We are all Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Some viewers may think that Wanda Maximoff is the villain of the story in WandaVision, but she’s not. She is all of us.

When the pandemic first started and quarantine was new, people began to binge-watch television shows at a dizzying pace. Stuck at home, many viewers had the time to catch up on series they may had fallen behind on and discovered new stories on an ever-expanding array of streaming services.

But as COVID wore on, and people began hitting the pandemic wall, stories that had an element of drama became more difficult to stomach. Instead of watching shiny, new shows, viewers began to put on old favorites in the background, using them as a soothing balm to keep them company, help them fall asleep, or just to feel connected to something happy and alive.

Comfort binging is nothing new. Before the pandemic, people certainly revisited old favorites again and again. See: The Office. During the height of the pandemic, Peacock spun off an entire streaming service based on the fact that they knew fans of The Office would flock over there to stream the show over and over and over. Guess what? They were right.

Disney did the same with WandaVision

So, when WandaVision came along, the concept felt eerily familiar. Reeling from a tragic loss and facing an uncertain and changed world after the Avengers reversed Thanos’s snap at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is unmoored.

[SPOILERS for the first six episodes of WandaVision follow. You’ve been warned.]

Adrift in her grief, Wanda uses her substantially impressive powers to cordon off a small town called Westview in New Jersey and make it her own. She’s brought Vision (Paul Bettany) along with her, but he’s not in on her secret; he’s just along for the ride. Once she’s settled, Wanda disappears into a 50’s sitcom with a quickness, hoop skirt and all.

As WandaVision has progressed, swiftly moving through decades of sitcom tropes, it has become clear that Wanda is working through her trauma by sinking deep into the stages of grief. But, whereas most people might snuggle up with a Comfy and a box of tissues while they binge an old TV show and process their feels, Wanda has magical resources that make her manifestation of denial all the more powerful.

Just like most of us in these uncertain times, Wanda Maximoff is powered by grief and unresolved trauma. And her escape into TV Land is a common coping mechanism that many people use on the daily.

Wanda is us. We are Wanda. With so much loss, destruction, and uncertainty surrounding us in the world today, who wouldn’t want to escape into a sitcom world in which all our problems can be solved in 30 minutes or less? Given the opportunity, who among us wouldn’t try to create a world in which everything is a-ok and we get to spend oodles of time with the ones we love?

Both our collective escape into binging feel-good sitcoms and Wanda’s manifestation of her own technicolor world are essentially the same. Sometimes the traumas we face are just too heavy and too much, and we need a breather and a break from the excruciating emotions that we’re processing.

COVID isolation has greatly decreased the coping mechanisms available to us, including our eons-old ritual of collective grieving. Human beings are not meant to process trauma or grief alone, and when we do, our mental health suffers. Sometimes we hurt others in our pursuit of feeling better. Sometimes we withdraw. Sometimes we escape into fictional worlds.

While Wanda wasn’t isolated in her grief due to living in a world beset by a pandemic, she was completely alone following Vision’s tragic death. And, even though capturing a town of 3,000 people and making them into happy sitcom puppets isn’t exactly right, it does make sense for her on an emotional level. However, ultimately, it’s not what she needs to evolve and get past this horrific period in her life.

Coping mechanisms that allow us to take a break from indescribable grief and trauma can be helpful… in moderation. But when a single coping mechanism detracts from our ability to process emotion and face reality, it can become dangerous and counterproductive.

Wanda doubles down on her alternative reality

In the most recent episode of WandaVision, we saw Wanda double down on her fictional alternative reality when Vision almost made it out of her bubble of denial. Since she wasn’t ready to accept the truth, she simply closed her eyes and expanded her fictional universe, allowing it to swallow everything in its wake.

In her brief conversations with Pietro (Evan Peters), we can see that, on some level, Wanda knows that what she’s doing isn’t right. In fact, if she’s also controlling Pietro’s movements, he might actually be a manifestation of her own psyche. At one point, referring to their childhood, he tells her, “you’ve probably suppressed a lot of the trauma.” She has. And she sees Westview as her only way of coping. So she clings to it.

Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

It’s clear that Wanda needs someone to help her through her grief. And WandaVision is already telegraphing a possible solution in the form of a big moment between Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Wanda. Monica awoke from the snap to find that she had also lost one of the loves of her life: her mother, Maria Rambeau. When faced with the option of using brute force to free the citizens of Westview, Monica retorts, “If Wanda is the problem, then she has to be our solution.” Then, later, she declares, “I know what Wanda is feeling, and I won’t stop until I help her.”

But Monica hasn’t processed her own grief either. She’s throwing herself into this madness as a way to deal. It’s her own coping mechanism. Yet, she might be onto something. If she can connect with Wanda and assist her in confronting her difficult reality, then that simple connection might just break down the emotional—and metaphysical—walls that Wanda has built for herself and begin the process of healing for both of them.

In interviews, WandaVision showrunner Jac Schaffer has cited Netflix series Russian Doll as an inspiration for the fourth episode “record scratch” introduction of Monica and the outside crew from S.W.O.R.D. However, the parallel between the two series might be so much more than a simple character introduction.

In Russian Doll, the fourth episode introduced a character that was experiencing something eerily similar to a dissociating event that the main character was also experiencing. This moment changes the game entirely and lets both the main character (and the audience) know that they are not alone. The connection between the two characters becomes a transformative centerpiece of the series.

And the same thing might just be happening with Monica on WandaVision. Both stories seem to be signaling that coping with trauma is necessary, but connection with others is paramount to begin effective, long term healing.

5 things to know about WandaVision on Disney Plus. dark. Next

In our own lives, we all cycle through stages of being villain and hero. We’re never just one thing. Yet maybe, just maybe, the basic lessons of kindness, togetherness, and perseverance that we love in sitcoms will help us get through to the other side and emerge stronger than ever before. It’s just going to take way more than 30 minutes to get there.

WandaVision airs Fridays on Disney Plus.