The nine episode season and possibly series just concluded by the mildly anticipated by highly enjoyable WandaVision. Disney took some surprisingly unique steps with their content and delivery to better connect with their audience. There are some learnings about content and delivery, or at least re-learnings, that the church can take away from this great show. I didn’t grow up reading comic books, so my nerd cred doesn’t run deep. That being said, there is a lot even a novice like myself learned from this show. Also as a disclaimer, there will be minor spoilers ahead. So let’s examine six ways the church can learn about content and delivery from WandaVision.
1. Respect Your Audience – I loved the first three episodes even though I was completely lost. It wasn’t until the fourth episode, when we zoomed out to reveal the show within a show, that I better understood what was happening. That being said, I was completely enthralled by the first three episodes. They gave me enough revelations to keep me intrigued but never dumbed it down with an exposition dump. They never talked down to me as the viewer and I felt respected. Let’s anticipate that our audience is also intelligent and never talk down to them with oversimplification and unnecessary repetition with our content.
2. Address The Full Range Of Emotions – For these past nine weeks I anticipated a show that at its core was addressing grief. Just the line “what is grief, if not love persevering” has rattled around in my soul for the past couple days. And that is because I have suffered grief this past year. We all have. So make sure your experiences onsite and online are designed to address the full range of human emotions. Not just the warm and fuzzy ones. We have always needed to do this. And now after a year long global pandemic, even more so.
2. Everything Doesn’t Need To Explode – The first episode was centered around a meal. The second a magic act. It wasn’t until the final episode that we got the classic superhero battle with head lasers and sky beams. This show avoided overusing explosions and other action genre tropes but instead focused on a slow building internal tension. The church can also find great value with content in the middle. Not every worship set needs to end with a crash out. And not every message needs to conclude with an altar call.
4. Provide Spiritual Disciplines – No this is not a reach. WandaVision reminds us that people crave spiritual disciplines. Disney chose to release a weekly episode instead of all at once. This took away the option to binge watch and instead forced us into the discipline of patience. And that weekly season of waiting caused reflection, discussion and anticipation. Every Friday, my Twitter feed blew up with glowing tweets about the show. We all crave guardrails, disciplines and contemplative practices in our lives. WandaVision helped remind us. So church let’s remember to provide these disciplines to our folks with yearly bible reading plans and seasons of fasting.
5. Manage Expectations – Before the finale, Paul Bettany (the actor playing vision) teased fans by describing a cameo with an actor he always wanted to work with. The internet exploded with theories. Is it Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange? Ian McKellen as Magneto? Expectations were growing unrealistically high for a new character to be introduced so late in the story arc. So before the finale aired Bettany revealed that the big cameo was himself. He managed the expectations of the fans. Church leaders need to do this. Not every weekend is going to be groundbreaking. Not every series is gonna be “incredible” and “one you don’t want to miss”. If you elevate everything nothing feels important. So manage the expectations of your congregation and community accordingly.
6. Play The Long Game – Disney started shooting over two years ago. They started planning years before that. Disney was playing the long game. This allowed them to create a cinematic universe over a decade ago that other studios have been trying to replicate ever since Iron Man rolled out in 2008. They had a roadmap that went miles down the road and they stuck to it. Purposefully deviating from an existing long term plan is beneficial but make sure to create that long term plan first because it will ultimately take you further down the path.