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Marvel Studios Restricted She-Hulk Jokes to Protect MCU Brand

She-Hulk MCU comedy
By Jennifer McDonough

Marvel's newest streaming series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has been, of course, officially billed as a legal comedy. And as such, even with only one episode having aired, it's easy for fans to pick up on the lighthearted, irreverent tone of the show. Naturally, this is helped along the way by lead character Jennifer Walters' ability to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.

The premiere, while probably more serious than subsequent episodes, just from all the setup that needed to be done, still managed to pack in some definite laughs and funny dialogue. Notable among these was Bruce Banner revealing to Jen that former Captain America Steve Rogers lost his virginity in 1943 and Jen's ensuing reaction.

With a show like this, the temptation often exists to keep pushing the boundaries of comedy, but it would seem that Marvel Studios was there to prevent things from going too far.

Marvel Limited She-Hulk's Humor

She-Hulk TV Characters
Marvel

According to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law producer Jessica Gao (via IGN) while the writers' room for the series was allowed to be surprisingly untethered with regard to the show's humor, Marvel still put the kibosh on jokes that would be damaging to the brand:

“Yeah, I mean, most of the time, the only jokes that they really forced us to pull back on were when we were being a little too mean when we were poking fun at Marvel things.”

Gao was sure to remark on the sense of freedom that was enjoyed in the series though.

“Well, I think what this shows and should be reassuring to fans is that Marvel now has gotten to a point where they’re willing to expand into areas that they’ve never gone to before. And they’re open to doing that, and trying new things, and getting into areas that were outside of their comfort zone previously.”

She also admitted that she was, at times, shocked at what they were able to get away with: "Throughout this entire process, like there’s so many things I could not believe that we were allowed to do.”

Additionally, speaking to io9, Jessica Gao spoke about the changes to the events that lead Jen Walters to become She-Hulk. Fans might know that in the pages of the comics, Jen received Bruce's gamma-irradiated blood through a transfusion after she was attacked by the mob. This element is something that Marvel Studios requested to be taken out.

“Well, there are several factors. First, the head honchos at Marvel specifically didn’t want it to be the mob hit,” Gao explained. “It just didn’t feel like it fit with everything. But for me, having watched this Bruce Banner, this Hulk, through all the years and all the different MCU movies, it just felt like we saw him be really tortured by this. This was not a gift. He really saw it as a curse. It forced him to not have any relationships. He spent several years, like really, really tortured by it and not viewing it as a good thing. And it took him that long to get to a place where he can just accept it and learn to live with it. So to me, it didn’t make sense for that guy to then willingly give this curse to somebody that he cares about. His cousin, who he really loves. It just didn’t seem right and true to the character and it didn’t make sense to me. So I didn’t want to do that.”

The producer went on to add that this change came partly in the interest of time but also to take some of the pressure and guilt off of Bruce Banner as a character:

“From a practical angle, we just needed to be able to start the origin story very quickly, I didn’t want to have to spend half an hour setting something up...If you do a mob hit, it’s like, ‘Well, then why? What happened?’ Let’s just get to the meat of everything. And also the nature of making it an accident takes a lot of the pressure off of the guilt that Bruce would feel having given this to Jennifer because, in the show, we really see how she struggles with it and how she also, like him, doesn’t really view it as a gift at first. So I think that would really change their dynamic if he was completely responsible and that he made the choice for her.”

Marvel Studios Knows Best

It should come as little surprise that She-Hulk was prevented from playing it too fast and loose. While there are surely tons of jokes and gags in the show that push the envelope, it's probably for the best that the writers were stopped from taking things in too mean-spirited a direction.

There's a time and a place for that level of fun-poking, and it would probably be best served in Marvel's forthcoming Deadpool 3. That movie will be rated R and will be able to get away with quite a bit more than what She-Hulk has done.

It's also quite interesting to learn what went into changing Jen's origin story. It would seem Gao and co. made the right call in making her get her powers during a car accident. It removes the blame from Bruce since everything was inadvertent and he has clearly been through enough throughout his tenure in the MCU. 

As mentioned above, the series is guaranteed to keep leaning into the humor as more episodes air, especially as Jen continues to break the fourth wall. While her ability to do so might be off-putting for some, one can't deny that it's rife with comedic potential.

Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law releases new episodes every Thursday, with the next coming August 26.


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