Mar 16, 2021

Wandavision: More Sitcom than Science Fiction

 For months, Netflix has been a wasteland, mostly a lot of  "dead girl in a small town" cop shows and "poor boy and rich girl fall in love" Korean melodramas.  So we have pulled the plug and switched to Disney Plus, which allows us to finally see what all the fuss is about with Wandavision.

The series has been showing up on my Twitter and Facebook feeds a lot: "The staggering surprise of the last episode!": "Wasn't the last episode the best thing you ever saw?"; "Fifteen top theories about the new Disney Plus hit!"  But what was it?  I figured the video blog of Wanda from Corner Gas.

I started watching with only minimal research, enough to determine that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are superheroes in the Marvel Universe who are dating or married to each other.  So, if she was dating The Incredible Hulk, would the show be called Wandahulk?

In the first two episodes, they seem to be the stars of an archetypal early 1960s black-and-white sitcom with a "my secret identity" premise: Vision is a robot, and Wanda has magical powers.  Plotlines are about what you'd expect from old sitcoms, although you'll have to grow up with them to get all the references.

Episode #1: The living room is from The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the kitchen from I Love Lucy.  Vision has a job at an amorphous company that doesn't produce or sell anything, like sitcom dads of the era.  There's a wacky next door neighbor.  The plot: Wanda thinks that the "special night" is their anniversary, but it's actually dinner with the boss and his wife.

Episode #2: The living-dining room, front yard, and opening credits are from Bewitched.  The plot: Wanda and Vision are set to perform at a talent show to benefit the local elementary school, but Vision is incapacitated by eating chewing gum (apparently he can't eat, although, as Isaac Asimov pointed out in I, Robot, food is a part of so many social occasions that any robot designed to interact with humans should have the capability).

Of course, Wandavision is not a complete clone of these shows.  The friends and neighbors are racially diverse without comment; for instance, Vision's coworker Norm is played by Asif Ali (below), and future episodes will feature Special Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, left).  There were no black or Asian characters on early 1960s sitcoms, except for a very few episodes about them.  

There also seem to be more jokes about sex than appeared in the uptight sixties.    

And there  are occasional hints that something is wrong.  

1. Wanda and Vision don't want to say where they came from, how long they've lived in Westview, or how long they've been married.  I wasn't sure if they were trying to avoid being outed as superheroes, or they really didn't know.  Maybe they can't remember anything before the "series" began, like the residents of Storybrook in Once Upon a Time.

2. At dinner, the boss starts choking on a piece of food, and his wife laughs and tells him to "Stop it" over and over.  An inappropriate affect.

3. People keep announcing that the talent show is a benefit "for the children," and everyone repeats "for the children" in a robotic drone.

4. In the second episode, red objects occasionally appear in the black-and-white world, and then suddenly everything switches to color.

5. Wanda asks a new acquaintance her name, and she doesn't know.

I would prefer more hints.  Most of each episode's dialogue, characterization, and plot so closely matches early 1960s sitcoms that I wanted to turn it off and watch a real episode of I Love Lucy or Bewitched.  I want more evidence this is not actually a 1960s sitcom, it's a science fiction series about superheroes trapped in a sitcom world.

Beefcake: No.

Heterosexism: Wanda and Vision are a standard loving heterosexual couple.

Gay Characters: None specified yet, although I understand that the characters are all superheroes, and one of them is gay in other media.

Will I Keep Watching:  Sure.  I want to see their take on The Brady Bunch in the 1970s and the hip sitcoms of the 1980s.


  1. I thought Once Upon a Time was Storybrook?

    In the comics, Wanda wanted to be normal, hence she created this.

    (As a quick aside, Pietro and Wanda should not have worked for HYDRA, who are of course Nazi stand-ins, given that their father is Jewish. Probably the biggest faux pas of the MCU.)

    There is one gay character in her fantasy. Wanda's son Billy. Their children weren't real until they were, and now Billy's married to Hulkling. Gay marriages actually last longer than hetero marriages in comics, largely because Silver Age nostalgia ultimately returns things to the status quo ante with the latter. (Even if as far as my generation was concerned, Peter was always married to Mary Jane, Scott was always married to Jean, etc.)

