Aside from the mysterious superhero stuff happening in the margins, Disney+’s WandaVision is very much a tribute to traditional sitcoms, down to its theme songs of the week and its commitment to the classic TV tradition that if someone is pregnant, you have to hide it with large coats and bowls of fruit. In the show’s third episode, Wanda and Vision’s little suburb comes to life in color as we move into a Brady Bunch–style homage to 1970s TV and they confront the realization that Wanda herself is bringing some children to life with an unexpected and accelerated pregnancy. The supernatural married couple tries to keep this a secret from their nosy neighbors, which lets WandaVision do a little meta riff on the ways that television shows have conspired to hide their stars’ real-life pregnancies in the past. The answer, mostly: lots of coats.
When Teyonah Parris’s Geraldine wanders over to see Wanda, Wanda starts out by throwing on a giant coat, which keeps changing form because … uhh? magical witch pregnancy powers? Anyway, it’s a funny bit, and something that goes back at least as far as I Love Lucy, which hid Lucille Ball’s first pregnancy with oversize clothing (her second was famously just written into the show).
Later on, Wanda resorts to a fruit bowl that, obviously, doesn’t hide much, which continues another tradition of just having actresses hold things in front of them that also don’t hide much (remember Scandal’s attempts to cover for Kerry Washington?). Also, because the show begins with a doctor explaining how large a fetus might be in terms of various fruits, the fact that Geraldine grabs and eats an apple from the bowl is kinda dark for Marvel. I approve!
From there, we move on to one last, most absurd pregnancy cover-up, in which Wanda tries to hold a vase in front of her baby bump, which she of course drops all over the floor for the big reveal. Very fun! Not quite as absurd as 30 Rock making jokes about Elizabeth Banks’s Avery Jessup hiding her pregnancy with a ham with a hat on it, but what is more absurd than that?
WandaVision is full of references to the ways that old sitcoms look and operate structurally, carefully mimicking the scenic design, lighting, and camera angles of the era Wanda and Vision happen to be in. But what makes the whole pregnancy-hiding gag fun is that it operates on the level of a joke not just about how TV looks but also how it’s made behind the scenes. The show’s creators are slowly unraveling a larger mystery, which comes out whenever the aspect ratio changes, or when Parris has to try to say the word Ultron with deadly seriousness, but they’re also intent on making this whole fantasy world seem true on as many layers as possible
As the show moves forward, I hope these sort of meta TV jokes don’t fall by the wayside, if only because there are so many more that could be made. Will Wanda and Vision’s babies be obviously recast with each passing scene, as so many TV kids are? Will they suddenly get a cousin character with an annoying catchphrase to goose their ratings? Once they get to the 1990s, will there be any sort of reference to Elizabeth Olsen’s older sisters’ work in Full House? Please??? If not, how rude.
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