Another week. Another pretentious genre mash-up from Marvel on Disney Plus.
WANDAVISION: CREEPY. WEIRD. NASTY. AND THE ‘JOKE’, SUCH AS IT WAS, IS OVER!
There is a case I have made throughout my blogs. It is of course perfectly fine to reference precedents in media from ages past. But it has to have certain conditions attached. There should be thematic and audience appropriate unity of purpose. And one must offer a new vision that is distinctive and clever yet clear and accessible, knowing its own limitations, whilst testing them, safely.
Hence, when Tim Burton references Fritz Lang or Steven Spielberg borrows from Orson Welles, it feeds a possible curiosity on that source material, whilst remaining a fascinating entertainment in itself.
By contrast? We now have an entire subgenre of tonally illiterate twerp fodder. The makers of movies and tv shows think you should be grateful that they attended a film school seminar or dissected a genre long since rendered a relic of pop cultural history and therefore, completely alien to the kids in their audiences.
‘Yeah well part 1 of the trilogy was light so part 2 is DARK!’ is a recurring mantra. As is ‘well, what we are trying to do is pay tribute to each tone of decade..so part 1 is all 80s yeah so 2 will be all 90s and meta’. I use quotation marks with some creativity as I am not, in actual fact, quoting anyone in particular, so much as the general creative deficit which now stalks the corridors of media power like a giant stalky thing.
WANDAVISION is a product of that same sub-subculture. Production values fine. Acting perfectly crafted. Curiosity as to motif, spiked, certainly. Except that these mystery clues and false trails are no longer mere plot devices. They ARE the full ‘plot’, thereby leaving viewers to decode the cinematic idioms being referenced. And that’s unpleasant, frankly. Because what it seems we are building toward here is full on satanic body horror akin to David Lynch and Rosemary’s Baby, coated with a dash of Truman Show.
We have, in Wandavision, now: accelerated pregnancy; anger; sinister lighting and colour grading; suburban snobbery; repression / emancipation / repression again of the female form. And every fan theory is pointing to a character called Mephisto (basically, Satan) being behind it all. Not exactly Disney stuff, is it?
HOW IS THAT IN ANY WAY SUITABLE FOR KIDS /FAMILIES?? And do not come back at me with ‘well it’s not just for kids‘ (that is my defence when I become irate at declining standards in Doctor Who). At best? You will send children to sleep and turn off layperson adults who might not be expert in all things Marvel. At (just as probable) worst, you will creep out both parties and piss off the religious fundamentalists who are none to keen on anything divine or satanic being touched upon in pop culture.
One thing is for sure: gripping television on its own merits, it ‘aint. And a meta-textual exploration of its sources makes the show less, rather than more, appealing.
Interesting note: Marvel and Scott Derrickson parted company on Doctor Strange 2 because there was a fallout over how full on the horror could go. The first film managed to deal in the demonic, whilst sensibly filtering things through cosmic pseudo-science. Same way Thanos is a genuinely menacing villain without compromising the mass audience for recent Avengers movies (needless character deaths aside).
Presumably therefore, that is where they may go from Wandavision, rather than exploring actual horror / Devil stuff? If so: great! Fine. But then begs the question as to why they bothered making the show at all, other than as self congratulatory filler and a tribute to wholly inappropriate genre material?
Answers soon, no doubt and hope I am very wrong.