Dear Haters, The MCU Needs More She-Hulk, Not Less

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Despite the news that Disney might not renew She-Hulk: Attorney at Law for a second season, the character’s story should continue in future MCU projects.
  • It makes sense to integrate She-Hulk into the larger MCU world given her expansive comic book history, her existing connections to the MCU, and Season 1’s origin story set-up.
  • She-Hulk’s unique perspective is exactly what Marvel needs to break up its monotony: a lawyer, a woman in a misogynistic world, a grounded hero, and a fourth-wall breaker who rewrites her story.


The She-Hulk: Attorney at Law series had a certain subsection of the internet predisposed against it from the start. The ones who irrationally despise anything not catered to a white cishet male perspective, and who pop up as predictably as a Whack-A-Mole game. Those trollish voices only grew louder as showrunner Jessica Gao’s series crashed its way through the MCU’s doors with all the swagger of Aragorn at Helm’s Deep — but with a brazen smirk and unapologetically female perspective on daily life as a woman, and the far darker subjects naturally accompanying a phrase like “daily life as a woman.” Although imperfect (few franchise projects aren’t), She-Hulk stuck to its vision, dared to be unique, and brought the legendary Tatiana Maslany into the Marvel fold.

Recently, Maslany revealed that a Season 2 isn’t likely given the VFX budget She-Hulk required. Although disappointing, not every Disney+ MCU series should exist just to launch a new character into the movie realm. That interconnected approach has weakened individual projects. Jennifer Walters, like Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) before her in The Marvels, is a different story. Disney probably won’t base its final decision about She-Hulk‘s future on internet trolls. But not picking up the series’ threads is a waste of all Jen brings to the table, a misuse of Maslany, and indirectly lets the misogynists win. She-Hulk’s place in the MCU should be as prodigious as her male counterpart. With her expansive comics history, it’s certainly as deserved.


She-Hulk Is One of Marvel Comics’ Best Superheroines

Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, debuted in 1979 courtesy of creative team Stan Lee, Steve Buscema, and Chic Stone. Three years later, she was a leading Avengers member. Over the next 45 years, Jen wracked up I.D. cards with the Fantastic Four, the Defenders, and the A-Force. She’s consistently led her own titles with an ongoing run written by Rainbow Rowell. As one of Marvel’s most prolific and valuable heroines, her material warrants adaptation. Jessica Gao already laid the groundwork with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, preserving Jen’s breezy sarcasm, her professional competence, and her colorful zeal.

Since She-Hulk: Attorney at Law establishes Jen’s ties to the wider MCU through Wong (Benedict Wong) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox), transferring her across projects would be as easy as Jen tossing a dudebro twenty miles with her pinky finger. In the comics, Jen’s close friends with Patsy Walker, played by Rachael Taylor in Netflix’s Jessica Jones. As a member of the A-Force, Jen aligns with Captain Marvel, Nico Minoru from The Runaways, and Loki in her female form. The contextual building blocks exist.

Digging into the grit of Jen Walters, comics and series, she’s a woman of huge ideals. Her day job as a human rights lawyer keeps her mindset more grounded than your usual Avenger. She’ll go to space and cause city-wide property damage to save the day if she must, but it’s not her preference. Jen’s got enough on her plate. A woman balancing her career, her dating life, household chores, and keeping her temper on lockdown — c’mon. That slice-of-life overview opens the door for smaller, personal stories. To invoke Ms. Marvel again, Jennifer’s cut from a similar cloth: a character the MCU desperately needs to shatter the monotony. Few are more ideally suited for that task. Jen infuses her surroundings with engaging meta commentary, explicitly feminine-coded humor, and literally breaking the MCU’s treasured canon. Forget the Multiverse, those possibilities are ingenious and always multiplying.

‘She-Hulk’ Season 1 Was an Origin Story

Also? She-Hulk gets to be funny. Quips are the Marvel way, but Jen’s sarcasm is of the Spider-Man ilk: droll, ironic, and 24/7. Not enough women characters get to be several complementary and contradictory things at once: witty, goofy, empathetic, courageous, and unsure. Instead of rejoicing over her newfound powers, Jen’s dragged by the nose into superheroism and stands resolute in her conviction that her calling is lawyer first, Jolly Green Giant second. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is an origin story by way of carefully synthesized feminism. After gaining gamma radiation powers, all Jen knew about her life is tossed upside down. The only thing left unscathed is elemental, the building blocks of what makes her Jennifer Walters. In the emotional carnage, she discovers what that additive means for the whole. And she does so with a wink, breaking the fourth wall to invite the audience into a constant sidebar.

