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  • Writer's pictureAlex Orona

Let's Talk: Meta Narrative and Character Identity in the She-Hulk Disney+ Series

By Alex Orona

The latest in Marvel TV series, She-Hulk, stood out as their first comedy series in a massive slate of shows and movies. It focused heavily on a mix of procedural law satire with the occasional super hero action but it always felt at odds with our protagonist. You see, our hero, Jennifer Walters, for all intents and purposes, hates all things superhero. Any time there is a problem that calls for a swift punching, Jennifer has a tendency to roll her eyes and does everything in her power to avoid it. Herein lies the fascinating conundrum of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.

The twist of She-Hulk comes directly from the comics. Since her debut comic in 1989 (The Sensational She-Hulk,) she has been breaking the fourth wall. She would punch her way through the comic covers, address the audience directly and would even jump out of panels to turn the page herself. It was a compelling twist to the character that has since been adapted perfectly to the show. Jennifer is quick to comment on cameos or Easter Eggs that speaks directly to the fanbase.

While speaking to the audience for quick bits of comedic fodder works in spades, it’s when Jennifer directly disagrees with the proceedings that the show takes a turn. There are several events, specifically when it comes to the super hero action sequences, where our hero specifically addresses the lowbrow nature of these actions. It’s an interesting juxtaposition as the most recent batch of Marvel shows have had a common issue of unsatisfying plots with sub par finales usually resulting in a big flashy action set piece.

Here we have the conundrum. Like the previous Marvel shows and movies, She-Hulk continues throughout its run, barreling like a train directly towards the exact same resolution. Bound to make similar mistakes as its predecessors, and Jennifer Walters is fully aware of it. It isn’t until the final two episodes that we finally see her take agency for her own story. Like any coming of age tale, there comes a time when a person needs to make a choice to avoid complacency. Taking responsibility for their own life choices. It’s a show that is directly at odds with its protagonist.

By the show's closing final episode, Jennifer Walters is someone who has chosen to embrace her double life as a lawyer and superhero, literally jumping out of the Disney+ menu to find the heads of Marvel and make changes to her story that better suit her own sensibilities. She doesn’t want to fall victim to the same mistakes of the previous shows, but also takes control of her story and where it should logically go, as opposed to shoehorning in a big flashy action sequence. Through a hilarious conversation with the head of Marvel, an android program named K.E.V.I.N., she is able to re-write her ending. It’s not the most sensical ending overall, but emphasizes her own ability to take the reins.

This sequence speaks to the power of the character but also invokes a larger conversation regarding how these shows are written. Seeing a character fully aware of the inevitable displays She-Hulk’s duality. There have been other media that have followed similar trajectories. Stranger Than Fiction, the 2006 Will Ferrell film follows this troupe equally well. There’s something to be respected about a character that refuses to accept a subpar ending to their story and in this case that can be said about any person period. Seeing circumstances in your own life that seem inevitable, but choosing to make a change to what really makes you happy is an act of heroism a normal person like Jennifer Walters can achieve. This is definitely an admirable trait, and I respect She-Hulk’s writers all the more for it.



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