WandaVision is full of homages to classic sitcoms, with most episodes so far (save for episode 4’s interlude) paying tribute to a different era of American television. It’s a fun setup that offers some interesting downtime for the characters who are normally caught in the middle of other people’s stories.
The show’s also raised two burning questions, if my Twitter feed is any indication: How do Kids These Days in the audience understand the references? And why does Wanda Maximoff, who grew up in the fictional Southeastern European country of Sokovia, have such an intimate knowledge of American television?
What some Marvel fans peg as a plot hole I see as a remarkable case of fridge brilliance, the trope named for the realization that something initially questionable in movies or TV actually makes clicks into place when examining the full details. Hovering between Millennials and Gen Z, I can’t speak for all Kids These Days, but I am familiar with older sitcoms. And my experiences in Eastern Europe are the reason why — which is why Wanda’s perspective makes complete sense to me.
I spent many childhood summers visiting my grandparents in Croatia, before the Southeastern European country was a premier vacation destination (and before Game of Thrones was filmed there). And like any other bored kid, I killed time by watching a lot of television.
Here’s the thing about American television abroad: The more popular a show was in its original run, the more expensive syndication becomes in another country. But at the same time, there’s no point in paying for a show nobody watched. A series still needs to have decent success to be considered worth the expense.
And so international syndication deals are often struck for off-network shows, which are significantly cheaper to license than shows currently on air, and for the most part, have a proven popularity factor. A lot of the shows I watched during my childhood summers ended up being ones that had been off the air for years, like Alf, Married with Children, and Just Shoot Me.
Admittedly, I only really started paying attention to shows that weren’t cartoons when I was a bit older, around the late 2000s. (Yes, I’m young). In that particular time period, it meant I watched a lot of ’80s and ’90s shows. Of course, nowadays, with Netflix and streaming and the internet (not to mention piracy) there isn’t as staggered a delay in consuming new media. Globalization is rapidly expanding across the world in 2020, but Wanda Maximoff didn’t grow up in the days of Disney Plus and easy internet access. We now formally know she was born in 1989, which means it’s very likely that she spent her childhood and adolescence watching the eras of American sitcoms we’ve seen so far in WandaVision.
This might not be intentional on behalf of the writers — after all, it’s equally as likely that Wanda camped out in Avengers Tower and watched Full House on Hulu. But as someone who specifically learned most of her American television cultural canon from being overseas in Eastern Europe, it resonates specifically to my own experiences. WandaVision is full of homages to older sitcoms, references and Easter Eggs to Marvel comics and movies, and maybe, in this case, a little brilliant nod to a specific real world occurrence.