For International Women’s Day, I wanted to talk about the piece of art that has been giving me all my girl power as of late, Marvel’s new smash-hit series, WandaVision.
Words by Claire Cunningham
Throughout lockdown my best friend and I have managed to keep up with our favourite hobby, watching tv and taking the piss out of it, by using Netflix parties. We are big fans of everything women-centric, chick flicks, romcoms and murder mysteries featuring suburban housewives, being our go-to. Right at the bottom of the list would be anything made by Marvel. This is why when we logged on to watch the first episode of Marvel’s new TV series WandaVision on Disney+ we sarcastically made our nicknames “i<3 marvel” and “marvelgirl1234”, with no clue what to expect from the series. We joked about being ‘pick me girls’ for all of ten seconds before Wanda stepped out dressed as a 1950’s housewife in the opening of the series, and we were sold.
The show’s concept is a bit of a challenge to get your head around without prior knowledge of the goings-on of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but striped right down WandaVision is a story about a broken woman (Wanda Maximoff or, The Scarlet Witch) who is distraught by the death of her lover The Vision (a humanoid robot) and how she accidentally takes an entire town hostage in an alternate reality with her mind control powers, where she can bring her lover back to life. Wanda creates her own world, where she and Vision are reunited, happily married and safe in an idyllic sitcom. Each of the first five episodes is in the style of a different popular American sitcom from their respective era, starting with the 1950s and imitating The Dick Van Dyke Show and ending with 2010s and taking inspiration from Modern Family. The show’s meta wink to sitcom television of the past is one reason this show is so fun and unique, but the magic of WandaVision is in its feminist exploration of grief, trauma and coping.
Despite there being much of what we typically expect to see in an action-centred Marvel film, this show has a very feminine lens, with themes of marriage and motherhood as its focus whilst still being a sci-fi action-packed drama. Wanda’s thoughts and feelings are the driving force of the plot, much more than the discovery of her powers in creating these sitcom-inspired utopian towns or even the discovery of the show’s villain. The show’s narrative structure allows Wanda space and time to truly come to terms with the heartbreaking trauma which she has experienced in her life, something completely unseen before from the Marvel cinematic universe – especially as explored by a woman.
WandaVison has done what no Marvel movie has done before, in creating a story around a strong, complex and three-dimensional female character that does not revolve around the attainment of heterosexual romance but on the far more complex themes of grief and loss. As we progress through each episode our Netflix Party nicknames changed to “Wanda kidnap me” and “Wanda my feminist icon” and our conversations while watching the show changed. Our perspective on the show changed. Our chat transcript consisted of us completely fangirling over Wanda, with our caps locks firmly on to evoke the fact that we were screaming at anyone trying to end Wanda’s physics rule of the town. We were hooked.
Starting our watch of WandaVision, as two women who yes, love good television but were pretty much disinterested in Marvel movies or their hypermasculine superheroes, we were surprised at our enjoyment of this radical venture for Marvel. WandaVision has converted us, given us a new feminist icon and has created a new space, in a new fandom within one of the largest and most successful media franchises of the 21st century, that until now felt like it was not catering to women’s interests. WandaVision is a series that has opened the door for more female fans to get swept up and invested in the nitty-gritty previously male-centric world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.