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If you’re a fan of the Marvel franchise – and keep up with the associated celebrities’ personal lives – you are likely aware of the various romantic rumors that have encircled Tom Holland and Zendaya since Spider-Man: Homecoming hit the silver screen.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming and the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zendaya plays Peter Parker’s romantic interest, Michelle Jones (the name pays homage to Mary Jane while separating the character from Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal).

Tom Holland and Zendaya
Tom Holland and Zendaya | Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images

Young and still in awe of the opposite gender, Peter Parker stumbles over conversations with Michelle, yet the chemistry between the two is palpable. Michelle Jones is sarcastic, quick-thinking, and sharp-tongued: a perfect counterpart to Parker when he’s not all wobbly in the knees.

Given Tom Holland and Zendaya’s on-screen chemistry, it should come as no surprise that fans and tabloids alike began questioning whether the two were romantically involved. We all still remember the Mr. and Mrs. Smith debacle. And let us not forget about the former Spider-Man lovebirds: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. However, this is not the reason the rumors are disappointing.

The frequent rumors concerning a romantic involvement between Zendaya and Tom Holland – despite both having denied these rumors – only further propagates the idea that straight men and women can’t be just friends.

Why the romantic rumors between Tom Holland and Zendaya propagate a negative message

After Tom Holland and Zendaya were both announced as part of the Spider-Man cast, they began appearing on each other’s social media feeds, according to Elle.

From posting pictures in a pool together to complimenting one another’s talents, the public took their shared admiration and time spent together as indications that they “like-liked” each other.  The mentality here is just as adolescent as the phrase used to describe it.

Tabloids ship Tom Holland and Zendaya because, at some point in time, society decided that a romantic involvement between men and women was the better narrative to tell – the more sizzling story. At some point in time, the friendship dynamic took a backseat to all other dynamics, and that theory has been promoted ever since.

Why is it that men and women in Hollywood can’t chill together without a romantic rumor nearly taking precedence over the movie itself? Fans and tabloids alike should emphasize the friendship at play here: it sends a positive message to young boys and young girls that they can play with the opposite gender, without it meaning anything “special.”

Tom Holland and Zendaya romance rumors enforce the “friendship is lesser” mentality

Given how many youngsters watch the Marvel movies – especially Spider-Man – broadcasting the friendship between Zendaya and Holland should be the goal. Whether or not they are actually into each other is no one’s business; however, they claim to just be friends. And with that claim, they should be treated and viewed as such.

Tom Holland and Zendaya boast a playful, jocular relationship – one that should be celebrated without choosing words that convey a romantic undertone. Relentlessly “shipping” friends in Hollywood, as many do with Elizabeth Olsen and Chris Evans, just keeps us in the dark ages when it comes to social interactions and orthodoxy.

Let us not enforce the idea that true “friendship” between two attractive individuals is of lesser value than passion and romance. Let us not enforce the idea that friendship is the default state when the romance fails. The propagation of these ideas only tightens the ropes we place around adolescent males and females. Isn’t it time we abandon one of the most antiquated –and socially destructive ways – to build hype?