The first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series, WandaVision, concluded recently and it is fair to say that this is the most experimental project to come out of the studio to date. All of the MCU films are action films even if some have dabbled into other genres; Spiderman: Homecoming referenced John Hughes teen comedies and the inspiration for Captain America: The Winter Soldier was 1970s political thrillers.
While the finale of WandaVision was action-packed, most episodes of the series strayed far from the action genre. It was refreshing to see an MCU project largely conform to another genre, a sitcom format. The beginning of the series was baffling at first because we had no idea why the superheroes Wanda and Vision were leading a retro suburban life in the style of a sitcom. All becomes clear when the viewer learns that Wanda has transformed a town into her own suburban fantasy in which Vision is still alive. Wanda loved watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched and The Brady Bunch as a child and these sitcoms provide the inspiration for the Westview she creates in her attempt to create the perfect familial life she never had.
It is clear that the writers of WandaVision adore the sitcom genre. There are not many TV shows that are so hyper-aware of their format. One exception I can think of is Jane the Virgin, which lovingly satirised telenovelas. WandaVision stands out because it traces the history of the sitcom, from the 1950s when it was filmed in front of a live studio audience up until the 2010s when the mockumentary format became inescapable. I believe that this historical approach and experimentation with genre opened up this series to a wider audience than just the usual Marvel fans who are satisfied with the same fare each instalment. WandaVision promises the MCU are willing to push the envelope further in the future.
WandaVision was a risky endeavour for Marvel. The show initially received poor reviews because audiences were kept in the dark for many episodes of the series. The creators’ decision to not immediately satisfy the viewer’s curiosity was potentially alienating. The characters of Wanda and Vision are not exactly fan-favourites either; beginning the MCU series rollout with the Loki series would have been a safer choice. But the studio clearly has a grand narrative planned out for both the TV series and films. The WandaVision series grants the character of Wanda the time to grieve Vision and to finally become the Scarlet Witch. This character development must be important for the future instalments of the MCU. The risk Marvel took with WandaVision has been proven worthwhile and it will be interesting to see if future MCU series will be as daring.
Brigid Molloy – Film and TV Correspondent