Let’s start off by saying that I was so excited for Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That was my mistake. I should’ve known better really. Spoilers ahead!
I enjoyed Wandavison a lot as an examination of grief, family, and power, and I foolishly assumed that MoM would delve further into Wanda’s journey. I wanted to see her come back from her time at Westview, and I wanted her to forgive herself. (For some really good thoughts on Wanda, I would recommend this amazing video by James Somerton. He sums up my feelings pretty well.)
Wanda in Multiverse of Madness
MoM is not about continuing a nuanced examination of Wanda and watching her come into her full power as a fundamentally good person. It’s about turning her into someone so evil that she loses all of her nuances. It’s about turning her into a caricature. Someone who is willing to kill indiscriminately (sometimes in pretty gruesome ways).
In this film, Wanda’s whole thing is that she wants to get to a universe where she is able to be with her children. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get America’s power so she can be reunited with her two boys. Throughout the film, she kills countless people, destroys the Illuminati headquarters, and makes it clear that she does not care about any of it. She’s only capable of thinking of her children. The problem is her willingness to destroy other innocent people to get to them.
Empathizing with Wanda
When someone kills the way she does, they become almost irredeemable. In Wandavision, when Wanda realizes she is doing real harm, and that her victims are not happy like her, she releases them at great personal cost. She did something horrible, but I believe it’s the kind of thing her character can come back from. How do you come back from the things she did in MoM? I think they did this on purpose. I think they did this so you would not empathize with Wanda. Who could empathize with someone whose actions are so monstrous? Not only that, but film language tells us we should not empathize with her. Wanda is often filmed as a straight horror villain; the film tells us she is less than human.
But here’s the problem. I did empathize with her, which made the movie’s view and treatment of her even harder. As a mother to one (and soon to be two) little boys, watching Wanda was heartbreaking. The first scene we see with Wanda is her tucking her children into bed, and then she wakes up from the dream. The difference between the two scenes is raw and stark. The grief is etched on her face. (Elizabeth Olsen is phenomenal by the way.) I understood Wanda because I understood the urge to do anything for your children.
The MCU doesn’t like women. Its treatment of Natasha, Gamora, and now Wanda makes that obvious. What I find interesting is the specific way that the MCU treats motherhood. First, we have Natasha (AKA Black Widow) who was treated as monstrous in Age of Ultron because she could not have children. Now, we have Wanda who is monstrous in her motherhood.
To be fair, it is motherhood that seems to release her from the Darkhold’s power. When America brings her to a universe with her boys, her children scream and run from her – they do not recognize her. But the Wanda from that universe does. She understands and tells Scarlet Witch Wanda that her children will be loved. After, Wanda destroys the Darkhold Castle saying no one will be tempted by it again. This is the last we see of Wanda. Whether she’s dead or not, they’ve created a scenario in which Wanda doesn’t really have a good path forward. If she’s dead, that’s tragic. If she’s not, how does she come back? Even if we get a Wanda from another universe, then we’ve still lost our Wanda.
There’s an interesting moment in the Darkhold Castle during which Wanda says something along the lines of “I was meant to rule, but all I want is my children.” She rejects overwhelming power for the ability to raise her children. That’s all she’s asking for, and I feel for her even as I reject her horrible actions. But the film doesn’t feel for her, and it doesn’t want you to either. Why give her such a human and tragic backstory if you’re going to create a scenario where she has to be condemned for it?
I’ve lost all faith in the MCU. It has squandered my goodwill for the last time.