WandaVision and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist highlight two different women processing their grief, making for powerful TV.
WandaVision, the wildly popular Disney+ MCU show, is taking some gambles with storytelling that have truly paid off. But despite its unique design and format, it finds its match in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, NBC’s musical dramedy currently in its second season. While these shows are very different in themes and tones, both have one large unifying characteristic: showcasing women’s grief.
As viewers learn more and more about the origins and workings of Westview, it becomes more difficult to sympathize with Wanda. Her grief at the loss of Vision is immense, yet her process of coping with it (or hiding from it) causes inexcusable pain to the citizens she captured. Yet even while the story behind Westview is still partially obscure, it’s clear that Wanda and her grief are at the heart of it.
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Zoey’s grief may be more mundane but is no less powerful. The entire first season followed her processing the decline and inevitable death of her father, with each episode showing how her emotional pain insinuated itself into her daily actions. Distracted by her grief, she makes mistakes at work and in her relationships, and has trouble balancing her life and moving on, having a desire to cling to the past.
Wanda and Zoey share a lot in common, even beyond the superficial similarities of their red hair. Both lost a romantic or familial love too early and are working through the consequences. But they are also both women in the male-dominated fields of the tech industry or the world of superheroes. Too often women in such fields are told to hide their emotions in order to fit in and not rock the boat. Wanda and Zoey show that there can be a place for these emotions, and highlight the fact that maybe everyone would be better off if there were healthier ways to channel and process grief than being told to hide it.
Highlighting women’s grief is an important way of recognizing that the emotionality of processing these tragedies still has a place in modern, high-budget story-telling. Too often such reactions are written off as uninteresting, or at least not worth focusing on. WandaVision and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist show that this grief can create compelling stories full of characters capable of exacting sympathy from viewers while causing damage and being imperfect.
These shows also highlight grief experienced by other women in the cast. Monica Rambeau returned after the Blip to find her mother had died, while Zoey’s mom has to process losing her husband. Smaller moments of grief are visible in Zoey’s boss working through her divorce or her coworkers dealing with prejudice and hazing. There are countless ways in which women fuel these shows with their complicated reactions to grief.
WandaVision and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist are very different shows, with their own unique aesthetics and audiences. Yet both of these stories showcase the power of women’s grief in a nuanced way, eliciting sympathy for these women while showing the damage they can cause. It’s a powerful move in modern storytelling that has resulted in two truly compelling shows.
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