How WandaVision Encapsulates the Disney Princess Dream

WandaVision may seem like an unusual topic for a princess blog since it is a Marvel superhero show (featuring an unusual couple), but I have been in love with this show for the past few months and would argue that it has more in common with what the Disney Princess brand used to represent than many recent Disney Princess movies. In fact, Wanda Maximoff acts more like a Disney Princess than the last original princess who graced the screen exclusively for Disney+Secret Society of Second-Born Royals was Disney's attempt to combine their princess and superhero genres by introducing a world of superpowered royals. They missed the mark with Sam, who hated being a princess and just wanted to play punk rock music and fight bad guys, kind of like Raya from Raya and the Last Dragon, which also premiered today on Disney+. Wanda is a refreshing return to an older archetype that is almost never featured anymore of a troubled but well-meaning young woman who wants to live happily ever after with her true love. It also pays homage to classic television sitcoms such as I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch in an innovative way that has never been attempted before.

WandaVision promo poster of Wanda and Vision in vintage costumes surrounded by old TVs

Understanding Wanda Maximoff and her superpowers requires some knowledge of her comic book origins as the Scarlet Witch. She is a member of the X-Men, the Avengers, and a love interest for the synthezoid, Vision. Despite being insanely powerful, Wanda is quite possibly one only woman in the contemporary Marvel Cinematic Universe who is not afraid to show vulverability. While characters like Black Widow, Captain Marvel, and Gamora reject traditional Disney Princess values, bottle up their emotions, and devote all their energy to attacking threats to civilized society, Wanda prefers to focus on her love for her family, making it all the more heartbreaking when she loses everyone she holds dear. Her pacifistic is a strength just as much as it is a weakness. Her lack of training makes it difficult for her to control or understand her supernatural abilities. She uses her powers in WandaVision to create a suburban utopia where she can live a peaceful life with Vision and put her crime-fighting days behind her. WandaVision's plot is an amalgamation of several Scarlet Witch comics, including a romance series from 1985 entitled The Vision and the Scarlet Witch, where she settles down with Vision to live an ordinary life in Leonia, New Jersey (or at least as normal a life as a mutant with reality-altering powers can have with a robot). This vintage limited series comic contains many gems that reveal Wanda's uniquely feminine tendencies, such as her desire to be a mother and her love of dressing up.

Wanda tells Vision how much she loves Halloween and dressing up in evening gloves in a 1985 comic

The simple "happily ever after" that Wanda desires in WandaVision is more complicated than usual because of the events that took place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe prior to the series. Vision was killed by Thanos in Aveners: Infinity War, meaning Wanda would have to use her powers to alter reality and bring him back to achieve the peaceful life of marital bliss that she longs for. What follows is an entertaining and emotional story about love, grief, and the dangers of trying to escape too deeply into a fantasy world. In this respect, the show is a deconstruction of the traditional Disney Princess fantasy. Similar to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, WandaVision acknowledges that settling down with your prince and achieving your dreams does not guarantee that you will live "happily ever after" forever because life is never that simple. When we become adults, we must face the sad truth that happiness is fleeting. I deeply relate to Wanda's desire to escape from the troubles of reality and live in a fantasy world. That's one of the reasons I love princesses so much.

I think that WandaVision is a better retelling of the "Cinderella" trope than most Hallmark movies, and I think that's because it isn't trying to be a retelling of "Cinderella." It just happens to be a story with very similar themes. Cinderella suffers the loss of her only family and spends most of her life abused and tormented by the only people remaining in her life. Likewise, Wanda loses her entire family and spends a large chunk of her life being experimented on by Hydra like a lab rat. In all the time they spent studying her superpowers, she never had an opportunity to learn how to use them for her own needs, just like how Cinderella never realized she was being taken advantage of until her Fairy Godmother told her as much. Wanda thinks that by reviving Vision, she can run away with her prince and live her own happy ending. However, the show takes a dark turn by acknowledging that real life is not a fairy tale. Just because Wanda has the ability to change the world around her to suit her desires does not mean that she should. The only other "Cinderella" story to successfully convey this same message this is the novel Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I'm a little sad that WandaVision has drawn to a close today after giving me something to look forward to every week for the past two months, but I am also glad that Disney+ blessed me with such a poignant story that pays homage to so many classic archetypes that I thought had gone out of style. The first two episodes of the show were particularly brilliant, filmed in black and white in front of a live studio audience and replicating fashion, jokes, special effects, and speech patterns from the 1950s and '60s. As the show gradually returns to the modern era, it transforms into a cautionary tale that we must be willing to face our problems head-on instead of trying to run away.  Still, I believe that using fantasy to escape our problems can be therapeutic as long as it's taken in healthy doses. This transformation affects Wanda physically just as much as it does emotionally. Fate: The Winx Saga should take notes because this is how you do a successful live-action adult-oriented magical girl series.


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