Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker. On the surface, two people that could not seem any more different. Mary Jane, the dancing, laughing life of the party and her boyfriend, the nerdy scientist. She, the girl from the tough household but popular with classmates. He, the golden child of his aunt and uncle but the target for bullies at school. Two people from totally different backgrounds who became best friends. What could they possibly have in common?
Mary Jane and her family had a good deal of stress to deal with for many years. Her father, Philip, was a college professor with dreams of become a great novelist. Her mother, Madeline, was a stay at home mother to her daughters, older Gale and younger Mary Jane. While Philip was a beloved professor to his students, he was a drunken tyrant at home. He moved the family from university to university, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Mr. Watson's frustration grew and so did his rage at the children. Gale turned to ballet to deal with her feelings, while Mary Jane pretended to be the care free wild child. Philip became physically abusive to Gale for the cost of her ballet lessons.
Madeline tolerated the abuse that Philip threw at her, but his attacking the children made her leave her husband. Madeline filed for divorce and moved the girls to whichever family members would take them. This caused much resentment in their temporary homes, except for Anna Watson, Philip's older sister. Anna lived in Queens, New York, and was a neighbor to May and Ben Parker, foster parents to Peter. Mary Jane was thirteen years old when she first saw Peter, although the two would not actually meet for several more years.
Mary Jane spent a lot of time going back and forth between New York and Pittsburgh, living with either her aunt or her mother and sister. On one such trip to Queens, Mary Jane noticed a red and blue costumed figure leave Peter's bedroom window and swing away. Later, she heard that Spider-Man had captured Ben Parker's killer. MJ put two and two together, but kept the knowledge to herself. Sometime after, Madeline died of heart disease. Gale hoped that MJ would help her raise her children, but Mary Jane refused. Peter was in college when he finally met MJ, and he was stunned by the redhead's good looks. The two became friends, despite May and Anna's hopes that the two would become romantic. Peter was dating Gwen Stacy at the time and Peter and MJ didn't become an item until after Gwen's death at the hands of the Green Goblin.
MJ and Peter had good times and bad times in their relationship, but they eventually became a permanent couple. Being the significant other to a superhero put a lot of stress on Mary Jane but they stayed together for years. She faced many threats in those years but her loyalty to Peter never wavered. Eventually, they went their separate ways, after an attempt on Anna Waton's life became too much for Mary Jane to bear. She and Peter remain friends.
OCEAN: The Big Five Personality Traits
OCEAN is an acronym for the Big Five Personality Traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
After looking over Mary Jane's life story, I believe she is moderately open, moderately conscientiousness, is highly extroverted, very agreeable and scores low on the neurotic scale. Let me explain.
Intellectualism is a major factor in determining how open a person is. While Mary Jane did enroll in college classes to study psychology, she never finished her degree. Instead, she returned to her former modeling career, mainly because of the generous pay check. (Sensational Spider-Man #33) Still, the fact that she did attempt to earn a degree shows that she is at least somewhat open to ideas.
MJ has shown some foresight over the years. She purchased a handgun, telling Peter that she refused to end up like Gwen despite his objections to the weapon. (She ends up using it after being kidnapped by the Green Goblin in Marvel Knights Spider-Man #12.) She also purchases a nightclub to throw Peter a party in after he stopped Doctor Octopus's plan for global domination. (Amazing Spider-Man #685) Most of the time, she seems preoccupied with helping Peter and focusing on her modeling or acting jobs.
Mary Jane is absolutely an extroverted woman. Always ready to go dancing, throwing a party is her number one stress reliever and pass time. She went to a celebrity owned Midtown nightclub called "The Deep" as Spider-Man and other vigilantes tried to calm riots caused by Carnage and his "family." (Web of Spider-Man #102) She also threw Peter a going away party before he moved out of his old apartment and moved in with her. Peter thinks to himself "It'll be fun, once I figure out who half the people are." (Web of Spider-Man #38) She explains to herself one night at a club "She figures her husband will be out, playing Spider-Man, most of the night. So, why waste a night off? A classic 'seize the moment' type person, Mary Jane can do this because of self confidence--and her confidence in her husband." (Spider-Man #2)
MJ is also quite a caring person. She showed great understanding toward Harry Osborn, despite the blood feud between he and Peter. While she didn't appreciate the fact that Harry took her against her will to the spot where Gwen was murdered to talk, she did defend him after Peter attacked him. She also mourned his "death" along with Peter. (Spectacular Spider-Man #200) Mary Jane also personally tended to Ben Reilly, Peter's clone, after he was badly beaten by the Hobgoblin. He came to them in the middle of the night as they slept. She then gave Ben advice after he claimed that he had unfairly blamed his girlfriend for trying to ruin his life. (Spectacular Spider-Man #234)
Finally, she is fairly low on neuroticism. As stated before, she is completely confident in herself and Peter. She would have to be very confident in him, as he often goes out crime fighting with Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. Felicia and Peter are a former romantic item and Cat wears a black leather costume. MJ has also stepped in during a fight, such as when she intervened between Spider-Man and Michael Morbius. Standing over a beaten Spider-Man, Mary Jane demanded that Morbius fight his urge to kill and take responsibility for himself. The vampire eventually left, with enticement from a doctor with a blood packet. (Peter Parker: Spider-Man #78) MJ also didn't hesitate to go to the Miami reservoir to help Spider-Man against the Lizard. (Spider-Man Unlimited #19) She did get a little nervous after Sarah Stacy, the daughter of Gwen, showed up. She followed them to Paris, worried that Peter might fall for the woman that was very similar looking to his first love. (Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 2, #25)
A Resilient Redhead
There are many traits and circumstances that make a person resilient to stress and hardship. A person needs: strong social support (good family and friends), hardship, positive bonds to caregivers, a hopeful sense of meaning in life and supportive romantic partners.
Mary Jane certainly has many of those checked off. While her father and other family members were not supportive, her mother and aunt were both strong positive influences on her life. Peter has come through for her again and again. Felicia, unlikely as it seems, has been supportive of Mary Jane. (Web of Spider-Man #125) Sue Richard has lent an ear to Mary Jane. (Sensational Spider-Man vol. 2, #32) Even Harry Osborn, for all of his faults, saved her life by getting her out of the building that he had wired to explode.
Like many last born kids, Mary Jane was a comedian and a rebel. She entertained family members with impressions of other people but tended to shirk her chores, letting Gale do them. Youngest children tend to score highly on on the agreeableness scale, as opposed to eldest kids, who tend to be higher ranked in terms of conscientiousness. Youngest children are also more likely to take risks regarding their physical safety. Think back to Mary Jane protecting Spider-Man from Morbius and saving him from the Lizard in Miami.
Intellectualism may not be Mary Jane's strength, but she is a loving, supportive friend to Peter. She is fiercely protective of him and her "seize the day" attitude is doubtless a relief to his stressful crime fighting lifestyle. They compliment each other, each having personality traits that the other lacks. They will certainly depend on each other for years to come.