She-Hulk: Lawyer does his dissertation about 13 minutes into the first episode: when Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) tells his cousin—newly Hulked, thanks to an accident—Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) that the triggers are anger and fear, she mocks. “Those are just like every woman’s baseline existing.” It’s a point she’ll hit harder later in the episode, after weeks of training to be handy and zen so as not to accidentally take out Hulk. While he reminds her that the most important thing in the whole world is that she doesn’t get scared or, more importantly, angry, she hits him with the kind of manifesto, because She-Hulk:
“The thing is, Bruce: I’m good at controlling my anger. I always do it,” says Jen. “When I get yelled at in the street, when incompetent men explain my own area of expertise — I do it pretty much every day, because if I don’t, I’m called ’emotional’ or ‘difficult’ or I would just literally be killed. So I’m an expert at controlling my anger because I do it infinitely more than you do.”
To show how completely she is in control, she briefly changes into She-Hulk. In the end, we’ll see her prove she’s right, return to the ordinary world, and endure the hateful comments of her misogynistic colleague with aplomb. It’s all a big win for feminism.
The question is, how far will — can — She-Hulk go with this limited brand of feminism?
There are already many Feminism 101 shows in the world – your Tough type or super girl. Per the four episodes provided to critics for review, She-Hulk suits those shows without much challenge; feminism and the people it covers isn’t one-size-fits-all, and these shows are more of a foundation to inspire younger people who are just starting to discover what kind of feminist action they want (or need) in their lives. . In its first episodes, She-Hulk is not revolutionary, and for a certain group of viewers that’s okay. That the show is able to address the undercurrent of anger that comes with feminism is a step towards recognizing anger as just a valid response to a world that is generally inhumane, large and small. ways, for women every day.
It’s a double-edged sword that the creators stand behind She-Hulk know too well. The show centers Jen’s discomfort with heroism as part of her unease with how people treat her new look. As She-Hulk, she is respected, defended, applauded – even just seen Lake.
“In terms of criticizing the CGI, I think it has to do with our culture’s belief in their ownership of women’s bodies. I think a lot of the criticism comes from the feeling that they can tear the CGI women apart,” She-Hulk said director Kat Coiro during the Television Critics Association panel about the show. “There’s a lot of talk about her body type. And we based her a lot on Olympic athletes, not bodybuilders, but I think if we’d gone the other way, we’d get the same criticism. I think it’s very hard to win when you’re making women’s bodies.”
Even in the first episode She-Hulk clearly feels how this transition is layered because Jen is a woman. Still, it’s frustrating to see a move being filtered through Marvel Studios, whose general ethos is like King Midas cleaned everything he touched. There’s no way the (modern) MCU wants to be as thorny and provocative as feminism actually is is in the real world; feminism is a political ideology (no matter what slogan T-shirts tell you!), meaning some topics will be inherently taboo, prickly, and disruptive. You don’t just get stuff like that in a Marvel Studios project. And so much of the feminism of She-Hulk feels a bit too petty – from Class the sexist coworker’s disdains are things like “smile more,” and the bad bros she encounters are just a little too obvious about how much her femininity annoys them.
Because this is what it’s about She-Hulk: There are all kinds of Olympians. They are bodybuilders, swimmers, runners, rowers, skiers, gymnasts and more. They are as often bulky as they are slim. And so when Cairo tells Polygon that the body type they settled on was related to Misty Copeland, someone who is “strong and powerful, but […] can go to a restaurant and go on a date, can work in a regular office and sit in a regular desk chair,” it just feels like more Marvel gloss, sanding down edges to form a common denominator. She’s muscles -Hulk have looked different over decades of comics, and it’s telling that She-Hulk‘s iterations fall in line with a more conventionally attractive body type. For everyone She-Hulk pretends it’s ‘feminist TV’, it’s still tied to a specific conception of femininity and empowerment. The show can only see its heroine as a female answer to Hulk, so it can’t fully imagine what it would mean to be completely free of comparison.