    1. Ok, MCU stands for Missouri Central University, Hydra was a monster killed by Hercules, and I have no idea who Pietro, Peter, Mary Jane, Scott, or Jean are. I can surmise that Hulking is the son of the Incredible Hunlk.

    2. Sticking to the one you genuinely may not know, no. He's just green. His parents are royalty from two alien species who have been at war for centuries. The Skrulls most famously invaded Earth by replacing everyone in an arc called Secret Invasion. (DC has Crisis, Marvel has Secret. Which is funny because Secret Wars is a silly title.)

      I do have to give Billy credit for being the first male character whose persona comes from his mother, at least in a main-timeline book. (There's Darkstar from Kingdom Come, but that was an alternate timeline, it was part of a pattern, and I think Robert Long was already dead in the main universe.)

    3. I figured out that Peter is Peter Parker, Spiderman, so Mary Jane must be his girlfriend, and Hydra must be a superheroic organization. MCU = Marvel Comics Universe? Pietro is the twin brother of Wanda. But I still don't know who Scott and Jean are.

  2. Yep. Quesada literally sold the Parkers' relationship to Mephisto. AND retconned Gwen Stacy as having had twins with the Green Goblin during that weekend he was in Quebec chasing the Hulk (and we met Wolverine). Also, just before the Green Goblin throws her off the George Washington Bridge. So, now not only did we lose his two big relationships, but we have Norman Osbourne's O face to haunt us for eternity. Enjoy that image. And remember, Peter Parker is the son Norman never had.

    Scott and Jean: Cyclops and Jean Grey. Mental affair with the White Queen. And I have too much history with Teen Titans (Raven, Mirage) to not be bothered by this whole concept. Anyway, Jean gets pissed, and they've been on opposite sides a lot since. (He's lee the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, she will in the future.) Funny thing, in at least one reality, they're in a threeway with Wolverine.

    HYDRA is, well, they're Nazi stand-ins. They're Cap's main villains these days, along with SHIELD's, and sometimes the X-Men's when Magneto works with the X-Men. So yeah, the idea of Magneto's kids working with them is kinda, no.

  3. Hokay. No idea if you've gone ahead and watched the rest of the show or not but I'll try to explain if you haven't...


    Wanda is a mutant with the power to manipulate chaos magic and reshape reality at will but no training in how to control these powers.
    Vision is/was her true love; I don't think they had the chance to marry but they were clearly planning on doing so before he was killed in a battle.
    Pietro is/was Wanda's twin brother and her only surviving relative after her parents were killed in a bombing raid in the semi-fictional foreign country they came from. He had super-speed powers and was called Quicksilver. He was also killed in the same battle.
    So clearly Wanda's dealing with a LOT. When she finds a map to a small plot of land in a nearby suburb, she drives out there and finds it was his intended wedding present for her, a little home where they could live together like in the sitcoms Wanda would comfort-watch compulsively. (One of her last happy memories of her family was the four of them watching DVDs of old sitcoms together before the bombing raid orphaned her and her brother.)
    Overwhelmed with grief and despair, Wanda inadvertently uses her powers to trap an entire small town, seal it off from the world, and transform it into the sitcom Fifties idyll of her dreams, where Vision is alive, they're happily married, and nothing too terrible ever happens.
    Eventually, she adds children to the show, two boys, twins Billy and Tommy, who age quickly to about ten years old and manifest super-powers of their own. Tommy's inherited his uncle's super-speed and Billy has psionic powers similar to his mother.
    Things begin to break down, however. Pietro reappears, but he isn't anything like he was before and he has no explanation for how he rose from the dead. Slowly, Wanda starts to understand the truth: She has accidentally taken this entire town prisoner and is using the people there as puppets in her elaborate fantasy. They're her prisoners and they're suffering and terrified. But if she frees them, she also dissolves her happy sitcom life. Her husband, her brother, and her little boys will all cease to exist.
    Complicating matters even further is an evil witch, far more experienced, who wants Wanda's powers for her own and a government agency which regards Wanda as a threat and is determined to take her down by any means necessary.
    Got all tgat?

    1. Thanks, but this was a post from 2 months ago. I've watched the entire series since, plus the three Avengers movies with the Wanda-Vision plot arc and a book on the "100 Greates Marvel Comics"


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