Early this summer, New York was suddenly haunted by a name that kept popping up on taxi cabs, bus stops, and billboards around the city: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Actually, maybe it was a law firm? Or a hotline?
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is actually a TV show. In the latest Marvel spinoff series to hit Disney+, the eponymous character is a female twist on the Hulk, a regular-looking guy (played by Mark Ruffalo these days) who explodes into a giant green bundle of muscles whenever he gets too mad, waking up with no memory of what he’s done as a Hulk. She-Hulk, it turns out, has pretty much the same blessing/curse, only she’s a woman.
As an ashamed Marvel devotee, I swore to myself that I would not be watching this show. The promo couldn’t have been cringier, from Jameela Jamil saying she wanted to be punched in the vagina on-camera to a 15-second clip of Hulk feet stepping into a pair of sensible heels to the tune of Eve’s “Who’s That Girl?” And yet here I am, tuning in every week.
To my shock and horror, I can’t stop watching. I suspect this is largely thanks to the show’s surprisingly charismatic protagonist, Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany), a sardonic attorney whose cousin is Bruce Banner a.k.a. the original (male) Hulk. He-Hulk, if you will. Jen is the closest thing to a realistic modern woman superhero franchises have ever offered — she uses Tinder, has one of those trendy pleated lamps, and would like to know if a job with the Avengers offers health care or maternity leave.
Things go sideways when Jen gets into a car accident with Bruce, some of his blood gets into her system, et voilà! Now she’s also a Hulk. Unlike Bruce, who spent years dissociating into an uncontrollable green dummy whenever he got mad, Jen has total control over her Hulk self at all times, and she can choose when she wants to turn. This is She-Hulk’s big gender thesis: Jen is good at being a Hulk because, as a woman, she is constantly angry but socialized to control her anger. Also, did I mention her Hulk form is kind of … sexy?
Anyway, Jen ends up practicing something called superhuman law (don’t ask) as her bangin’ green self, but her newfound fame ends up landing her in a spate of garden-variety sexist situations designed to mirror how we treat our real-life female celebrities. Avengers stans on YouTube start griping that “everything gotta be female now.” Jen’s guest spot on a news show ends with “When we’re back, She-Hulk shares her diet and exercise secrets.” She even gets jumped by a group of teenagers, a twist on the trope of a scared woman walking home alone at night — here, Jen panics before realizing she can just turn herself into a super-powered giant and knock these guys out with a swipe of her arm.
It’s all the kind of pussy-power, fuck-the-patriarchy sloganism that would usually have my eyes about five miles north of my forehead. But something about She-Hulk’s entirely unoriginal musings on being a woman is surprisingly tolerable. Its pointed “statements” are so ridiculously obvious that they’re less annoying and more background noise, like a Sex and the City episode you put on while cooking dinner. There’s nothing groundbreaking about Jen getting so pissed off she turns into a Hulk when a bunch of drunk guys won’t stop hitting on her, but that doesn’t make it any less cathartic. Nor was I particularly impressed that the show dragged Megan Thee Stallion into a post-episode scene entirely unrelated to the plot where she twerks with She-Hulk. But hey, I laughed!
Whether or not this show has anything genuinely insightful to say about gender, the bimbo in me is genuinely enjoying it. No thoughts, just Megan Thee Stallion twerking with a sexy green lady.