For most characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, secret identities don’t matter, but it’s an issue that is central to Spider-Man: Far From Home and its upcoming sequel. Spider-Man’s secret identity has always (through the comics and films) been vital to his character. He believes that if the world were to know his alter ego, it would put his family and friends at risk by making them targets. Villains could use Aunt May, MJ, or Ned as bait to get to Spider-Man or to threaten him into inaction.
That’s why the mid-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home was such a big moment. When J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) reveals Parker’s true identity via the recording made by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) before his death, Spidey’s remove from the people he loves is shattered. He loses his ability to protect them with anonymity and distance.
Given Spider-Man wasn’t introduced into the MCU canon until Phase 3, this secret identity concept caused an issue for Marvel. Until Peter Parker appeared, his superhero associates mostly abandoned the idea of secret identities. Recall the pivotal moment at the end of Iron Man when Tony Stark announces his identity as the superhero in front of a crowd of reporters. For other heroes, it’s been a non-issue: they’re strong (or wealthy) enough to take threats, those they care about are also powerful beings, or they just don’t really have any loved ones. With the consequences for revealing their identities removed, by the time of Spider-Man’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, motivations for keeping his own a secret needed bolstering.
Peter Parker is a school-aged teen with superpowers and plenty of regular people around him he wants to protect. But introducing Mysterio as a celebrity hero in Spider-Man: Far From Home, someone recognized and adored, the movie demonstrated that Parker would never be able to have a regular life and go to school and blend in (or keep his friends and family out of danger) if the public were to discover who he really is. Having justified the need for his secret identity, the stakes are higher than ever now that he’s lost it.
Each MCU film has revealed Spider-Man’s true identity to more people, and now Parker has been exposed by Mysterio and Jameson. This is a key setup for the upcoming MCU Spider-Man 3 film, with some plot details already leaked. Casting announcements have also revealed insight into Marvel’s plans for the next Spidey film. With the stakes raised so high for Parker after losing his secret identity in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the MCU made a smart pivot to a comics staple, increasing anticipation for its sequel in the process.