Spoilers: WandaVision on Disney+
Around episode three of WandaVision, I thought I had some snarky hot take about the show. Something in the ballpark of “Oh really? All that your all-powerful female superhero wants deep down is to be a happy homemaker and housewife?” But the show quickly proved me so wrong. I am still left awestruck at the beauty and grounded reality of the messages within this superhero story. There is something so gruesomely accurate about the depth that we will all go to to conjure safety for our own minds. And as silly as it seems, the defining line that struck me was “I don’t need you to tell me who I am.” Wanda is not merely a compilation of her trauma, nor defined by it. She is the strength that arises from living with it.
Ultimately the plot serves the meatier bits of the show – namely: Wanda and Vision, their love, and the interesting conceptual arc the storytellers wanted to draw. While some characters beyond Wanda and Vision don’t seem fleshed out enough at times and while occasional plot points are slightly left unanswered, this is ultimately a plot-in-service-of-a-concept type of story rather than a plot-in-service-of-a-plot type of story. And the concept is resoundingly touching. So much so that I can’t get tears to stop streaming down my face just thinking about some of these moments, like Wanda saying to her children, “Thank you for choosing me to be your mom.” The sacrifices we must make to cut ties with our trauma and the healing work that must be done is so (funnily enough) humanized through a witch and an android. The choice to consciously and actively change, even to the point of sacrifice, and even when others will still misunderstand and villainize her for it, is so important. In the end, contrary to being “not feminist enough,” I felt that Wanda was such an empowering and honest depiction of the struggle towards wholeness.
I appreciate that the writers didn’t fall into the simple trap of Wanda just being “crazy” or, on the contrary, being majestically good. There is a real struggle for her to put down her own weight and that can be quite validating and healing to watch. Watching her battle of will to ultimately make peace with what has happened to her and to change for the better is empowering. The story becomes one of deep and abiding love and the ways we find to heal. The story calls to a yearning, beyond gender, for a safety that can so often feel irreparably damaged. The story calls to the desire to piece together the dreamscape of the world we envision. It calls to the cinematic world that we crave deeply in our innermost psyche, and the reality that we know we all must grapple with. This is the strongest Marvel character I’ve seen, not because of her powers, but because the emotional throughline is so deeply connected to her powers, and likewise, her powers are so deeply connected to her emotional strength. She is fueled by love, that all-powerful force, and yet that does not ring as cliche or tired — rather, it feels weighty and deserved.
I also appreciated that the ending involved a bit of classic Doctor Who-esque outwittery rather than blunt force winning in a fight. Agatha’s writing became a little one-dimensional in the very end episodes, but her actions still precipitated the climactic events in an effective enough way. And ultimately it ends with a personal and emotional struggle to accept your own grief, rather than simply winning because she was innately stronger or better than Agatha. It is fitting that she refused the story that the witches attempted to impress upon her (that she had a dark destiny), for breaking cycles of trauma can often feel akin to rewriting your destiny. And as displayed, this reclamation of self can be exquisitely painful. This is a story that is worth telling, and it needs to be told. A story that reaffirms that you are not defined by your trauma, or what has happened to you, and that working to reclaim yourself and break cycles of trauma takes some of the deepest and greatest strength we have as humans. These feats should be marveled at and should be heralded as superpowers.