Ever since WandaVision premiered, speculation ran rampant and countless theories were proposed. Many wondered if the show would introduce mutants, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four? Some even theorized that Wanda would become a villain. Or if Mephisto was secretly behind everything. No stone was left unturned as fans combed each episode for hints and easter eggs about what was yet to come.
Meanwhile, the heart of the story, Wanda, was neglected as fan theory reached its fever pitch. Although people expressed their sympathy towards her, their focus was on whatever the Marvel Cinematic Universe was about to introduce in the series. Admittedly, I can’t totally blame these passionate fans for their theorizing because, for over a decade, the MCU fostered this type of behavior. However, excitement for future development shouldn’t overshadow the immediate story being told.
From the beginning of the series, fans and critics alike weren’t under any illusion what the show was about: Wanda’s grief. Due to the show starting in media res and its experimental nature, it wasn’t unsurprising that many had questions. What was surprising was how many fans lost sight of Wanda as a result of their theorizing. As a result, Wanda was put on the back burner, despite her grief being on full display.
Viewers knew, regardless of who was responsible for the Hex, that Wanda played a part in Westview’s current state and continued existence. Before the series reminded of us of Wanda’s trauma later on in the season, fans discussed it at length themselves. They sympathized with her and said, “I get why she snapped.” Yet, somehow, when the series wrapped up, some of these same fans viewed Wanda as the true villain of the show (while ironically claiming that Hayward and Agatha were innocent).
The want Wanda held accountable.
To this, I ask: what does accountability look like?
Although jailing Wanda might make some citizens of Westview feel better, it’s a massive disservice to Wanda. If someone believes that Wanda’s wellbeing is unimportant, I wonder if they care about justice or punishment. The American industrial prison complex doesn’t operate to rehabilitate criminals, it operates to punish them. Either criminals fall into a cycle of criminal behavior and land back in prison or are unable to operate the world after being released. It’s even worse for those struggling with their mental health.
This demand of accountability indirectly positions Wanda to voluntarily turning herself into the government, an institution she rightfully doesn’t trust, and voluntarily remain in prison. Considering the power we saw Wanda display, the government likely doesn’t have technology to not only capture, but hold her as well. All while she does this, her mental health deteriorates because either the government ‘doesn’t’ have the resources and/or they wouldn’t believe Wanda deserved mental services. This is all in the name of justice because this is what accountability looks like to some. Personally, I’d argue that this course of actions would’ve led to a Westview 2.0 situation. Things would’ve been infinitely worse than what we saw. Wanda would’ve further marinated in her grief, trauma, depression, and inevitably, her mistreatment. Without any mental help, she would’ve had another massive breakdown. This is why Monica Rambeau’s sympathy and compassion was important during her interactions with Wanda. When we know someone is struggling, our first response shouldn’t be to demonize them, but to humanize them.
And I know some are thinking, “Wanda kidnapped a town and mentally tortured them, she doesn’t deserve to be humanized.”
Regardless, we need to stop seeing criminals as monsters because most people who commit crimes are not. Wanda’s actions, although harmful and traumatic, weren’t initially intentional nor were they malicious. When Wanda understood the magnitude of her actions, she immediately sought to rectify them. How is this monstrous? No, it doesn’t negate the pain she caused, but it does say she wasn’t devoid of her humanity, which by most definitions, monsters are.
The larger problem here is how people ignore Wanda’s background in the name of accountability. Although Wanda created and maintained the Hex, the US government, SWORD, and Tony Stark all played a part that served as catalysts in Wanda’s life.
The US government worked with Hydra despite being a subgroup of Nazism after World War II. Their desire to further the agenda in the scientific community overruled their ethical obligations. As a result, Hydra had access to technology, the ability to conduct scientific experiments, and was able to steal the mind stone, which all resulted in Wanda’s powers. We can say that Wanda consented to these experiments, except this overlooks the fact that Wanda was a traumatized orphan who anger and grief was exploited by Nazis. If the government had behaved ethically, Hydra wouldn’t had been able to do any of this.
When we first met Tony Stark, he was a weapons manufacturer. Although he transitioned his company into a tech company 1. It was only after brown people got ahold of his weapons 2. Why didn’t he come to this conclusion sooner? Tony’s weapons were the reasons that Wanda not only lost her parents, but lost them in an incredibly traumatic way. Keep in mind, Wanda and her brother remained in the same spot for three days in fear that moving would trigger the Stark Enterprise missile to explode. Now, some will say, “Tony’s weapons were sold behind his back.” Regardless, there is no such thing as an ethical weapons manufacturer. Victims of bombs, missiles, and other devastating weapons do not care if your weapons were sold illegally or not. These weapons were still made them and they’re still being used on innocent people. Also, Tony illegally imprisoned Wanda after Lagos (even if you argue she would’ve remained at the compound, there’s a thing called consent) and called her a weapon of mass destruction. As a reminder, his weapon leveled her home and killed her parents and if his missile wasn’t faulty, it would’ve killed her and her brother too. The levels his imprisonment and remarks are insidious.
Hayward, a high level agent of SWORD, was the only one arrested and held accountable for his criminal behavior which extended beyond Wanda. However, was he actually held accountable for what he did to Wanda? There were many crimes he could’ve been arrested for and, although what he did to Wanda wasn’t illegal, who is going to make him answer for that? This man tried to weaponize her grief to power up Vision. He knew how devastated Wanda was and constantly antagonized her if that meant accomplishing his own goals.
Wanda lost all of her family and went through trauma after trauma as a result and, rather than express concern for her mental wellbeing, people either exploited her grief or completely disregarded it. Then, when Wanda had her mental breakdown, she’s seen as a monster opposed to someone who can’t cope due to a non existent support system.
So, what does accountability look like?
This isn’t to say that Wanda should avoid any repercussions for her actions. However, a prison sentence in the name of justice that ignores Wanda’s background and ignores how her grief was exploited is an injustice. Appropriately dealing with Wanda’s actions isn’t a simple solution, in fact it entails navigating many complexities and layers. Most importantly, regardless of if someone views Wanda as a villain, grief was the big bad all along. Grief and trauma doesn’t excuse the harm Wanda inflicted on others, but we saw how it spiraled out of control due to being unaddressed.
As naive and simplistic as it sounds, having compassion for even those you consider criminals is the first step healing a person and, subsequently, society at large. Accountability isn’t merely locking someone up who committed a crime. Accountability is someone understanding the consequences of their actions, being responsible for them, and changing their behavior so to not repeat their offense. Furthermore, accountability isn’t limited to one person even when the other person isn’t involved in the situation. Does your decision seek to punish or to rehabilitate? Does your decision harm this person either now or down the line? Will they learn anything from your course of action?
So, while people criticize Wanda for not being held accountable, have they ever asked themselves what accountability means in this context? That accountability is more than out of sight, out of mind?
If not, then they should start asking themselves these questions rather than blindly demanding justice.