It didn’t take long for the WandaVision faithful to become haters of Director Tyler Hayward. The jury was still out in E4 but by E5 we collectively saw Hayward as kind of an ass who was condescending, rude and likely a future antagonist with a suspicious agenda. To date, this theory has come full circle with poor decisions, the portrayal of a typical Military Industrial Complex attitude in the form of an attempted assassination attempt of our favorite witch and the ex-communication of the only three agents who have thus far proved helpful. That is to say nothing of his cruel, albeit strategic behavior toward Wanda upon his first meeting as seen in the most recent flashback episode of Wandavision: Previously On. Unfortunately, there is likely even more life to our hatred of Hayward in the E9 conclusion coming this Thursday.
The trauma of Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff has driven our emotions from the first episode. Really since the first time we became acquainted with her back in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you are a purveyor of comic history, we saw the loosely adapted House of M storyline as adding even more suffering to an already struggling character, especially one that we care about, and our heart breaks. And why shouldn’t it?
At this point, I must ask fans to suspend their emotional attachment here to really analyze the ‘in-world’ reality we are supposed to be witnessing if not seeing vicariously through others’ eyes so we can be more realistically connected to this fiction brought to life. That is what storytelling is all about after all.
Psychologists theorize that there are three types of empathy: emotional, compassionate, and cognitive. When we often think of empathy, we tend to encourage and practice both the emotional and compassionate forms of empathy in our everyday lives and in our interpersonal relationships. We certainly both feel and project those types of empathy upon the fictional characters and the stories that we love, especially one so impacted by pain and loss that Wanda has. But the other form of empathy, cognitive, is no less important here and one we need to look at to better understand and support Director Hayward’s motives. Cognitive empathy is the ‘ability to see another person’s perspective but in a more logical and analytical way.’ In short, it is the ability to remove emotion from an objective understanding of a situation or an individual.
“Last year earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town… not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously, outgunned.” -Nick Fury
Step out of our blind devotion to the characters we love and consider the realistic implications of a post-blip world if you were living in it. Since the Battle of New York in 2012, earth and its inhabitants have come to understand that not only do alien powers exist but that they also caused widespread death and destruction in New York before being stopped by the Avengers. There is a poignant scene on the SHIELD Helicarrier where Nick Fury defends the Phase 2 weapons program by reminding our heroes of the following, “last year earth had a visitor form another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town…not only are we not alone but we are hopelessly, hilariously, outgunned.” Thor goes on to basically say that Asgard wants only peace with Earth (ala Monica Rambeau) to which Fury responded, “But you’re not the only people out there are you? And you’re not the only threat (ala Tyler Hayward).”
This juxtaposition of Monica and Hayward’s conversation in E4 can be viewed as the opposite of how we heard it because we want to agree with Monica, not because we should. This is Fury and Thor’s conversation but in reverse, and Fury was right.
Imagine the pre-blip world with the advent of the Sokovia Accords. 117 world governments coming together to form an agreement and registration of sorts, of super-powered beings to put some checks and balances on these heroes, some of which could do untold damage if they went astray and despite Wanda’s trauma and what we feel for her, this is what we are seeing in Westview folks. How many questioned our beloved Tony Stark when he manipulated Bruce into creating Ultron. Do we remember these words, “this could be it Bruce, the key to creating Ultron…if we can harness this power, apply it to my Iron Legion protocol…” And how about this great analogy, “what if next time aliens rolled up to the club, and they will, they couldn’t get past the bouncer.” Most of us agreed with Tony and why shouldn’t we? Even if there was no limit to super-powered beings, and there is in the current reality, how do we know they will always be able to handle the threats that come and why should the world governments completely abdicate responsibility to protect the public trust to individuals who could come in and out of being lawfully good or lawfully evil at any time due to the myriad of things that could impact them emotionally, psychologically, physically etc. Isn’t this human nature? Don’t we see this in our own lives?
“Our very strength invites challenge, challenge incites conflict, conflict breeds catastrophe… oversight is not an idea that could be dismissed out of hand.” -The Vision
Later in Avengers: Civil War, we see the emergence of the previously mentioned Sokovia Accords, the first method the world governments sought to implement to both mitigate and control the destruction and the actions of our superheroes. During perhaps one of the best exposition scenes in any MCU property to date, we see the strongest arguments from the Vision (our cognitive empath) when he states, “Our very strength invites challenge, challenge incites conflict, conflict breeds catastrophe.” Tony and Natasha have worthy moral and ethical arguments here as well.
Pre-Blip, Tony’s perspective and the Sokovia Accords were rational answers to an increasingly dangerous world. However, post-blip, these issues became more important and the danger level with half of all life on our planet being decimated, became more perilous. This invited an even greater response by our government.
Imagine if this was all true. How would you feel? What would your expectations be of your world leaders, the UN, the European Union, how about your military and law enforcement personnel. What responsibility does the Governor of your state have to ensure the safety of its citizens. Would you even feel comfortable with a group of super-powered beings under the control of the military or the government? Would the idea of a Mutant cure (coming soon) or the Sentinel program be that far-fetched? We may not trust our government, but we would trust it as much as a group of super-heroes that no military could stand up to with conventional weapons should they ever change their allegiance or motives, would we?
Look, I can agree with Steve Rogers that these bodies have agendas and that agendas change. This is true. However, as much as this is true, there is also some level of transparency that exists, a check-and-balance systems, protocols and laws that govern the basic expectations and behavior of our society that works within these structures and hierarchies. Are not many minds involved better than a few? If we say no, we are veering toward a dictatorial socialism if power rests only with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men…in other words, a powerful few. This is antithetical to our government makeup.
I for one would expect, if not demand, that our government take the defense of its citizens seriously and enact whatever technology it could to protect us from these threats and frankly, I believe you would too, no matter what they did to go about it.
To put it another way, imagine this. Say there was an armed standoff of a town of 3,000 people where the population of this town was taken hostage, oppressed and an even more dangerous outcome unpredictable. What would you have done? Intervention would be necessary and justified, especially if it were your loved ones involved. The agenda, goal, purpose or even backstory of the would-be oppressors would make little difference to us. To be sure, a peaceful negotiation should always be worked toward but let us not mistake the forest for the trees. This is not always possible, and if force is necessary to protect the populace, we need what we need to get the job done. Remember, we’re talking about super-powered beings here, not a haphazardly organized militia or domestic terrorist.
There is little doubt that Director Tyler Hayward is not the best of people and that his motives may go even beyond the construction of sentient weapons to defend us. Nonetheless, his motives, if not the ethic and rightness of his motives or another like him should not be dismissed out of hand (quoting the Vision again here) as it would likely be the actions we would expect ourselves.