Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios' WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Supers shed light on trauma and mental health

Today’s comic books or comic book-related mediums have touched on the trauma and mental health of characters. 

5 mins read

Whether it is a hero, a villain, or a supporting character, comic writers, artists, and TV show creators have placed a huge emphasis on characters’ trauma and mental health battles. Two notable examples are “WandaVision” and “Superman and Lois.”

In addition to comic book media reflecting reality, we felt “WandaVision” was a homage and passionate love letter to the gold standards of television royalty. However, the more we invested in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we started to see a deeper meaning of social commentary unfolding through the conduit of the series protagonist Wanda and Vision to a degree in his own right. While “Superman and Lois” was built upon the humanity of characters some would deem as gods.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Wanda’s journey to healing from her trauma

We felt Wanda was the symbol of grief and coping with loss, but then we realized that Vision’s presence in the series is to progress the therapy of Wanda. His false humanity is another sign in the direction of what we discard to achieve a perfect life, but one based on lies and fear. However, after a long stride of being dealt little doses of exposition in the form of metaphorical commercials, it was refreshing to realize this thesis was paying off. 

For example, the first episode was set to the tone and imagery of the “Dick Van Dyke Show” but upon inspection, the similarities of coping with the perfect life while dealing with the sardonic life of the nuclear family were clear to cut through. A few episodes later we see the lovely family raising a legacy with a few kids and residing in the suburbs, but certain factors felt out of place. 

It’s not plausible for Wanda and Vision to have kids, and he’s supposed to be dead from the events that transpired from “Avengers: Endgame,” which left Wanda broken and distant from her pseudo-family of the Avengers. The film left many wondering if Wanda was okay. The short answer is no. It would only make sense for her to create an illusion where she could have everything she always dreamed of, but with a monkey-paw deal like this things always go awry. 

However, we do think the most crucial episode in the series was 1×08 “Previously On…”  The latest chapter of the narrative was showcased as a deep-dive character study into the trauma that caused Wanda Maximoff to shed her humanity and be reborn as the Scarlet Witch. 

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

It was interesting to see the scars linger from childhood, which then acted as a catalyst to begin her journey into becoming her comic counterpart. However, the beauty of the series is how it’s constructed. Of course, the flair of the MCU is still prevalent, but the narrative is weaved as something human. The screenplay is so well written and brought to life by fantastic acting from the entire cast. 

The minute you think you understand the tragedy of Wanda you are thrown for a loop. For example, pay attention to the title credits when Elizabeth Olsen does “previously on WandaVision.” If you listen closely, you can hear a slight disdain in her voice to the point of exhaustion every episode after the latter. It invokes the question if Wanda is tired of her mirage being jostled by outside interference. One can also wonder if other factors are keeping her from the perfect life she alludes to.

Interestingly enough, we know it was revealed that the villain Agatha Harkness was present in the story to force Wanda to relive that trauma and be the final step in her recovery of assimilation, but Agatha’s role goes deeper. We thought her presence was somewhat of a bad influence on the rehabilitation of Wanda.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Now as the series turns to a close we can see how the events of Westview will either give Wanda closure or push her over the point of no return. Of course, as the audience, we can only see how she will react.

Wanda starts to express that she could no longer feel Vision anymore. This epiphany is triggered after episode eight in which she realizes that the events of her getting snapped in Infinity War and destroying the only thing tethering her to reality occurred over three weeks… 

It would only make sense for Wanda to craft a reality where she could no longer experience pain, reflective of television sitcoms through a child’s lens. Wanda used her sorrow to weave the perfect life she dreamed of. Now the main question many need to ask themselves is Wanda ready for the day when she has to say goodbye. In all truth, she may not be able to cope with the pain inside of her which means going forward in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Wanda may start to reflect the cold hallowed premise of her comic counterpart. 

This brings us to the question of what does Agatha Harkness want with Wanda? We felt at times Kathryn Hahn’s performance from previous episodes did come off out of tone and touch with the environment attached to the time. Of course, at the end of episode seven, we were treated to a Disney villain-esque montage from childhood classics’ undertone with a musical appeal to advance and progress the story from Agatha’s perspective. We see Agatha shift into a therapist studying Wanda to see what makes her tick.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Hahn brings a sense of dark, yet charming fever to the role, but the exposition of her arc does come off as malicious instead of guiding. It led to many viewers asking if Agatha was working for a higher power. or was she trying to siphon Wanda’s powers? But now we know Wanda has chaos magic and is a primordial being. An emotion of shock and dread was painted on Harkness’s face at the end of episode eight. 

Of course, after the events of WandaVision have transpired we saw Wanda forgo her attachment to humanity, and blossom into the Scarlet Witch, but it came at a price. Wanda understood she had to say goodbye to the illusion she created out of grief to become her comic counterpart. It left fans wondering how Wanda will be going forward till her next appearance in “Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness” 

Now that this chapter of the MCU novella has drawn to a close. It left fans wondering if the rest of phase four and other smaller Disney+ properties will follow the route of diving into these iconic characters, and seeing what makes them tick. While promoting “Marvel’s The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Anthony Mackie touched upon the humanity of his character Sam Wilson in a recent interview.

“The Falcon is a regular guy who just happened to meet Captain America and volunteered as a fellow soldier to try and save the world. Sam is always Sam. The way it’s written and the way they’ve been playing it is he’s always going to be Sam. The great thing about the series is you get to learn his entire backstory, his life, who he is, and how he became Sam Wilson.”

Anthony Mackie 

We felt Mackie’s quote added to the thesis of fiction reflecting our reality. It would go to solidify our thoughts of when the world we inhabit begins to bleed through the narrative of the heroes we emulated from our childhood. 

How ‘WandaVision’ shares similarities with ‘House of M’

In addition to how “WandaVision” toes the line of fiction reflecting reality, the series shares many similarities with the 2006 six-issue comic series “House of M” written by Brian Michael Bendis. The first episode of ‘WandaVision’ has a notable easter egg which is the wine bottle that Wanda levitates when setting up dinner for her guests. The ‘M’ on the bottle looked exactly like the ‘M’ from the “House of M” comic series. Maison Du Mepris translates to House of Contempt which could read ‘House of M.’ 

Before the events of “House of M,” Wanda suffers a nervous breakdown, which causes her to lose control of her powers and inadvertently kill Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Vision. 

Brendan Rooney

Brendan Rooney has always been full of creativity and enthusiasm toward the world of widespread media. He is also a passionate comic book fan along with a die-hard sports pedigree. Brendan has written various articles covering all topics and dreams of forging a long-lasting legacy by bringing respect to the Rooney name as either a teacher, journalist, or whatever else the future holds. His work has been featured on Google, Quoted by Marvel Games, Reshared by Movie Trades, Broken exclusives, Spoke and presented at syndicated academic conferences as well.

Brian Adigwu

Brian of Earth-16 is a podcaster for the Geek Talk with Brian of Earth-16 and a contributing writer/journalist for the Daily Planet. You can also hear Brian on the DC Comics Geeks Nation podcast. When not writing, Brian enjoys going to the world of comic books, TV shows, video games, and pro-wrestling. He also loves listening to other podcasts and having a philosophical conversation.

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