Some villains are internal.
Marc Spector/Steven Grant, Moon Knight
Moon Knight is the sixth limited series from streaming service Disney+ sharing continuity with the MCU. Oscar Isaac pulls double duty as Marc Spector/Moon Knight and Steven Grant/Mr. Knight, two identities or “alters” of a man with dissociative identity disorder (DID). Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, DID is a mental disorder distinguished by at least two enduring personality states. Steven Grant is the quintessentially mild-mannered British gift shop attendant, introverted and socially awkward. Steven suffers from blackouts and flashbacks of someone else’s life, despite chaining himself to his bed at night to avoid waking up in another unknown locale. Discovering his Marc Spector identity, however, is not exactly a relief. Marc is a mercenary with an American accent, a marriage on the brink of divorce, and a magical costume. Both identities become the avatar of Egyptian moon god Khonshu; while Marc is the brutal personality, capable of violence, Steven contributes wit and problem-solving, and the two battle for control of their shared body when things turn ugly. It’s a fascinating portrayal of mental illness enmeshed with mystical powers, but it’s not the first or only time Marvel’s heroes have grappled with mental illness.
David Haller, Legion
In FX’s 2017-2019 series Legion (an underrated, must-see show), Dan Stevens plays David Haller, a man committed to a psychiatric facility for a substance use disorder and a recent suicide attempt. Rescued by a team of mutants, David learns he is the biological son of Charles Xavier himself, and that the voices he hears may not be schizophrenia after all, but his father’s nemesis, literally living rent-free inside David’s head. David’s powers are potentially near limitless, but harnessing his mental illness proves challenging, and his psychopathy blurs the line between hero and villain.
Scarlet Witch, WandaVision
Just three weeks after the events of Endgame, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, suffers from such trauma and overwhelming grief due to the loss of her love, Vision, that she manifests an alternate reality as a coping mechanism. Set in the comforting world of sitcom nostalgia, Wanda lives out the happily-ever-after that she and Vision never got. Episodes are structured around the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and demonstrate the complexities of mental health. However, some coping mechanisms are unhealthy, and grief is never a strictly linear journey.
I know there’s people that didn’t like Moon Knight but I enjoyed as I am glad Marvel are taking risks to explore new themes including mental illness and generational trauma with Ms. Marvel as the latter is now close to becoming my favorite MCU show.
I thought it was an interesting theme, too, in Moon Knight, and I like Issacs. I’m just not sure they pulled it off as a whole. Would like to see WandaVision too…