Spoilers ahead! You will want to watch through episode 6 before reaching much more of this very short post.
As an immigrant with an assimilationist bent (I was 9 when we moved to America from Taiwan), you’re always looking for that “Insiders Guide to America” to help you gain years of ingrained cultural and social instincts in bite-sized, and, hopefully, tasty morsels. For many of us who arrived in America in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the family-focused sitcoms, and the ads that they surrounded, were the weekly doses of insight into the American society and its norms that helped us understand how to act, and what to value as Americans.
There was also comfort in the commonalities between the cultures that the sitcoms illustrated. All of the sitcoms that I remember watching reinforced the importance of family, the value of friendship, and the need to constantly strive for more material goods.
It isn’t until later that you realize that the sitcoms weren’t really guides to America. They were wish fulfillment fantasies. Nobody could really spend all that time in Al’s diner, like they did in Happy Days, and still get into college. Alex P. Keaton fooled everyone into thinking that inside the power hungry shell of conservative Republicans there is the heart of a Michael J. Fox, an illusion that is at least partly responsible for the earnest — and destructive — efforts of Democrats in the last 30 years to reach the inner Michael J. Fox of every Republican, when it actually doesn’t exist. And, of course, there is no telling how much damage the Cosby Show did by telling White America that racism is pretty much over because there exists a well-to-do Black professional family.
This is about WandaVision.
It’s about the outsider’s desire to fit in, about the creeping disillusionment that comes when the beautiful place of the outsider’s dreams is shown to be artificial, like the setting of a theme park. It’s about grief for the people and ways we lose in the journey to fit in (“What happened to your accent?”), and it’s about nostalgia for a time when we believed in the illusions.
Now that Wanda and Vision are starting to understand that they are living an illusion, what will they do? Will they choose what so many immigrants who have, after immense hard work, found a niche for themselves have done and work to sustain the illusion? Or will they do the hard work of trying to make things actuallybetter?
Maybe I am bringing too much of myself to WandaVision. There is a lot of winking on the show, from its loving emulation of classic sitcoms, to its use of the many characters in the Marvel IP vault. Nonetheless, I find myself startled by its subtle and subversive exploration of the ache of otherness, and the disillusionment of assimilation.
Will immigrants actually get the job of making America America done? What will they sacrifice in that process?
These are the questions that WandaVision, a show about two beings with super powers in a New Jersey suburb, are asking.