WandaVision unapologetically asks a lot of its viewers. A quirky tv show about superheroes set within the look and feel of classic sitcoms? That doesn’t make any sense. Something about it feels disjointed and odd. Which, as you realize by the end of the series, is the whole point.
Underneath the bizarreness of the show is a profound reflection on the power of grief and the extremes we go through to cessate our pain. If you had the power to bring a loved one back from the grave, would you? Even if you knew it was simulated version of them and not the real thing?
Those questions bear consequences in the world of WandaVision.
We meet up with Wanda Maximoff three weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame and learn that she does in fact possess the power to bring back her husband from the grave in a fabricated world. It’s a place where she can live the life she has always wanted: a sitcom with her husband and kids. Like most of us in extreme pain, she can’t deny herself even when her actions hurt others. (Or in her case, mind-controlling the entire town of Westview, NJ into characters of her personal sitcom that transcends decades.)
WandaVision reminds me of expressive psychotherapy modalities like psychodramas that let you ‘relive’ experiences of your past within a safe environment. The point of these therapies is to help the client examine painful memories by drawing on the resources of the present. When you see how the story of your life has unfolded, it allows you the ability to go back into your past and place those painful memories in the larger context of who you are now. This is a way of synthesizing the pain into the fuller beauty of what your life has become. This is healing.
The alternative is getting stuck in those memories, letting the pain bleed over to every aspect of your life, and being run over by ruminations of the past. That’s trauma and it needs attention because when the cessation of pain becomes the driving force in your life, bad things happen. It leads to depression, addictions, split-personalities (in extremes), or the manipulation of a whole community so you can live a fake reality of a perfect sitcom life. None of which actually heal the pain, just numb it. The reason Westview feels odd is because Wanda desperately wants her fantasy to be a reality, but it can never be. We can’t bring the dead back to life, try as we may. Wanda knows that what she is doing is wrong, but, man, sometimes it just hurts so good.
What WandaVision teaches us is that the pain is ok, it just needs a voice, and a place to be processed in a way that actually brings healing. We can’t stuff our memories of loved ones away. Nor can we get lost in grief. In arguably, the greatest quote of the entire MCU, we hear Vision say just this to Wanda, “It can’t all be sorrow can it? What is grief if not love persevering?” That’s it! It hurts because you loved. That’s the mystery that needs to be untangled in every heart that grieves.
Give both the pain and the joy space in your heart. Reconciling all aspects of your life is possible. It just takes some time and work.
Photo: Marvel Studios