She-Hulk Twists The Usual Superhero Narrative In A Great Way

Courtesy Marvel Studios

I’ve been seeing plenty of online discussions about the newest Marvel show, and although I’d been feeling a bit burned out by the flood of Marvel movies and television series, I was intrigued enough to want to give She-Hulk: Attorney At Law a chance, and I am so glad I did. Not only did it put a spin on the tired human-becomes-superhero-must-leave-the-life-they-love storyline, but it also did so in a way that highlighted a change from male fantasy to a female reality. 

It has long been known that people experience the world differently, and a lot depends on where you grew up, what you were exposed to, and how you decided to process all of that. I grew up in the country as part of a conservative evangelical family and community, only to grow up and choose a very different path – I realized that I was queer and a pagan and have taken steps to heal from the trauma of having to hide my identity for the first nearly thirty years of my life. A straight white man will never understand what that’s like. Even some queer people and pagans won’t understand because they had a different growing-up experience. That being said, there are people whose lives are so different from mine that I will never be able to fully comprehend what their life is like. 

She-Hulk, aka Jennifer Walters, is a regular human being – an attorney determined to bring justice to the courtroom. Unfortunately, an accident occurs, and she gains the ability to “Hulk out,” which results in her cousin, Doctor Bruce Banner, trying to teach her how to control her anger and fear. She pushes back against his training and worldview in many ways, eventually leading to Bruce realizing that she is different because of her past and that her future will be different than hers.

The most talked about scene in the first episode occurs when Bruce tells Jennifer she has to control her anger. She counters that she can handle her anger a lot better than him because, as a woman, she must – otherwise, she’ll get labeled as “emotional” or “difficult,” which could hurt her image, job prospects, and other important things she wants out of life. This scene has been discussed so much because it’s a big difference between experiencing the world as a cis-het white man and experiencing it as a woman. It’s a lot more dangerous for women, and if you don’t have your anger and fear under control, you risk losing a lot, from your relationships to jobs, opportunities, etc. 

One of the instances I liked but didn’t hear much about was when Jennifer arrived at a bar, bloodied, dirty, and lost, and a group of girls in the bathroom lent her their shoes, put some makeup on her, and gave her items of clothing to wear, along with allowing her to use their phones, ensuring that she is ok, that she knows they have her back if she needs more assistance. This isn’t used very often, especially not for serious situations, but I thought it was a beautiful display of feminine power – female and non-binary individuals may not be able to avoid every scary situation, but together we can support and help heal each other.

I also loved that Jennifer is determined to return to her law practice and kick ass in the courtroom. She may not be able to do that for much longer, as Jameela Jamil’s Titania appears and ruins the illusion that Jennifer is a normal human being, but I believe that with Jennifer’s grit and determination, she will find a way to keep doing what she loves, regardless of how people view her. People seem to think that life as you know it is over after a trauma. That you cannot go back to anything, you wanted before. This isn’t always true, and there are ways to live the life you want even after undergoing a traumatic situation. You may have to adjust or figure out alternatives for some things, but that doesn’t mean your old life is completely over. Jessica gives me hope that despite my trauma from growing up in a dysfunctional system, I too can keep doing what I love, even if I need accommodations from time to time.

If you’re intrigued by this story, or if you’ve been a fan of She-Hulk for a while, I highly recommend that you give this show a watch. It’s available on Disney+. 

Related Posts