WandaVision: A Case Study of Over Theorization

As WandaVision's highly anticipated finale ended, fans took to social media to voice their disapproval over the lack of clear answers to some of the show's central mysteries and disappointing reveals.

It would be nice to say I was surprised by the reaction, but this phenomenon of social media criticism has been a growing trend over the last few years.

Fans are still debating the merits of Lost's series finale almost 11 years later. The divisiveness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi has broken more relationships than political discussions at Thanksgiving. And Game of Throne fans are still suffering PTSD from a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion. WandaVision is really just the next show in a long line of mystery-box productions to receive the couch critic treatment.

The truth is, these tent pole properties are facing a greater level of scrutiny than ever. The advent of the internet and social media is probably the biggest culprit here. But seeing as we cannot put those particular worms back in the can, it is fair to wonder if the fan's over speculation of said properties lead to unrealistic expectations.

WandaVision is the perfect example of this chasm. Even before the season premiered, a simple Google searched uncovered countless articles and numerous Reddit threads chronicling WandaVision theories. With each passing episode, the number of publications breaking down the show only increased.

On some level, it is hard to blame fans and media outlets for obsessively examining every detail of the plot, especially with the MCU. The studio has practically created an ecosystem for conversation and discourse through heavy reliance on easter eggs. And with over 80 years of comic book lore at our fingertips, fans have become astute detectives. After twenty-plus films, audiences know how to follow the bread crumbs, often with surprising accuracy.

When combined with Marvel's insistence on announcing all of their upcoming projects as phases, they create expectations, real or not, of what is to come in the future.

Inherently, there is nothing wrong with this, and some would argue the online discussion surrounding WandaVision is the equivalent of gathering around the water cooler. Speculation becomes dangerous, though, when a fan's rigidity prevents them from accepting anything other than what they want to see.

Don't get me wrong. I am one of those conspiracy theorists that will spend hours scouring the internet reviewing every story with potential clues to crack the box's code. But I am careful not to hitch my wagon to any particular theory. Not all can say that, and it seems more than ever that the obsessive theorizing of unsubstantiated ideas only leads to disappointment.

With WandaVision, numerous fan postulations never panned out that left many ultimately wanting more. Dottie was simply a red herring and not Mephisto. The items in the commercials did not represent the infinity stones. Monica's engineer was not Reed Richards or Hank McCoy. And Pietro was just another neighbor with a phallic name, not the Quicksilver from the 20th Century Fox X-Men universe.

For some, it is easy to blame show-runner Jac Schaeffer and her team for these missed opportunities. After all, the show utilized multiple red herrings to trick the audience, and actor Paul Bettany found great joy in trolling fans through interviews.

Yet, at no point were these reveals promised to the audience. They were simply assumptions fans created marrying comic mythos with their own perception of perceived clues. When the answers ultimately don't match up with their theories, fans are left upset.

So who is at fault in these situations? The easy- and cop-out answers probably- is to say both fans and the studio share some responsibility. That dynamic is apparent in WandaVision, as the cast and crew's willingness to stoke the flames of the speculation led to many fan theories that never proved to be true.

Part of me wonders, though, if this willingness to use red herrings is a direct result of audience speculation. Fans pick up on every detail, making it harder for studios to include surprising twists and reveals. Using red herrings is the only way to protect the foundational integrity of the show's mysteries.

In that light, the answer is clear. Disgruntled fans have no one but themselves to blame. The truth is that audiences play a dangerous game when they speculate. More times than not, their theories do not pan out. And when they don't, those same fans will never be able to see past that disappointment.

WandaVision tells a beautiful story of grief and heartache. Unfortunately, many will choose to ignore the show's themes and motifs because they cannot look beyond a personal grief for what was excluded from the screen. No matter how beautiful the messaging, some fans will never accept the story for what it is because their theories never materialized.

With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiering, perhaps fans would be wise to take a step back and stop obsessing over every little detail. Enjoy the show. Be thankful to spend time with these characters we all love so much. And stop overthinking.

Otherwise, you might miss the beauty unfolding in front of you.

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