How ‘She-Hulk’ Confronts Misogyny

In a woman-led show, there were always bound to be allusions to the very real issue of misogynistic viewpoints.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, with a strong, independent woman as its protagonist, and a literal female pronoun in the show’s very title, hasn’t really been shy about its advocating for women empowerment and frequent allusions to the various gender-based issues that are otherwise brushed under the carpet far too often.

The latter half of the season, with its repeated hinting towards a big bad lurking in the shadows, goes a step further to join together the A and B plot-lines in a shocking twist, elaborating on one such notion of a gender-based issue: misogyny — particularly over the internet and specifically masked under genuine concern, as Jennifer Walters’ (Tatiana Maslany) potential love-interest Josh (Trevor Slater) is revealed to have been a ploy to get to her Hulk-blood all along. So how does She-Hulk propose said misogyny is to be dealt with? Well, it all starts with the first step: acknowledgment, the acceptance that there indeed exists a systematic issue, which then turns into the age-old mantra of “ignorance is bliss” — at least until possible.

The comedy series’ commitment to sprinkle in a dark touch of realism, at least as far as systematic misogyny goes, has been evident since the very first episode; as a dumbfounded Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) scratches his head over the seemingly smooth transition of fellow hulk Jennifer Walters, poignant in her obvious lack of anger management issues he had most certainly been expecting. As the titular character proceeds to explain to her cousin that rage is a phenomenon she as a woman is very much accustomed to (she has to be!), followed by realization dawning on the original Hulk’s face, the message of acknowledgment is delivered loud and clear to the intended audience: being a woman — much alone a working, career-oriented one— in an overtly misogynistic world is, by no means, a mean feat.

She-Hulk happens to channel quite an overt way of dealing with the said misogyny, as well, where a subsequent back-alley fight over Walters’ blood with a complete disregard of bodily anatomy and consent, sees quite a number of asses whooped and heads banged right into the concrete. Fittingly, the initial derogatory —not to mention, far-fetched — accusations of Walters “strutting around showing off her powers” morph into pleas of forgiveness once the lawyer-turned-superhero is done with the pitiful lot of them. They dare to take her lightly, and she makes light work of their already wounded egos. The show then seems quite in favor of some on-the-nose confrontations of misogyny, where necessary — complete with a “fuck around and find out” mantra — after all.

Of course where the MCU is concerned — and She-Hulk is especially known for its signature fourth-wall breaks — going meta is not something unheard of, but rather an exciting prospect, be it in terms of Easter eggs, or in the case of the show’s third installment, a cameo of hate messages — highly gender-biased— picked up straight from Marvel Studio’s various social media platforms breaking the news of a She-Hulk way back in 2019! On the show, as Walters proceeds to Google her alter ego, she is struck by the heavily negative opinions, expressed mostly by the opposite gender, where the very basis of their hatred is… her sex.

“Why everything gotta be female now?” reads one such comment, while another, quite typically, brings in the #MeToo movement to dish out his share of highly disturbing complaints. Interestingly, both of these messages, among many more, were typed out for Jennifer Walters in real life by real people, before getting copied word for word by the She-Hulk team — who, rather strategically, take the opportunity to highlight and educate on the problem, just stopping short of outright naming and shaming its instigators — for now. Talk about poking fun at your haters!

Now, with its first season coming to a close, She-Hulk has been repeatedly hinting at an antagonist keeping watch from afar — and their singular motive is not the destruction of the world typical to the MCU, nor is it dire consequences for all humanity, but, quite fittingly, ruining the reputation of the new superhero by “canceling” her. The Intelligencia website entrains a whole subsection dedicated to dishing out hate on Walters, instigated primarily by this one user #HulkKing — possibly the said antagonist — taking undue advantage of anonymity over the internet. In a way, then, it is not a name and a face that happens to be Walters’ worst enemy, but the very notion of misogyny in itself.

And of course, not even her love life is safe. Walters is delighted upon meeting the seemingly harmless and charming Josh while performing bridesmaid duties, but turns out — and quite predictably so — that he, too, harbors ulterior motives, and could possibly even be an ally to this #HulkKing, as he beds the lawyer in a bid to extract her blood. As the man then sends a naked picture of Jen as confirmation of his success, denoting, again, misogynistic undertones — where the latter is kept waiting for his text for days afterward — he becomes but another unfortunate addition to the list of people wanting Jen for her body. However, in showing the lawyer gradually coming to terms with his radio silence and her own possible heartbreak, the show again establishes the idea of a strong-willed woman not substituting a romantic setback for the very end of the world. She doesn’t need a man to still be accomplished, contrary to her friend Lulu’s (Patti Harrison) very problematic beliefs.

Up until now, She-Hulk’s approach to misogyny has been a blend of an in-your-face attitude, particularly where physical violence is concerned; with a “don’t feed the trolls” ideology for the cyber-bullies — real as well as fictional. But the latest installment in the series, “Ribbit and Rip It” seems all set to alter that notion, as the Intelligence trolls move to commence their discriminatory operation on the worst possible occasion of an award ceremony. She’s “stolen” her powers from the Hulk, they accuse, before terming her a “slut”; but it is only when one NSFW video of Walters is revealed to the audience that she really Hulks out — and in all the ways her cousin had warned her, too.

In Jennifer flaring her nostrils, before smashing up the monitor, and running after a potential suspect, the tables are turned and months, maybe years, worth of anger comes bubbling to the surface, as She-Hulk establishes how prejudice holds the power of altering not just one’s reputation, but also their very approach to life. Once confident in her abilities to never let her anger cloud her judgment, Walters now wreaks havoc — much to the fright of colleagues and admirers, alike — as the lawyer ultimately finds herself, in an ironic turn of events, at the wrong side of the law. Gone are the days of subtle clap-backs at misogyny, and in steps the rebel coming to her own rescue loud and clear. Confrontation would most probably land you in the hottest of waters, the series seems to suggest, but some days, it is quite possibly the only way to deal with a world so determined in its constant ploy to tear down successful women.