Media, and society’s reaction to it, are often a fascinating sociological case study. This is especially true when discussions of privilege, bias, and their influence on our purview as a people are explored. Actor Penn Badgley was correct when he stated that his Netflix series, You, ultimately illustrates how far society is willing to go to forgive an evil white man.
To that end, countless other shows and films are usually white power fantasies that are designed to normalize and justify the horrendous acts of white villains. Also to that end, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has showcased how far society will go to cape for white mediocrity. Critique the numerous failings of most of the MCU’s content and incels and terfs emerge out of the woodwork to klansplain, harass and even threaten others with violence.
Wandavision, and much of the social media and articles surrounding it, are also examples of this.
The original Disney+ seriesis the first installment of Phase Four of the MCU. Set a few weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda Maximoff and Vision find themselves living the suburban life in the town of Westview, New Jersey. Trying to conceal their true natures, Wanda and Vision continue to encounter sitcom tropes and soon postulates that something is amiss.
How this series fails, let me count the ways.
The sitcom gimmick was cute for one ep but to suffer through multiple eps of this nonsense was nauseating. More than that, the Coulson May Power Hour (billed in some regions as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) did the vintage tv homage better and with far more nuance in its final season.
One of the main reasons Wandavision struggles is because the relationship between Vision and Wanda is one of the primary focal points of the show. Said relationship between the two Avengers is one of the most iconic pairings in all of comic books. However, a viewer wouldn’t know this with the MCU iteration. While hints of the fledgling relationship are touched on with a pinch of Paprika, to quote the great martial artist, philosopher and prodigy Bruce Lee, it lacks emotional content.
Because the MCU architects failed to flesh out the character arcs there is a disconnect which leaves the state of Wanda and her level of grief a bit of a Reed Richards type of reach. It almost reads as a bad Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic. Not shocking given the parallels.
In season 5 of BTVS, the Big Bad was exiled Hell goddess, Glory, whose machinations would result in the destruction of all reality. Aside from the Slayer, the only other character who consistently had Glory on the ropes single-handedly was Buffy’s best friend and resident mage, Willow Rosenberg. On the warpath herself, Willow would stop at nothing to avenge her lover, and one of Glory’s victims, Tara. This set up the events of season 6 when Willow went rogue because she lost herself in her ever-growing powers while reeling from Tara’s death.
Of course, in the MCU films, while also avenging her blond slain lover, Wanda was the only person who bested a fully powered Infinity Gauntlet wielding Mad Titan and nearly ended him. This later sets up Wanda going rogue out, spiraling out of grief. Oh yeah and Willow and Wanda are both red headed witches. And their first names start with W. Just saying.
Another critical flaw of Wandavision? The weekly episodic format. Depending on determining factors such as pacing, arcs etc., certain shows work best in the weekly episodic format while other series operate best in a binge watch. For the latter, a viewer can at least power through the weaker eps. Alas that’s not even an option with this show, as another article accurately unpacks. Of the nine eps, only eps four & eight are worth watching. However to point out the obvious triggers the MCU stans to berate, bully and silence others. As if that wasn’t bad enough, then you have pieces like this one talk down to its readers about how society simply forgot how to watch television.
[Makes Chris Hemwsorth puzzled expression]
Did we though?
Did we forget how to watch television when we tuned in each week to watch Marvel’s Agent Carter, Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, Luke Cage, or Daredevil? Or did we only forget how to watch television when we are nonplussed by a show riddled with plot holes and other flaws?
So Wandavision is sans any redeeming qualities? Actually……..no.
The Disney+ series has a number of gems, chief among them, Elisabeth Olsen. Over the last decade, she has proven to be a gifted actress. Olsen has masterfully brought layers, vulnerability, and empathy to a complicated and at times (especially in the comics) convoluted character who may be arguably the most powerful player in the MCU at this point. The actress delivers some of her best work to date in the show.
Entering the fray as an adult Monica Rambeau, co-star Teyonah Parris is without question the breakout star of Wandavision. Rambeau (aka Photon aka Spectrum aka the original female Captain Marvel) has been one of Marvel’s most popular superheroines and fans have been demanding her to join the MCU since its inception. Parris’s performance was a frequent reminder that the series would’ve succeeded had it been told from Rambeau’s point of view. In the spirit of X-Files and perhaps Twin Peaks, the audience could have followed a fresh new protagonist in an adult Rambeau as she comes to term with her five year absence, grieve the loss of her mother, investigate the Westview phenomenon, as well as uncover the mystery of her burgeoning powers.
There could be a really cool show where Monica Rambeau deals with what it's like to suddenly exist again after not existing for 5 years. Watching someone come to terms with that and moving on from it is the kind of solid character driven story foundation that you could build hundreds of different and interesting kinds of stories around. Instead, we've got Wandavision, the story of one white lady's elaborate temper tantrum after her talking vibrator died.
—David Larson Carlton
Co-stars Randall Park and Kathryn Hahn provide more than a few memorable scenes in their respective roles. The soundtrack is worth a gander but that is to be expected whenever composer Christophe Beck is at the helm.
Wandavision also introduced two other signature characters into the MCU; Tommy and Billy, twin sons of Vision and Wanda. In the comics, Tommy and Billy are better known respectively as Young Avengers founding members, Impulse and Wiccan. As a teenaged gay crimefighter, Wiccan is a groundbreaking character. Like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan, he has become one of Marvel’s newer, popular and most progressive superheroes. Alas, not even Wiccan was safe from the Erase The LGBTQ trope. Ayo, Valkyrie, and now Wiccan - the MCU is nothing if not consistent, but this is what happens when you have bigots at the helm.
By no means is Wandavision the worst tv series the MCU has released as it’s still better than Inhumans, Jessica Jones, Helstrom and season one of Iron Fist. However it proves to be little more than an ostentatious nine part infomercial to promote the next Doctor Strange film.
And it does a poor job at that.