Who Knew Wanda And Fleabag Were So Similar?
Hello and welcome back!
This week was unfortunately a little difficult for me, as I was sick for the first half of the week. You would think that I could watch TV shows while in bed, but I was in fact asleep for the majority of the time. This only left me a few days to watch shows off of my list. I went through two shows in that time: Fleabag and WandaVision. This blog post I want to share some of my thoughts regarding our two protagonists (Fleabag and Wanda) and analyze them in relation to moral ambiguity. I also want to give a huge SPOILER ALERT, as I am going to go into the endings of the shows.
I actually watched this show when it first came out with my brother, who is a die-hard Marvel fan, and I quickly became fascinated while watching the first episode. The main praise from the show is that it doesn’t feel like a Marvel show, instead it feels incredibly nuanced. I couldn’t agree more with this take, and I’d argue that it extends to the protagonist as well. Wanda is a very nuanced character, who doesn’t feel like a Marvel character. In my experience with the MCU, Marvel characters are not morally ambiguous, rather they are split into heroes and villains with no grey area. It was refreshing to see Wanda be a realistic character who is struggling with grief, loss, and depression.
Wanda perfectly fits in our morally ambiguous definition, which is that the character is not 100% good or 100% bad. Moral ambiguity allows for humanity. Wanda completely exemplifies this idea of humanity. She does an incredibly bad thing, but with the best of intentions. She doesn’t intend on being malicious, yet it’s a byproduct of her achieving her end goal. When chatting with my advisor, she mentioned that there are three questions every writer asks themselves when creating a character.
- What Is Their Goal?
- Why Can’t They Achieve The Goal?
- Why Do We Care?
The first two questions are relatively simple. For Wanda, we understand that her goal is to live the life she wanted to with Vision; however, she can’t get it because Vision is dead. The last question is the hardest one. I would argue that we as an audience care because we can empathize with her pain. Seeing someone in pain and going through the grief process hurts to watch and we can’t help but feel bad for her when we see that she is trying so hard to maintain this faux life.
Wanda’s moral ambiguity originates from the internal clash of what she wants to do versus what she has to do. She doesn’t want to hurt the townspeople, but she needs them to maintain her fantasy. Wanda is then faced with a tough choice, where she eventually releases everyone from her spell and carries on as normal. I also believe that her moral ambiguity stems from her grief. As people say, love makes you crazy, and Wanda is no exception to this rule.
To call Phoebe-Waller Bridge’s character Fleabag genius would be an understatement. While I could probably spend hours writing out all my thoughts on this character, I am going to stick to the highlights. Fleabag is an incredibly difficult character for me to understand because she is simply so complex. It’s hard to answer even the first of the aforementioned questions because she doesn’t have a salient goal, and thus we don’t know why she can’t achieve it.
Fleabag, similar to Wanda, is dealing with grief. Her mother and best friend both are dead. Fleabag’s father distanced himself from her after the death of the mother. To top it all off, at the end of Season 1, her sister didn’t believe Fleabag when she told her that her husband tried to kiss her, driving her further into isolation. My interpretation of her goal is that she is trying not to be lonely. This is why she looks at the camera and takes solace in the audience. By looking at the audience and talking to us directly, she is effectively distancing herself from whatever is happening in the show, which is her life. It’s her coping mechanism for being alone.
Fleabag is an extremely morally ambiguous character. She does both good things and bad things and innately has good and bad traits. Her moral ambiguity ranges from small actions to largely important actions. She steals money from her date’s wallet, but then later she uses that money to pay for a drunk girl’s cab. In terms of more important things, she sleeps with her best friend’s boyfriend, which causes her best friend to accidentally kill herself. Through her connection with the audience, Fleabag is able to inadvertently achieve her goal. She initially uses the audience to hide from her reality, but by letting us see what she did and how she is handling it, she makes us empathize with her.
Overall, both Wanda and Fleabag are dealing with grief, but they handle it in different ways in their respective shows. Interestingly, their goals are similar, as they want to avoid reality and shift focus onto something they can control. For Wanda, she wants to control the world around her. For Fleabag, she wants to control the narrative that the audience receives in order to prevent us from knowing what she did. Denial, avoidance, and control are the main takeaways from these two shows in their message about moral ambiguity.
Next week, I will be watching The 100, Wynonna Earp, Dead to Me, Big Little Lies, and Sharp Objects.
Until next time!