Anger Management: Why She-Hulk Is Such A Powerful Symbol Of Female Rage | Emma Brockes

For some time under the presidency of Donald Trump, women’s anger was a big topic of discussion. Women in general and American women in particular had, as Australians say, been devastated, and through the movements (#MeToo), the books (Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister), and the 2017 Women’s March, the expressions public opinion of this feeling were predominant. . Things have gone downhill since then, thanks in large part to the ultra-conservative Supreme Court, but five years after roughly half a million women marched on Washington, we have at least one new convenient symbol of rage. female: She-Hulk.

You know, of course, the original Hulk, a scientist, Dr. Banner, who after “accidental overexposure to gamma rays” turned green and threw things every time he got angry. In the late ’70s TV show, he was played in his transformed state by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. More recently, Mark Ruffalo and plenty of CGI have ported the character into the Avengers franchise. Now Disney+ has updated the idea with a big green monster who works in Los Angeles and would rather not be a superhero, given the lack of benefits or career progression. She’s the former Assistant District Attorney, Jennifer Walters, or as the show’s title suggests, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.

It would be a mundane spin-off if the premise didn’t touch on bigger concerns, or if the show didn’t vaguely seek to own the political side of its DNA. Tatiana Maslany, who plays both Walters and her alter ego, throws people through walls, smashes furniture and creates a sonic boom that flattens palm trees just by clapping her hands. She also speaks directly to the camera, Fleabag-style, to comment on the action and strike a carefully ironic tone familiar to fans of all those Chris Hemsworth Avenger films. (Is it Hemsworth? Or the other? I can never figure out my Chrises.) Either way, the effect is to enjoy the drama while opening up space to acknowledge character development and the social and political context in which it evolves.

And this Hulk is very different from his male predecessors. In the male version, the Hulk pops out of his shirt and for a good five minutes growls, grimaces, and heaves cars over his head in an expression of pure, uncontrollable rage. Walters, on the other hand, has full control over his Hulk side. She can, while Hulking out, still fulfill her contractual obligations to her corporate law firm, as long as she wears enough spandex to fit into the transformation. She may lose her shoes and a sleeve of her jacket, but she is otherwise largely presentable. She doesn’t make a cave woman noise. She speaks in her usual voice. She is calm enough to roll her eyes at the behavior of those around her.

Jessica Gao, the show’s creator, did it knowingly. In the pilot, while training to be a more effective Hulk with his Hulk cousin (Ruffalo), Walters lectures him on female rage and the need for containment. She is, she explains to him, angered every day when a guy shouts obscenities at her in the street, or tries to explain his own know-how to her. Anger management is, she says slowly, as he gives a series of very slow blinks, a prerequisite for all women, who must maintain a calm exterior even if their ego takes the form of a monster of 6 feet 7 inches.

When the public comes up with the name “She-Hulk”, she complains bitterly of the injustice: “I can’t even exist without being a derivative of the Hulk.” And if there was an option to turn down the job, she would: “I skipped law school and racked up six figures in debt to become a vigilante hired by narcissists and billionaires.” It’s all very happy and in episode three, when Tim Roth appears as the reformed villain Abomination, I dare anyone to stop watching.

Still, there’s a part of him that longs for something a little less arch, a little less Disney and more Marina Abramović. In the late 1970s, The Incredible Hulk ended each week with Dr. Banner walking sadly down a deserted highway, emerging from the chaos his Hulk side had caused, a man ennobled and shunned by his suffering. Jennifer Walters ends each episode in a perky triumph, leaving one to wonder what it might be like if she ever really lost him, became red hot with anger, and went so far as to do something that completely messed up her hair. (She would be considered crazy, of course.)

  • Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at [email protected]

Comments are closed.