Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness just came out on Thursday, and my husband and I went to see it yesterday. I was expecting another thrilling movie about superheroes and villains, but what I got was a huge surprise: a feminist movie that we need in 2022 with what is going on in our country right now.
Dr. Strange 2 is a fantastic feminist movie of our time and will hopefully help many men become better allies to what women are going through right now.
Steven Strange’s and Wanda’s Journeys
In the first Dr. Strange movie, we saw the character Steven Strange go from a top surgeon, to a car crash survivor, to a believer in the mystic arts, to a true master of sorcery. This kind of story tells of someone compelled by logic, reason, and being precise, suddenly forced to utilize another part of his being: his emotions and spirituality. (Symbolized in the story by his obsession with watches and then his favorite one breaking.)
Wanda went from a kid with a superpower, to a woman forced to kill her lover, to someone so stricken by grief that she enslaves an entire town of people to play out a fantasy for her. She is similarly on a path of trauma and forced to take matters into her own hands when people continually push her aside. She is run by her emotions, thrust deeply into her Chaos Magic.
(FYI, watching WandaVision and What If? are essential to understanding the plot of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.)
Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Quick Synopsis (Spoilers Ahead)Embed from Getty Images
Above all else, Dr. Strange 2 is a tale of our emotions–the things they can do to us, and what we can do to manage our emotions in our lives.
The movie opens in a dream that Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is having, the morning before Christine’s wedding. In the dream, he sees himself trying and ultimately failing to protect a teenage girl (Xochitl Gomez) from a demon who is chasing her. In the dream, this alternate self (variant) makes the decision to take the girl’s power because she is unable to control it. But before he steals the power, the demon gets loose, she creates a portal to another Universe, and Strange is killed.
Dr. Strange wakes up from his dream. We briefly see him at the wedding, and he has a conversation with Christine (Rachel McAdams) about whether or not he is happy with his life before being whisked off to save the very same teenage girl from a tentacle monster with one eye.
He saves her and learns that she is America Chavez, but she tells him that dreams are just moments from other “yous” in other Universes. The dream Strange had about stealing America’s power was true, and she proves it by showing Steven his variant’s dead body.
Steven makes the choice to go ask Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for help, but it turns out that she was the one pulling the strings. She is consumed by grief and anger over everyone she has lost, including her parents, brother, Vision, and her children, not to mention consumed by the power of the Darkhold.
After a thrilling battle at Kamar-Taj, Wanda chases them into another Universe where Steven teams up with another version of Christine and meets the Illuminati. Meanwhile, Wanda goes to Wundagore, the birthplace of the Darkhold, with Wong.
Naturally, Wanda ends up capturing America, and Steven is forced to battle with another himself in a terrific musical notes fight. He takes control of the Darkhold in this disintegrating Universe and manages to Dreamwalk to where Wanda and America are at Wundagore.
True to superhero films and stories, the good guys win in the end and Wanda ultimately sacrifices herself to destroy the dark magic that had a hold on her (or DID she?!).
Female Supporting Characters
With the exception of Wong (Benedict Wong) and other tertiary characters like Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski), the characters in Dr. Strange were all female. Let’s give another props to Marvel for their continued push of strong, well-developed female characters in their movies and TV shows.
Analysis: Dr. Strange 2 is Uber Feminist and Exactly What We Need Right Now
Feminism and Women’s Power to Create Life
Right at the beginning of the movie, we are bombarded with a scene where Dr. Strange of another Universe is trying to help a teenage girl–America Chavez–get to a book that can help protect her from the demons that are chasing her. Ultimately, when they are at an impasse and Dr. Strange doesn’t know what to do, he makes the decision to take America’s powers from her.
In the story, America’s powers help her navigate through different Universes. But in this analysis, America’s powers represent the powers all women have to create life.
Dr. Strange sees that America is seemingly unable to control her power, and thus tries to strip those powers from her.
What a clear parallel to what is going on in the USA today, with a potential dismantling of Roe vs. Wade. Men, once again, trying to strip women of the control they have over their own bodies and lives.
A Tale of Emotions
Near the beginning of the movie, when Strange is motivated to protect America Chavez, he goes to Wanda Maximoff seeking her help. When Wanda admits to wanting to see her children again, Strange says, “Wanda, you don’t have any children.”
The details of whether or not Strange is right don’t matter here. The fact is that Wanda is experiencing some pretty hefty emotions– namely grief, anger, rage, sorrow, hopelessness– and she feels that she has nothing to lose.
Rather than comfort her in her grief, Strange minimizes her experience. Her emotions are uncomfortable to him (as they are to many people who tend to focus on the logical, rational side of life), and he invalidates what she is going through.
