WandaVision and This American Moment

We need to talk about WandaVision, the Disney+ series, and the first entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four. After more than a year and a half, the team behind the series could have easily coasted on pent-up fan demand and character nostalgia. Yet, through some meticulous design decisions and serendipitous timing, WandaVision is uniquely commenting on this moment.

Social and class unrest, political skullduggery, disrupted workplaces, chaotic education situations, and economic uncertainty are all playing out amid a global pandemic. We’re at home; a move that began as a preventative measure but, increasingly, feels like a prison. Since there’s little else to do or little else we have the cognitive and emotional energy for, I’ve been watching more television than usual. Like many, I’ve binged past comfort shows while doomscrolling through insomnia.

Time moves strangely in the pandemic’s unreality. One day drags along in repetitive tedium like any other. Yet the months rapidly disappear with little memory to account that they were there. Without personal touchstones - the trips, reviews, concerts, and even new media releases- I’ve become a character stuck in my own show’s reruns, repeating the routine but unable to progress the character arc.

light spoilers to follow

WandaVision, now streaming on Disney+

In WandaVision, the residents of Westview, NJ, also find themselves trapped in an unnatural reality. They are compelled, sometimes at great pain, to maintain a facade of the American dream: the suburb, the marriage, the homeownership, the stupefying white-collar job, etc. Even the town name, ‘Westview’ is a nod to western, or American, perception of success. The aspirational normalcy is an attempt to cope. And, at the end of the episode, the characters avoid the strangeness unpinning it all by watching TV.

When I watch WandaVision, I see a reflection of ourselves; protagonists struggling with grief. We are unsure of how this started or when it will end. We’re in control but, not? We are grieving for those we lost. We grieve for the time we won’t get back and the plans deferred. We grieve for the myths we told ourselves about a just nation and a logical, ordered world. Wanda’s story is one of grief. Despite the superpowers, her story is eminently relatable to our own.

That is a lot. Some of us have yet to acknowledge what has happened. Some of us continue to cling, even violently, to the narratives we once had. Processing the world as it is and what has changed will continue for us for some time to come.

Would WandaVision resonate so strongly if we weren’t in a pandemic? Perhaps. I could write another post on how the show uses TV tropes and audience expectations to accentuate the storytelling. That “meta-ness” would be entertaining in any time.

However, WandaVision becomes transcendent at this moment in which we’re all trapped in our own Westview.