WandaVision and Storytelling
Storytelling has a formula, and in most stories, you can find that formula. The basis of stories is a piece of the human condition and conveying it in a unique situation. This may be something like (but not limited to) birth, growth, emotionality, aspirations, or conflict. This is the initial incident. Then, a rising action that complicates or frustrates leading to a climax where there is a turning point for the protagonist character. This leads to falling action which starts to lead to the resolution.
For WandaVision, the human condition it is built around is grief. The show is built around Wanda’s grief. You don’t know that if the first few episodes. I wasn’t sure what to expect as all when we began watching. It looked like a fun take on old sitcoms that were starring Marvel characters however it goes deeper than that.
As the story unfolds, we learn that this is a world that Wanda has created but we don’t know exactly why or how. It’s not until later that we learn it is out of her deep grief that this has been born- some of it she didn’t even realize was her own doing. The sitcoms are related to the favorite sitcoms she watched as a child with her family before her parents were killed.
Stages of Grief
We watch Wanda in her denial, where she lives in a sweet sitcom and gets her happily ever after with the one she loves. In another episode, we see Wanda in the midst of denial and anger as she tries to stop threats and curiosities from destroying her world.
As we sat and watched it, I got it; what she was feeling, her need to protect it and keep her sanity, casting out the things that poked holes in what she created.
This leads Wanda to move to the next stage of grief, bargaining. In this stage, the bereaved starts to accept that they can’t willfully resist the changes of the world around them but still believe that there are measures that can be taken to ease their suffering and hold on to their happiness. During this episode Wanda storms out of the world she has created in Westview and confronts S.W.O.R.D. directly returning to her familiar accent from Avengers Age of Ultron.
Eventually it all becomes too much and she begins to break down, entering depression. Wanda reflects the characteristics of lethargy, doubt and self-deprecation that eat away.
In episode 8 of WandaVision, the Disney+ show there is a flashback scene with Wanda and Vision where she is sad over the loss of her brother, Pietro. Sitting on her bed she explains to vision that she is so tired, like she’s swimming against a tide that keeps trying to drown her.
Vision tries to console her saying, “It can’t all be sorrow, can it? I’ve always been alone, so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I’ve never had a loved one to lose.” The true gem comes in his last sentence, “but, what is grief, if not love preserving?”
It is one of the most prolific lines ever, and at first, I thought it was just me until I saw the internet’s reaction to it as well.
In the end, Wanda realizes she can’t live in this world she created and it while it breaks her heart she comes to realize that her grief is as fueled by love as it is sorrow but she has to choose to commemorate love rather than pain.
I’ve heard some argue that Wanda is the villain, after all she cast a spell on the people of Westview holding them hostage. The point though, of the story is that this was born out of her extreme grief and as we see her walk through her grief and go through different stages she begins to see that what is going on isn’t right and that she has to move forward. Grief isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty. It’s messy and often downright ugly but necessary. Understanding that grief is as much about love as it is sadness can help us normalize the grieving process.