To be painfully clear, before I introduce you to ‘the other guy‘…
…sexism is very real. Of course it is. Like racism, or the wholly overlooked issue of classism, it’s an insidious and deeply nuanced issue that should be effectively explored in narrative contexts… Maturely.
With ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ having received an excessive amount of review bombing from MCU’s male audience, people have asked the question… ‘Why this show?’
“Well, because SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW tackles sexism and men can’t handle it“.
With both Prey and House of the Dragon being just recent examples of wholly adored projects that have flourished with an emphasis on female protagonists (each tackling a torrent of sexist obstacles along the way)… yes, I call bulls%$t.
Men have rallied behind female protagonists for years, from Sigourney Weaver’s ‘Ripley’ in 1979, to the largest franchise in the world’s ‘Ahsoka Tano’ in Star Wars (with arguably the most critically fierce fan-base in the world, I might add).
So, now we’ve debunked that, let’s get serious.
SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW was an opportunity to delve into the devilish detail of how sexism can manifest itself within male dominated sectors… such as law.
Right on cue, Kim. Because you know what Jessica Gao, writer for She-Hulk, claimed was an inspiration for the Disney Plus series… Better Call Saul.
You’re going to suggest you’ve incorporated elements of Vince Gilligan’s immaculately crafted and thematically rich universe to She-Hulk? A show that has ‘Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk’ twerking with Megan Thee Stallion in her legal office (we’ll get to that later).
I’m sorry, but that’s like saying Shrek’s ‘Fiona’ was an inspiration for the ‘She-Hulk’ design… not that I’m not more sympathetic to that comparison, having now seen the show’s CGI in long-form action.
Better Call Saul’s ‘Kim Wexler’ (another female character loved by its show’s male audience, by the way) is the epitome of what it takes to be a driven, competent and fiercely formidable lawyer… whilst contending with the added burden of true sexism. Peppered with authentic cases of bias-centric sexism, Better Call Saul did wonders to actually have male audiences think twice about their approach to workplace situations and unfair societal norms.
I think back to when ‘Jimmy’ says “Met some nice guys and gals. Well gal. Singular“, unwittingly identifying male prevalence in law when he first joined HHM. Or when ‘Chuck’ says to Kim “Coffee“ to implicitly indicate he wants one made, to which she wittily replies “No thank you“ – Chuck is forced to clarify that he wants one, failing to recognise that she shouldn’t be bound to the traditional ideas of ‘woman’s work’ when she’s a f@#king lawyer! Chuck doesn’t recognise his biases are at play, and that’s the damn point… real sexism is subtle.
The prevalence of sexism isn’t some moustache twirling, cartoonishly obvious creep lurking in some alleyway… no more than racism is some Kentucky farmer drinking full-fat milk on his white picketed porch. Yes, these issues are a reality that deserve a meaningful space in story-telling… but let’s keep it real.
“But Mr. Hunter, come on now… this is a comedy!“
Comedies don’t have to be superficial or downright asinine. With this show working way too hard to childishly demonise men whilst simultaneously giving real, closeted male sexists an excuse to bury the issue… I can’t help but feel this was a colossal waste.
‘Dennis Bukowski’, the resident chauvinist/lawyer whose incompetence and caveman like mentality is so laughably on his sleeve he would have been ostracised/fired years ago, only serves to cheapen the show’s realism. He’s so clearly a pig, and so much of the series’ focus that it suggests cunning misogynists aren’t real.
“She-Hulk isn’t just about sexism, okay. It’s about Jennifer Walters as a character!”
Well, I’m glad you brought that up because the show’s biggest crime is undoubtedly Tatiana Manslany’s ‘Jennifer Walters’ aka…
Now, listen. I like the actress, I really do. I think she could have been an excellent fit. However, this obnoxious character she has to portray quite literally has it all.
No seriously, she does.
She’s already a lawyer at the start of the show (no hero’s journey there). She immediately, and incidentally, gains the Hulk’s powers without their aggressive side effects. She’s popular even as She-Hulk, unlike when ‘Bruce Banner’ was first Hulk. She can still practice her passion as a lawyer, despite being a Hulk. She’s attractive whether she’s ‘She-Hulk’ or not…
…She’s all of these things without us watching her having earned a fraction of it… it all just happens.
No, she isn’t mobbed by paparazzi. No, she isn’t hyper-sexualised when she is She-Hulk. No, we don’t see her busting her ass to even a fraction of the degree a lawyer would be. All of this could have been explored meaningfully… yet we’re supposed to accept her incessant moping and whining seriously, with her at no point addressing any of her gripes directly.
Not once has She-Hulk called out Dennis directly for his chauvinism, and we’re halfway through the season. Granted, one could’ve made a case that it’s unacceptable that her superiors haven’t addressed it themselves, the show attempting to showcase systemic sexism… but with She-Hulk TWERKING in her legal office, at her NEW JOB (without an interview by the way), in plain view of her NEW BOSS , without so much as an eye-roll? I’d say all is pretty fair in this goofy, caricature of a world this series establishes.
Y’know. I wanted to ignore all of this. I really did. I thought to myself, fine. This is just some fluffy piece of comedy that happens to be saddled with insufferably woke rhetoric. Why care?
Then I think of the rant Jennifer subjects Bruce to in the opening episode. It centred on her being able to handle gamma-infused aggression better than him in a single day, due to her life experience as a woman. Walters did the very thing bigots of all kinds do… she assumed. She, without hesitation, thought because of her sex, and because of his, she could make that claim.
Bruce Banner is a character who in The Incredible Hulk attempts to commit suicide, due to the momentous psychological turmoil of his monstrous powers… and here we have a fresh-faced character in the MCU, trampling on his experience over ‘cat-calling’.
OH WAIT, NO IT DIDN’T.
I wanted to believe this was part of her arc. That Jennifer is supposed to be this unwarily arrogant and entitled, only to recognise it as the show progresses. Alas, we’re 3 episodes in, and there’s none of this in sight.
So far, not only is ‘She-Hulk Attorney at Law’ stupid, but in a sense, promotes stupidity. Bruce is a character with the grace to let Jennifer de-legitimise his entire experience, despite painstakingly carving out a world in which she as a hulk could be celebrated instead of demonised. Bruce is a character with the grace to genuinely bless and support her in legally defending ‘Emil Blonsky aka The Abomination’, a character who tried to kill him, all to preserve her legal career (not that his blessing mattered, as the show flaunts).
To top it off, a running theme in this show is having Jennifer Walters continuously run into MCU male superhero cameos… without a single female one thus far. How depressingly ironic. Don’t even get me started on how lacklustre her ‘Deadpool’ reminiscent ability to break the fourth wall has been.
I do hope the next 6 episodes prove me wrong, but so far… I don’t see Jennifer Walters doing little more than what she’s been doing best… turning into She-Sulk.
Agree, viciously disagree, call me a ‘mansplainer’, or discuss the intricacies of how Emil Blonsky could’ve wooed 7 supposed soulmates from a maximum security prison (Tim Roth’s got game), let me know in the comments below!