by guest writer Scot Loyd
There’s a critical scene in The Avengers: Age of Ultron when Hawkeye confronts Wanda Maximoff with the reality of their situation: “The city is flying. We are fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense, but I’m going back out there because it’s my job…it doesn’t matter what you did or what you were, if you go out there, you fight…If you stay in here you are good…but if you step out that door, you are an Avenger.” Wanda answered the call and kicked some major ass, but lost her twin brother Pietro in the process, who was killed in his efforts to save civilians.
This would not be the last instance of Wanda losing someone she loved. In Infinity War, Wanda lost Vision, a created “synthezoid”, watching as Thanos ripped the mind stone from his skull and then tossed his lifeless body aside. This took place just when Wanda and Vision’s love for another was growing. As far as trauma goes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda Maximoff endured more than her fair share. This is what makes Marvel’s first television offering, WandaVision intriguing in examining and processing our own emotional impediments that restrain us from stepping through the door of our calling.
We are only a few episodes into this latest iteration of Wanda, aka Scarlet Witch, so this is your spoiler warning if you haven’t watched any of the series yet. WandaVision takes viewers on a tour of the historical tropes of television sitcoms, as Wanda and Vision’s marriage and family development trollops through the decades from black and white, 4:3 screen ratios to the widening cinematic views as the scenes eventually start to develop color. But from the opening scenes of the series, it is obvious that something isn’t quite right. There are awkward moments in the dialogue, jump cuts, and even a few retakes that help us understand this is a work in progress.
As the series progresses it becomes clear that Wanda is, at least in part, manufacturing this world to process and escape her grief at the loss of her beloved Vision. She creates a fictionalized community as a means of satisfying her own fantasies of a perfected world with the love of her life. But Wanda’s attempts to control her world in pursuit of romanticized perfection, like so many of our own, is fraught with problems and unintended consequences. It turns out, and perhaps quite literally, the Devil is in the details. These events accelerate the actions of the outside world to intervene in an attempt to stop Wanda–or save her–depending on how the series plays out.
As I reflect on my enjoyment of WandaVision, I’m reminded of how many times I still find myself paralyzed by fear at the prospect of contributing to the collective effort to make the world a better place with the gospel of Christ. Like Wanda, I have experienced my own fair share of grief and disappointment. The world is never as I imagined it should be, and it becomes far more appealing to escape rather than continuing to try and engage the world for good. The reality of this world is broken, and because of the challenges of our own realities, we escape into convenient distractions on a spectrum from amusing to destructive. This phenomenon is easily identifiable, perhaps ironically so, in how easily I escape into media and other distractions. It seems that everything human beings once experienced in reality has now been turned into a show produced by someone else. Real living has been replaced by prepackaged experiences and media created events, or as an avant-garde movement of the last century observed, media kidnapped our real lives, co-opting whatever authenticity we once had. The pursuit of these distractions informs our apathy and sometimes our destruction.
While our intentions are well meaning, and while a healthy balance of distraction and engagement is needed, when we seek to immerse ourselves into these worlds while neglecting the messy beautiful that is reality, we run the risk of destroying the very world we set out to save. This, it seems, will be Wanda’s challenge, because no matter how much we seek to control our constructed worlds by the guidance of mediated distractions, glitches always reveal themselves. The past unexpectedly rings the doorbell. How we choose to see the world isn’t the same as engaging the world with all of its ugliness and wonder.
As Christians, we are further charged with the responsibility of creating healthy community, representing another Kingdom, that has yet to fully come. Instead of running from our grief into imaginary worlds like Wanda does, we are called to run into the grief of this fallen world with the promise of the joy that Christ brings. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:20; “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” We are called to disrupt the brokenness of this world with the perfection that is in the gospel of Christ. Wanda may eventually face the difficult choice between what she sees as her perfected world and the realities of what disrupts that world. Likewise, as Christians we must be willing to sometimes deny our sight in order to retain our vision and boldly walk out the door.