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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

'She-Hulk' Shows the Anger Triggers That Predispose Women to Be Better Hulks

If I had the ability to Hulk out when harassed, men would never know peace again.

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Screenshot: Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

Marvel Studios is back on Disney+ this week with She-Hulk, and male “fans” and incels have responded to the repackaging of the popular, bestially masculine male superhero as you might expect: by review-bombing it on Rotten Tomatoes, not unlike what we saw with Ms. Marvel, the previous Disney+ show centered around a Muslim teenage girl superhero.

Incidents like this, which are pretty anger-inducing, actually prove a central thesis of She-Hulk: The everyday anger triggers and constant barrage of sexism that women have been socialized to cope on a with render us infinitely better prepared than men to become Hulks.

Throughout Bruce Banner’s tenure as the Hulk, anger has been his greatest strength and weakness; he has to dedicate significant effort toward staying calm and reining in his temper to not accidentally “Hulk out” and endanger those around him. In She-Hulk, after a car shared by Bruce and his cousin, district attorney Jennifer Walker, gets into an accident, Jennifer and Bruce share blood, inadvertently converting Jennifer into She-Hulk. Over the course of Jennifer’s ensuing journey of self-discovery with Bruce in a compound in Mexico, the two eventually butt heads when Jennifer determines she’s sufficiently trained and has reined in her rage-related powers, but Bruce insists she stay back and train more.

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To this, Jennifer responds: “I’m great at controlling my anger. I do it all the time—when I’m cat-called in the street, when incompetent men explain my own area of expertise to me. I do it pretty much every day because if I don’t, I will get called emotional, or difficult, or might just literally get murdered. So I’m an expert at controlling my anger, because I do it infinitely more than you.” The delivery of these points is strikingly human—as Vulture’s Leah Marilla Thomas points out, we can all relate to being pissed off these days. Having to learn to police our own rage in this political climate is just life as a woman.

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The first episode of She-Hulk makes a pretty convincing argument for why the Hulk should always have been a woman. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, one of Jennifer’s first experiences transforming into the Hulk comes after a group of men harass her in the parking lot of a local bar, refusing to take no for an answer. If I had the ability to Hulk out when harassed, men would never know peace again.

There’s a certain catharsis to watching Jennifer concisely put all of this to words, especially in the summer of 2022. Obviously, we’re all a little angry right now, to say the least, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped women and pregnant people of any federal legal recognition of our humanity. Per Jennifer’s point about moving through day-to-day life in constant fear of being murdered, it hasn’t exactly been pleasant to witness escalating cultural attacks on domestic violence victims. Given the online male reaction to She-Hulk, it’s not clear how many men are watching this latest chapter in the sprawling saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—but I can only hope anyone who did took away some valuable insight on the extent to which women are surrounded by everyday anger triggers we’ve just had to learn to live with.

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Of course controlling her powers as the Hulk comes more naturally to Jennifer than Bruce. By training throughout her adult life to stay calm in the face of sexist slights and threats all around her, like all women, she’s essentially been training to be the Hulk her whole life. In the context of this surprisingly astute feminist commentary for a superhero show, it suddenly makes a lot of sense why She-Hulk has the incels feral—I hope it only enrages them more as the show progresses. If nothing else, we’ll always have the gift (?) of a bawdy, fanfiction-like story of the time Captain America lost his virginity.