand, better known as Iron Fist, which he inherited from his father along with a sizable fortune.
Of course, the similarities between Donald Trump and Iron Fist pretty much stop there. To the best of my knowledge, the president doesn’t have the ability to channel his chi energy into powerful martial arts attacks, though I suppose he could be holding onto that secret for the inevitable showdown with Robert Mueller. Danny Rand’s best friend and closest ally is a black man, so unless Ben Carson counts as our universe’s version of Luke Cage, that probably doesn’t track. And Rand eventually turned his company into a nonprofit with the goal of helping the less fortunate. There’s still time on that one, I suppose, but I’m not holding my breath.
Could it all just be a coincidence? Sure, but I doubt it. While Spider-Man‘s Manhattan is far from a one-to-one recreation, Insomniac put a great deal of care into making sure major landmarks are more or less where they’re supposed to be, down to the the quasi-accurate street signs. The Rand Building sits at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, just like Trump Tower. It’s of a vaguely similar height, and has a terrace (albeit a much simpler one) that starts a few floors up.
And the immediate area is pretty true to life, as far as the game goes. You can head down the street from the southwest corner of Central Park and you’ll spot recognizable stand-ins for the Cartier and Apple stores, Bergdorf Goodman, and then the Rand Corporation in place of Trump Tower, in the same order as you would in real life, at more-or-less the same intersections. It feels like a conscious decision.
For what it’s worth, other Trump properties, like 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel & Tower, all have pretty close analogs in the game, so it’s not like there’s some universal agenda to scrub all of the Trump Organization’s buildings at play here. Insomniac just decided, for whatever reason, to swap in a Marvel landmark for Donald Trump’s signature achievement.
Is it some sort of hopeful edit to our world, imagining what life would be like if we had someone more noble in Trump’s place? Is it an attempt to lionize the president as a superhero in his own right? Your interpretation will probably vary based on your political views—and maybe that’s the point.