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WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer relished doing a slow-burn Marvel show, finding inspiration in Lost, Russian Doll, Homecoming and Forever

  • Schaeffer says her goal was always to explore the origins of Wanda’s psychic wounds by wrapping them in the mystery of her retro-TV fixation. "For the whole season it was like, how does she do this?" says Schaeffer. "How, how, how, how, how? And really, the question is, why? What in her personhood, what in her past, led to this moment? Let’s explore that, unpack that and look at the full human before us. And still have it be entertaining, with all the bells and whistles and all the blasty-blasty, all in one thing.” Schaeffer adds: "The first thing was the notion of, how do you do this? How do you take sitcoms and combine them with Wanda and Vision who, up to this point in the M.C.U., were such self-serious characters and dramatic characters with so much sadness surrounding them. They weren’t funny. What’s the synthesis? I’m a big fan of Lost, and I was very inspired by shows like Russian Doll, Forever and Homecoming. I relished the opportunity of a slow burn. It seemed like an exciting, sneak-attack way to have a bit of a social commentary and a very large story of character and grief." Schaeffer says she originally pitched a CSI rewind episode. "I thought, how interesting to do sitcom, sitcom, sitcom, and then shatter that and be in a different genre," she says. "But once we got in the writers’ room, we stayed with family sitcoms and sitcoms that were on the brighter, optimistic side of the spectrum because it is a fantasy. That meant things like All in the Family and Roseanne got shunted to the side. I had an episode that was The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and it was about Wanda’s work-life balance. Those are spectacular shows and say so much about our culture and ourselves. But we stayed in the zone of aspirational family sitcoms and that helped us find the focus of the show."

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    • WandaVision gave Martin Scorsese the finale he always wanted: In 2019, Scorsese generated controversy when he said of Marvels films, "the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn't the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being." As Melanie McFarland notes, "The end of WandaVision illustrated much of Scorsese's summation – but not all of it. About 30 of the finale's 50 minutes was one of those rides. This diversion happened to star witches hurling balls of energy at each other while floating in the sky. Nosy neighbor Agnes, revealed to be centuries-old sorceress Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), drops her glamour to take on Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) while Wanda's Vision (Paul Bettany) faces off with his tin man twin resurrected as a government weapon. Cars fly through houses; heroes are pounded through asphalt. A newly superpowered Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) defeated a possessed mystery man masquerading as Wanda's brother Pietro but who turns out to be some anonymous guy whose last name sounds like 'boner.' And, spoiler alert, Wanda prevails by losing everything. She created a sitcom version of Westview, and her most loving version of Vision, to escape facing her grief. The only way it could end was painfully – not the kind that physically bruises or draws blood. The kind that rips your heart out. No matter. This being an MCU creation, everything eventually comes to blows . . .  and explosions, screams and flames. Amusement park thrills, just like the man said, and not an especially pulse-pounding version of such. However, once the fighting ends, the finale bucks Scorsese's assumptions about superhero titles and returns to the attributes that make WandaVision such a wonder."
    • Kathryn Hahn is bracing herself for post-WandaVision roles: “I’ve been in these smaller projects — barely any makeup, pared-down clothes,” she says. “So it was very funny at the end of this, to be like, how am I going to go back to domestic fight scenes in parking lots? It’s going to be so weird. Because the scale of this was so much bigger.” Hahn, however, isn't worried about any damage to her "indie cred." "I really didn’t because I feel like I’ve had such a bananas career anyway," she says. "I’ve been able to do Bad Moms and Step Brothers — I’ve been able to swing all over the place and flex my muscles. I can tread lightly on the gas pedal or push down on it. And each gig, to me, comes from the same source — it’s just whether or not I find the bird I’m playing interesting or not. I don’t want to put that judgment on it, of what’s cool or what’s not. I’m kind of too old for that." What appealed to her about WandaVision? "I was so turned on by the ambition and had mad respect for the fact that it is a superhero story that is ultimately about grief. And that there are so many women involved," she says. "And I love a witch, I really do."
    • WandaVision illustrates a major problem with superhero moms: "As a male-dominated genre, superhero media often focuses on daddy issues while ignoring the role of moms," says Gavia Baker-Whitelaw. "Within the MCU, we see plenty of stories about complicated father-son relationships (Tony and Howard Stark, Thor and Odin, Peter Quill and Ego) and influential-but-dead father figures (Peter Parker's uncle, Black Panther's dad, Daredevil's dad), but mothers are either nonexistent or comparatively unimportant. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill's dead mom provides the soundtrack but isn't a proactive character. Thor's mom has a more meaningful role, but she pales in comparison to her powerful husband. And Tony Stark's dead mother may as well be a mannequin. Black Panther's mother Ramonda is the only example with on-screen clout. This absence of maternal storylines is clearly due to sexism, but the MCU's lack of parental protagonists is more complicated. Aside from Tony Stark's domestic epilogue in Avengers: Endgame, only one of the MCU's main superheroes is a parent: Ant-Man, whose goofy dad persona is baked into his role. His daughter can also conveniently be left with his ex-wife when he needs to do Ant-Man stuff, illustrating the logistical reason why most big-screen superheroes don't have kids. In a two-hour action movie with a simple 'good vs evil' narrative, there usually isn't room for a secondary subplot about parenthood. Literally and narratively, kids would just get in the way. This brings us to WandaVision, a show where children are integral to the story...In its final episode, WandaVision revealed itself to be a speed-run of 'temporary mom' tropes. Wanda was a mother, until she wasn't. Her sons were important characters, until they weren't. The show wasn't actually that interested in exploring Wanda's desire for a family, sidelining this idea in favor of a Scarlet Witch origin story. And despite the central theme of grief, Wanda mothballed her sons with barely a backward glance."
    • Creator Jac Schaeffer on recasting Pietro with Evan Peters: Peters “was an enormous question mark for a very long time. And it took a while to figure out if it would be possible. It was late that it was finally confirmed that we could do it. But we were writing for it. Evan is such a chameleon in that way, that could play an amalgamation of (Full House's) Uncle Jesse, (Family Ties') Nick, and Joey from Friends. He could play those layers.”

    TOPICS: WandaVision, Disney+, Evan Peters, Jac Schaeffer, Kathryn Hahn, Martin Scorsese, Marvel




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