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How Peacemaker and Scarlet Witch flipped the script on Superhero TV

Peacemaker and Scarlet Witch couldn’t be more different superheroes, but they were both perfect choices for trauma shows. Here’s why.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Wanda Vision and Peacemaker.

Tales of trauma are an integral part of American literature, so their ubiquity in popular culture is hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is the presence of trauma-informed narrative on screens and in genres as varied as trauma itself. From The last air Master for Titansa slew of shows have dealt with trauma in one way or another, usually focusing on a supporting character’s journey from dealing with the pain of their trauma to dealing with it effectively.

In two recent superhero series, however, this has been emphasized more than most media, and their similarities are just as splendid as their differences. Looking at how Wanda Visionby Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Peacemaker‘s Chris Smith/Peacemaker deals with trauma, it’s possible to get a glimpse of their characterizations. Plus, looking at the stories from a crafting perspective explains why the characters were chosen for such personal and complex stories.

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The Scarlet Witch and the Peacemaker were groomed for trauma

More than any other MCU character, Wanda Maximoff was ripe for a trauma story. While Tony Stark went through a lot of personal trauma, Wanda lost everyone she considered part of her family in just a few short years. His time in the MCU revealed the death of his parents, the torture Hydra inflicted on him, the loss of his brother Pietro, the breakup of his adoptive Avengers family, and then the destruction of his lover Vision. Wanda ticked off the loss of almost every major person in her life. The amount of trauma she endured would undoubtedly send anyone into a spiral.

Peacemaker, likewise, was established in his former appearance in The Suicide Squad (2021) as being traumatized. Although her traumas weren’t as numerous as Wanda’s, their severity was nearly limitless. Chris was created in The Suicide Squad as having a broken worldview of peace at all costs, even if played for laughs. He killed Rick Flag to ensure his ability to continue his mission of peace. He was raised as a weapon by his father. He had to betray his newfound family, and they tried to kill him in retaliation. Her trauma, more so than Wanda’s, was largely due to her role as her trauma agent.

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Choosing Wanda and Chris makes metanarrative sense

Both characters also made sense for exploration in a trauma narrative due to who their characters were in terms of marketing. Chris was, compared to DC giants like Harley Quinn and Batman, an unknown. The legacy of Chris Smith/Peacemaker was not going to be damaged by humanized portrayal. His status as a powerless human made him suitable for exploration as a human.

Even when battling giant aliens, Chris’ humanity is what makes him compelling as a character, even if it’s the spice of his trauma. Additionally, much of the character’s backstory is unexplored, allowing the showrunners to do whatever they want with it. Peacemaker is just small enough and human enough to be a sneaky superhero trauma show.

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For Wanda, her moral ambiguities in both the MCU and the comics establish her as both protagonist and antagonist in her own story. Although there are certainly villains in Wanda Vision, the only person who consistently made things worse for Wanda was, in fact, Wanda. Its ability to bend reality further defines the show as perfect for a trauma tale.

While Peacemaker is unable to control the reality of destruction and pain swirling around him, Wanda is finally able to restore the reality of what she wants by clearing the trauma that surrounds her. Essentially, Chris has to deal with his trauma in losing the agency that brought him there, while Wanda has to deal with her trauma in creating a world in which only she has agency.

Ultimately, these two characters must create agency in some way in order to escape their trauma, and the positions they had already landed in due to their stories made them the perfect candidates. Even though the characters are very opposite in terms of agency and sources of trauma, they both play important roles in their respective worlds. Their perspectives and narratives serve to make the characters feel much more human, and they help show those dealing with trauma that even superheroes have to deal with seemingly invincible emotional mountains.

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