Welcome back to yet another From page to Screen focusing on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. In the show’s first week, we looked at the differences between the comics’ and series’ versions of Jennifer Walters’ origin story. The following week, viewers got a live-action introduction to Jen’s new legal job, taken straight out of Dan Slott’s and Juan Bobillo’s 2004 She-Hulk run—Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (GLK&H). Episode 3 introduced a reimagined version of comic book villains and in its fourth week, the show decided to focus on Jen’s love life and, the following week, on Jen’s nemesis, Titania.
Episode 6 presented itself as a tricky one when it came to finding a strong enough connection to She-Hulk comics. Both Mr. Immortal and Intelligencia had a somewhat meaningful presence in it but were already the focus of a couple of features from the past week. It was then time for something different. And much like Jen herself stated, in the starting sequence, that episode 6 was a “self-contained wedding episode”, why not try and make this a self-contained P2S feature? If an engagement featured in a She-Hulk comic can also be referenced, then that’s enough to justify the option. Let’s go with that.
In 1989 Marvel published a two-part story entitled She-Hulk: Ceremony, that focused on Jen and Wyatt Wingfoot getting engaged. In the midst of it all both also had to help stop a madman attempting a mystical world conquest. Much as She-Hulk: Attorney at Law tries to focus on the comedic side of the character, this was a story that was initially intended to be a romantic comedy. But what began with the best of intentions turned out to be one of Marvel’s most clumsy attempts at giving feminism a much-needed spotlight.
The basic plot goes a little something like this:
While watching a TV soap opera, She-Hulk feels the need to become a mother. She decides to look for something to fill that “void she has discovered in her life” because she “feels empty.” In a baffling decision, she somehow sees her ex-boyfriend Wyatt Wingfoot (who she briefly dated when She-Hulk was a member of the Fantastic Four) as the only one who can help her. Wingfoot, a native American, is just beginning his legal education while still residing in the Baxter Building and is utterly shocked by being approached by Jen and being asked to father her children out of the blue.
By trying to appease the usual rom-com structure and conflicts, the story also ended up following the same clichés the genre usually features. She-Hulk thus ended up being portrayed as extremely bashful and uneasy about sharing her thoughts, very much unlike her usual honest, straightforward, and forthright character when it comes to her emotions. Another characterization that seems incredibly outdated is how the comic shows Jen as being very ambivalent regarding the right to choose to have an abortion or not, something she clearly states following a bomb threat at a local abortion clinic. This sort of tactlessness when it came to her character perhaps only came second to the disrespect towards native American culture with it being depicted in the most stereotypical fashion, filled with mystical nonsense, reducing it to a caricature.
In the end, and after finally defeating the big bad, Carlton Beatrice, Jen and Wyatt realize that they weren’t really in love with each other. They become aware that their engagement was (at least primarily) a result of a mystical basket (the story’s McGuffin) connecting them. They choose to separate with Jen making use of her legal expertise to assist in recovering Wyatt’s Keewazi Reservation which had been affected by the entire ordeal.
What does this have to do with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law? Not much. There’s Jen, there’s She-Hulk, there’s the idea of a wedding, there are fights and lots of nonsense (both the good and the wrong kind). But what ultimately sticks when revisiting such a story is just how much She-Hulk eventually evolved into a proper Marvel feminist icon, and how the Marvel Studios’ show manages to address several of the same issues in a much more respectful and gracious manner. With the show having such a strong sense of self-awareness, explicitly criticizing the misogynistic trends that, particularly on social media, surround female superheroes and female-led initiatives, She-Hulk has indeed come a long way in what it can add, as a character, to not to what comics and TV are concerned, but more importantly to the general discourse.
The first six episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are now streaming on Disney+.