Yeah, I know, this post should have come before the previous one. And it was intended to, but then The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wrapped up sooner than expected, and I was so moved by it (though not in a very healthy way, admittedly) that I felt compelled to get that one out of my system immediately. Since much of what I wanted to discuss about the MCU more broadly went into that post, this one will likely be relatively brief.
WandaVision started out as a lot of fun (though I’m not sure what percentage of today’s audience was be able to get all the old sitcom callbacks), and frankly, anything that puts classic Bronze Age characters like the Vision and Scarlet Witch in the spotlight is going to get a look from me. But as mentioned in my previous post, the MCU continues in its tendencies to draw from poor source material—for those not in the know, in this case that would be John Byrne’s West Coast Avengers and House of M by Brian Michael Bendis.
Usually, the MCU fixes many of the more problematic aspects of such weak source material, but this still often leads them to an end product that’s less than it could have been. Now what would be the best approach for getting the best possible end product? I dunno, maybe you could try drawing on quality source material? Maybe? Ya think?
Anyway, in this instance, they once again correct many of the worst aspects of that bad source material, but then shoot themselves in the foot anyway.
First, on the good side, it looks like they’re setting up the Vision to be restored to his old self, which is a desperately needed correction of that aforementioned Byrne stuff. Then they changed the scope of Wanda’s hex meddling so that rather than effect all of reality (twice), her hex sphere is confined to one small town, with a population that’s just under 4,000 people. Another positive correction—to a point. Which brings us to the foot shooting.
The problem is how they chose to portray the citizens of that fictional small town (Westview, New Jersey) and their reaction to what’s happening to them. Whenever a Westview resident is free to express how Wanda’s manipulations are affecting them, in every case but one (Monica Rambeau) it’s described as something torturous. As a consequence, Wanda becomes a de facto villain. The Washington Post spells it all out in much finer detail here.
The most frustrating aspect of this is that there was no real need to portray things this way. This show, like all superhero comics and like media, is complete fantasy. It’s not meant to be any kind of literal representation of reality. As such, the creators get to make up their own rules for how Wanda’s powers work—so there’s no reason her control of the townspeople has to be abusive in nature. They could have experienced the whole thing as a silly dream; hell, it could have even been fun for them. When you stop and think about it, the silly sitcom nature of this altered reality really should have been fun for them. I mean, at one time or another, haven’t most of us fantasized about living in a sitcom, where there’s never any serious problems to face and everything always works out in the end?
I can only guess they wanted to insert an air of something sinister at work, introduce more menace to the proceedings, maybe add more moral ambiguity for the sake of drama. But in so doing they’ve left Wanda fairly irredeemable. I mean, one small town of less than 4,000 people is better than every living thing in all reality (as in House of M), but inflicting such pain on that many people is still a horrifying and unforgivable crime.
Unless making Wanda into a villain was the plan all along, in which case… congrats?
Don’t say it, I already know: I should just stop writing about the MCU at this point. (Actually, I should probably stop watching the MCU at this point.) We’ll see if I can resist temptation when Black Widow drops in July.