This is a completely typical response, from both men and women, to minimize someone to get the emotions to stop. And here’s the thing: minimizing Wanda doesn’t make Steven Strange a bad guy–it makes him human. Marvel does a great job of making their villains entirely relatable and their heroes hopelessly flawed.
Sorrow and Loss
Wanda’s story is one of heartbreak and devastating loss–one in which she does not know how to move on and gets completely engulfed in her emotions, letting them swallow her whole.
Through the movie, as Steven interacts with Christine, he sees how his own emotions have played out in his life and how he has tried to shove them away and not deal with them. But by going on this journey with Christine from another Universe, he’s forced to come face to face with his own emotions like longing, desire, unhappiness, and loss, which he uses to make himself a better person.
Fear is another big emotion that motivates us in our lives, and in this case, fear is represented by America Chavez. She has this big power that she does not know how to control yet, and whenever she experiences fear, it sets her power into motion, propelling them through the Multiverse.
Women Controlling Their Own Bodies
By the end of the movie, we have Dr. Strange once again forced to make a choice: he can steal America’s power so that he can control it, or he can find another way.
Thankfully, having been through his gauntlet of emotions throughout the movie, he’s able to make a clearer choice–he chooses to empower America to manage her own power.
He does this by educating her–enlightening her to the truth of what she has been able to do with her power and how the power has helped them. It’s not a power to be feared, or to be controlled by fear, it’s one to be revered. And it’s also one that she has had control over the whole time.
Strange also makes a huge but important decision to step back in a critical moment: just when America is about to blast Wanda back into her own Universe, Strange stops her. This allows Wanda to see the damage she has created and the fact that her grief has not made her the mother she wants to be, but rather has turned her into a monster that her children do not recognize.
Allowing this to happen is ultimately what saves people from across the Multiverse from being sucked into the Darkhold’s evil power, as Wanda destroys the Darkhold in every Universe.
By the end, Dr. Strange has learned that he can’t control everything, as much as he might like to, and as much as it is the easier choice. But he can empower those around him to make choices that benefits everyone.
Dr. Strange’s character arc for this film is complete and he comes out the other side of the film a more supportive, helpful character than when he started the movie… and maybe just a little bit happier.
Roe Vs. Wade
Women have the power to create life. This is both awe-inspiring and fear-inspiring.
Controlling women’s bodies and choices as to whether they want to create life or not is a part of the cycle of trauma–the cycle that Wanda is caught up in.
But when we use our resources, by giving free access to contraception, as well as making sure every child is given an age-appropriate comprehensive sexual education at multiple points during their education, we are helping women to make conscious choices about their bodies.
By allowing women to control their own bodies, we are building a world that can move past trauma and move into a place of power. By educating our world about this power, we are allowing free will to play out in more constructive ways.
There is a better way than minimizing the experience of women or controlling them.
One Powerful But Missing Detail in Dr. Strange 2…
Unfortunately, the narrative in Dr. Strange 2 doesn’t begin to hold men accountable for the damage they caused… just like the conversation happening about abortion right now. The only thing that can cause a pregnancy in a woman is sperm, and right now, men are being left out of the conversation entirely.
The onus is on Wanda for her own demise, rather on the men such as Tony Stark, who never really is held accountable for his role in the Novi Grad bombings. Or Baron Strucker, who experimented on Wanda and her brother (who, of course, does meet his own demise.) Or Tyler Hayward, who treated Wanda and her grief over Vision’s death as a mere annoyance. Or perhaps on Vision himself for forcing Wanda to destroy the Mind Stone, effectively killing him, when it didn’t matter in the end because Thanos brought the stone back. Wanda does not get to erase the pain of that moment.
Similarly, in our story today with Roe vs. Wade, the story has the onus placed entirely on women. Women alone have to bear the burden of unwanted pregnancy. Men have the chance to get off scot-free unless they’re brought to court. Men need to be held accountable for their actions, 100% of the time, especially in the case of unwanted pregnancy.
While Dr. Strange 2 fails to make the perpetuators of trauma accountable for their actions, it does do many things very well for feminism.
- It gives men a path to being strong allies of women.
- It shows the importance of emotion on everything that happens in life and allows men to explore their own emotions safely.
- It allows women to be in control of their own bodies and destinies.
- It allows women to make the best choice for themselves, and ultimately the best choice for others as well.
No movie is perfect, but having gone into this experience expecting a simple superhero movie and getting a healthy dose of feminism, I’m a happy feminist this weekend!
Let me know… did you like the Dr. Strange movie that came out this weekend?
Drop a comment below.