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Even playing a take-no-crap lawyer, Tatiana Maslany stands at 5 feet 4 inches short. Taking up physical space is new for Jen. Becoming comfortable in one’s skin is already difficult for a multitude of reasons, societal and self-imposed (and where the two fuse). Now she has to rinse-and-repeat the process with added green. Not to mention, some people (mostly men) want her for their own aims — her body, her powers, her life at their mercy. “There’s something about the duality of a woman occupying two different bodies,” Maslany told USA Today in 2022. “Culturally, we’re so obsessed with women’s bodies in terms of control, projection, ownership, aesthetic, all of this stuff. Exploring that feels very prescient.”

‘She-Hulk’ Thoughtfully Addresses Real Women’s Issues

she-hulk-episode-8-ending-social-featured

Woven within that humor are scalding truths. There’s a place for the movies where no one blinks at a woman superhero. The MCU also needs the reverse, situations when the story acknowledges bigotry and upholds intersectional themes. She-Hulk‘s thesis statement about the manifold fears and limitations inherent to navigating the world as a femme-identifying individual emerged from discussions among its women creators. When a group of hateful, greedy men corners Jen in an alleyway at night, determined to violate her by stealing a blood sample, there’s an absolute thrill to her ability to not just defend herself, but the fact that her safety isn’t in question. There isn’t a group of muscly men big enough to subdue She-Hulk. The fantasy is a balm to the instantly recognizable terror that accompanies walking home alone in the dark.

Still, the insidious hate for She-Hulk remains: the message board trolls, the death threats, and the image-based sexual abuse, designed to invade and humiliate, that ruins a gala celebrating Jen’s professional and philanthropic accomplishments. The latter is a daring topic for a Marvel show to bring to the forefront with nuance and without repentance; the reveal cuts deep. Every win Jen gains feels cut off at the knees. Tatiana Maslany observed to Variety, “Jessica Gao is a genius and knows about the culture we’re living in and her position in it when she’s writing these stories about a woman superhero. […] The fact that we were able to predict what the reaction was going to be, what a lot of the trolling comments were going to be, really shows how very tired and unoriginal these trolls are.” She-Hulk acknowledges the real-life truth. Even a superheroine couldn’t defeat clandestine misogyny and institutional violence against women — until she literally rewrote the narrative.

She-Hulk’s Potential Is Too Good for Disney To Squander

Tatianna Maslany in her hulk form sitting in an office in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Image via Disney+

According to Marvel’s official database, “She-Hulk is the first major Marvel super hero to overtly and consistently break the fourth wall.” A Jennifer Walters who doesn’t poke her reality’s limits isn’t Jennifer Walters. She’s jokingly threatened her readers, mocked her writers, and demanded better from the plot. Jen’s fourth wall breaks in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are delightfully creative, coming to a head when she bends the finale to suit her taste — because the world isn’t fair, and Jen’s damn tired of letting it run her life roughshod. Not even Deadpool has done something that audacious. (Please put Ryan Reynolds and Tatiana Maslany in the same scene.) The bold swings She-Hulk‘s finale takes marks new territory for Marvel while keeping the brand’s trademark self-effacement. It’s an ending Kevin Feige supported because it was “completely different.”

Much has been written about the MCU needing fresh blood in broad strokes. They need look no further than the groundwork already established. Comic books normalized superheroines decades ago. The MCU spent years course-correcting their productions to better reflect our diverse world, with more active diversification and prioritization still necessary. In She-Hulk’s case, there have always been female counterparts to established male superheroes. Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer Walters just happens to be the first one with blockbuster production, and therefore became a lightning rod for internet-powered prejudice, much like Brie Larson‘s unfairly maligned Captain Marvel. Commissioning a series like She-Hulk that’s conducive to improving Marvel’s future, that involves its heroine finding, in Jessica Gao’s words to Deadline, “how to have both Jen and She-Hulk co-exist in a way that she can accept,” and not pursuing the set-up, is misguided at best. She-Hulk‘s fate shouldn’t rest on its VFX budget. This is Disney we’re talking about, after all. Jennifer Walters wouldn’t let trolls – or conglomerates — have the final say. She’d rewrite the world first.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is available to stream on Disney+.

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