So another day, another Disney Plus spin off show..
This time, it’s Marvel’s turn. They have given us a series revolving around the magic witch enhanced human Eastern European gal, Wanda and her robotic love, Vision.
When we last saw them, she was on the verge of destroying Thanos (an ultimate honour reserved for Tony Stark in the end as he finished off the purple, world halving baddie with a click of his fingers).
She was, nonetheless, clearly a force to fear. Her power is theoretically, limitless. What Wanda thinks, can be made to happen. So it was no surprise that her thoughts would conjure a world in which Vision survived the Thanos purge.
And so we get a kind of world within world. WANDAVISION: an internal projection, clearly in continuity with the preceding movies. Wanda is inhabiting a universe that revolves around old fashioned sitcoms and suburbia. Vision tags along as the dutiful husband and comic relief. An intriguing premise and one executed with technical skill, precision timing and inspired acting. You will laugh! You will be moved! You will ask questions.
And yet..it is also a supremely smug overcooked satire of stuff that’s been done before, better, in mini Harry Enfield skits in the 1990s. I would take a shrewd guess that those who produced this Wandavision were not children of the 50s and 60s. So why satirise it? Which of their demographic will understand the values being explored, other than as reference to similarly ‘retro’ themed pastiche?
In essence, a parody of a parody, so. And that diminished any sense of risk, originality or ultimate significance. This is the kind of lazy production line pitch whereby faux nostalgia is packaged by one generation to another with no concept of the original target. Yes, they take on consumerism. But the irony is lost when one is watching a MARVEL show on a DISNEY PLUS channel!
It is very easy to now demolish suburbia. All at some pseudo-erudite, film school David Lynch /Tim Burton/Revolutionary Road wannabe sixth form skit level. The real challenge is to use that kind of cut/paste template and actually say something new or original. Wandavision succeeds on the former and fails with the latter because it does not even need to try defining its mission. It will be successful because it is a Marvel product and has the illusion of cultural overview. Same way Captain America: Winter Soldier thinks it’s some well informed tribute to conspiracy thrillers of the 70s via wikileaks but is in fact just a grimly grey super-hero flick.
Today? one actually longs for the good side of that 1950s/60s coin. There was and indeed is a genuine appeal to innocence, community and yes an orderly ambition and tidy domesticity. Lockdown makes one long for those certainties.
Why subvert the already subverted? Why indeed. Because making an ACTUAL sitcom IN the ACTUAL Marvel super-avenger house with an ACTUAL plot-line would have been just too much of a stretch. That’s why. Equally, why not just make a nice, cozy sitcom set in the 50s/60s/ a n other decade, by all means with Marvel personnel there, but without some hubristic twist? Sometimes simplicity is virtue and attempted complexity is actually very thick. ‘I live with a Marvel super-hero’ would be great television, (as with that Thor the flat-mate thing a few years ago, which was awesome).
So sure, Wanda-vision is good. And fun. And worth watching. Just don’t be overwhelmed by the sea of sycophancy with which the show will be drenched in the weeks to come. I prefer Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Brady Bunch..or even Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.