Wanda Maximoff can’t recall exactly how she took over a New Jersey town, mind-controlled its inhabitants, and launched a fake sitcom co-starring her deceased husband and imaginary children. “I only remember feeling completely alone,” she confesses. “Empty. Just endless nothingness.”
The audience can relate. Disney+’s WandaVision, a new installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, entered production before COVID-19 swept the globe, yet it perfectly encapsulates the feelings of grief, confusion, and isolation born of the pandemic. Over the course of nine episodes—most of which mirror a classic sitcom formula, from Bewitched to Modern Family—we learn that Wanda is still mourning the death of her beloved Vision, an android and fellow member of the superhero group the Avengers. Consumed with grief, Wanda uses her considerable telepathic and telekinetic superpowers to create a fantasy world where she can be at peace with a fictionalized version of her ideal family.
S.W.O.R.D., an unyielding government bureaucracy that possesses Vision’s remains, adds to Wanda’s trauma by refusing to let her give him a proper burial. This echoes the tragic circumstances in which so many people have found themselves recently. Anyone who has felt trapped for the past year, be it from loss or from lockdowns, will have some sympathy for Wanda, even as it becomes obvious that her coping mechanisms are coercive and destructive. Superheroes, like normal people, can suffer only so much. That’s something both S.W.O.R.D. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should keep in mind.