Marvel’s latest television series is a smash. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” follows Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) and her successful legal career. She is primed to tackle an important case until she gets in a car crash with her cousin. They survive the crash, and some of her cousin’s blood gets into her cut. This would be no big deal if her cousin wasn’t Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), or The Hulk. When their blood mixes, she gains his ability to transform into a raging hulk. However, unlike Bruce Banner, Jen can control her transformations. Although only Episodes 1 and 2 have been released so far, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” is shaping up to be a great new series.
There’s no way to avoid the fact that this show is about gender and the challenges of being a woman in the workplace. Jen’s presence as She-Hulk is a metaphor for being a woman in a high-powered job. She constantly struggles with imposter syndrome, wondering if she was hired for her skill or because she is She-Hulk. For instance, she is asked to be She-Hulk at work rather than herself. In one of her asides to the camera, she remarks that no men in the boardroom had to deal with this. While most women cannot turn green and bulky at will, many do deal with imposter syndrome, which is made worse by others judging them and suggesting the company only hired them for diversity or because the boss is romantically interested in them.
The theme of gender shows up again in the differences between She-Hulk and The Hulk. While it has taken Bruce Banner over 10 years to control his abilities even the slightest, Jen can control her emotions right away. Hardcore fans will remember Bruce’s line in “The Avengers,” “That’s my secret. I’m always angry.” Bruce may have a baseline of anger to help him transform into the Hulk as he pleases but Jen believes this is a luxury she cannot afford. She tells Bruce that, as a woman, she must constantly suppress her anger and fear, which means she can easily control her new abilities. She is not allowed to be angry all the time because then she would be told she was mean or unprofessional. She has to control her emotions, so she is well-suited to her superpowers that require extreme emotional self-regulation.
Initial previews were not met with high praise. Many did not find her to be a likable character and found her breaks in the fourth wall annoying. While I shared some of those concerns, I think it all felt more natural in the show than in the trailers. Additionally, while many griped about her character being snarky and tough, that endeared readers to Tony Stark. Breaking the fourth wall has made Deadpool iconic. Yet, Jennifer Walters is annoying if she does either.
Gender roles strike again! She-Hulk is not the first female Marvel character to be dismissed for being supposedly mean; the response to “Captain Marvel” comes to mind. While Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) was a heroic character, she was criticized for being too cold, even though there are plenty of fan-favorite characters that act colder than she does. I liked Captain Marvel because she is strong, just like I like Jen Walters for not taking any nonsense. Marvel does not seem to be backing down, though. They struggled in their early movies to have good female representation, but it appears they are trying to put the work in now.
While the show does revolve around gender, it would be a mistake to assume it is only about that as it is also about Jen Walters and her legal career. Jen is genuinely funny and I thought the second episode flew by. The legal drama aspect of this show would be interesting on its own but I think it will be even more so with the aspect of laws around superhumans. This is a thread that Marvel has played with before and I think it will be fascinating to see how a lawyer handles the situations. It’s also fascinating to see a bit of the villain’s side for once which will give nuance to the events of these movies. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” is shaping up to be a great series. Hopefully, future episodes continue to make waves and we will continue to see more of Jen’s character in her roles as an attorney, She-Hulk and more.
“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” Episodes 1 and 2 are available for streaming on Disney Plus. New episodes premiere on Thursdays.
By Ella Hachee