The self-aware series is taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much-needed new direction
Marvel has an issue with sexism. From the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, it has had trouble writing female characters and telling female driven stories. Marvel has struggled with a balance of genuine inclusion and awkward ‘girl power’ moments, leading any sort of inclusion to feel forced. While things have improved in recent years, with “Captain Marvel,” “Wandavision” and “Ms. Marvel,” there’s still a lot of progress to be made. Fortunately, great strides in terms of inclusion have been made with Marvel’s most recent release, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”
Starring Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters, the show begins with her transformation into She-Hulk due to an interaction with her cousin Bruce Banner’s blood. The rest of the series follows Walters as she learns how to use her powers, come to terms with her new life and maintain her reputation as a lawyer. “She-Hulk” is Marvel’s first attempt at a true sitcom format, the humor and tone being much lighter than that of previous projects. While “She-Hulk” is very different from anything else we’ve seen from Marvel, it’s a much-needed change. With only nine episodes, “She-Hulk” excels in its balance of humor, action and feminism.
Through the sitcom format, “She-Hulk” gives viewers a different perspective on the world of superheroes. The situations and characters are a little more lighthearted than what we’ve seen in previous projects. A common critique of the show is that it’s too lighthearted, but I disagree. The lighter tone is integral to the sitcom format, and it’s something that Marvel hasn’t explored before. Sure, not every joke lands, but the ones that do are seriously funny. With sex jokes, quips about “The Sopranos” and more, the humor is relatable and relevant. That being said, “She-Hulk” is serious when it needs to be. The sitcom structure, allowing for an abundance of humorous moments, allows the show to explore difficult topics not yet addressed in the MCU.
“She-Hulk” is Marvel’s most self-aware series yet.
The majority of the show’s humor and plotlines are focused on Walters being a woman; online dating struggles, being a bridesmaid and the sheer adversity she faces as a superhero solely because she is a woman. Walters deals with a revenge porn lawsuit against her, an online hate male group formed against her and even things as mundane as coworkers’ comments crossing the line. In short, this is a show about a female character facing problems that most women can relate to. In “She-Hulk,” Marvel is finally addressing the culture of misogyny within its fandom. Instead of shying away from the typical criticisms of woman characters, the show leans right into them, poking fun at the sexist critiques. This bold move by Marvel is what makes “She-Hulk” stand out.
Throughout the show, She-Hulk breaks the fourth wall, addressing the outlandishness of plotlines, various cameos and Marvel itself. Marvel, especially in the last few years, has become extremely formulaic. The biggest critique of the superhero genre is that every story feels the same. In an extremely meta finale, She-Hulk finds herself in Marvel’s writer’s room addressing these issues and eventually meeting Marvel president Kevin Feige in a surprising, atypical way. He’s referred to as an all-knowing all-seeing robot named K.E.V.I.N, only adhering to the typical formula until She-Hulk herself forces him to change it. Through this very self-aware finale, Marvel is showcasing that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They acknowledge their flaws; they know they tend to be too formulaic and predictable. It’s hilarious, and a much-needed step in a new direction.
Additionally, with “She-Hulk,” Marvel has officially brought back a fan favorite character: Daredevil. Matt Murdock is back in full swing with a new suit, a new case and even a new sexual conquest. His appearance in “She-Hulk” was highly anticipated throughout the Marvel fandom and it did not disappoint. Daredevil is a darker character by nature, and despite the sitcom format, the basic integrity of his character was maintained. Of course, he remains a bit lighter, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from him in “Daredevil.” Murdock jokes, is beyond cocky and is known widely as a womanizer. None of this has changed in “She-Hulk,” as he fights, flirts and eventually sleeps with She-Hulk herself. The show even features a hallway fight scene, something that has become synonymous with the character due to multiple similar scenes in “Daredevil.” At the end of the day, even if you aren’t the happiest with Daredevil’s first official appearance in the MCU, you must admit it feels amazing to see Matt Murdock back in action.
Overall, “She-Hulk” is simply a fun watch. It’s humorous, light and introduces a new character into the Marvel universe seamlessly. Between Wong, the Hulk and Daredevil, there’s plenty of cameos to satisfy any type of fan. But on a more important note, this is the first Marvel show where I felt truly represented. All of the problems were relatable and realistic, and to finally have awareness from Marvel of the sexism in their fandom was beyond gratifying. Even if you dislike “She-Hulk,” you can’t deny the strides it has made for Marvel’s inclusion. All episodes of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” are now streaming on Disney Plus.
Shannon Moore can be reached at @[email protected] and followed on twitter @heyitssmoore04.