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Marvel’s 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' Uses Fourth Wall Smashing and Narration

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By Kim Handysides on October 31, 2022 at 8:00 PM EDT

**If you’ve been following the first season of She-Hulk but haven’t seen the finale, have no fear, this article is (mostly) spoiler-free!**

Let’s just get the spoiler bits out of the way – She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’s season finale undid a lot of the seemingly sloppy storytelling that had a few fans concerned about the direction of the series. And there was a major cameo, but not where you think.

Phew, okay. There, spoilers are gone and I did it with cascading alliterations befitting a vintage narration reference. On to the real subject of this column - narration - and how it gives us a not-so-subtle nod to the Incredible Hulk of 1978. 

You know, the one with Lou Ferrigno and all that green body paint. 

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A Stark Lack of Narration

Even though voiceover is used in just about every episode of the Marvel Studios series, for multiple characters, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law doesn’t feature any narration. At least not up until the very last episode of the season. And even then, it’s not the main character who does it - but more on that later.

Given the fact that She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters is known for breaking the fourth wall, it seems kind of odd that she doesn’t narrate the series even once. As someone who examines TV and film through the lens of voice artistry, the trope of fourth-wall-breaking almost always includes a narration aimed directly at their audience. Think of how Ryan Reynolds narrated Deadpool.

However, She-Hulk doesn’t quite do that.

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Instead, Jennifer likes to turn and face the camera; she makes the extra effort to stand in front of her audience and look them in the eyes. Any time she has an update, question, joke, or narrative insight, she faces the fourth wall and discusses it with us. It’s kind of a nice change of pace from what the device of fourth-wall-breaking has become over the last few years.

But that seems to be what this show is all about - breaking fourth walls AND the status quo.

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The First Narration of the Series

What sets the finale apart from the rest of the season, in addition to some pretty meta on-screen rewrites mid-episode, is the fact that there’s narration finally thrown into the mix. 

But not just any narration - an ode to the original Ted Cassidy voiceovers from almost 45 years ago.

While the narration is brief and comical, with just a hint of whimsy thrown in, it’s surprisingly integral to the episode’s plot and reflects the series’ overall theme. At first glance, the narration and sarcastically dramatized recap sequence seem like a fun bonus filler, but it's so much more. It’s a message passed down from the writers’ room to tell older fans of the original Hulk series, ‘Yes, we remember it. Hulk Smash! Here’s something to keep you going while we do our thing.’ 

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It’s a meta-narrative that engages with fans and protagonists alike. Literally.

A Meta-Narrative

One of the most interesting parts of the narration is that it serves as the culmination of a meta-narrative that’s been woven into the story right from the very first episode.

Time and time again throughout the show, Jen Walters constantly attempts to make a point of letting fans know that it’s not entirely a superhero show. It’s a comedic legal drama… starring a lawyer who happens to have superpowers. Nonetheless, fans clamored to message boards and social media to speculate on superhero plots or secret-villain-driven narratives. They contemplated the show’s unique approach and crossover cameos; criticized the premise and attempted to cancel the program. 

…Wait… this sounds eerily like the subplot that’s been going on throughout the entire series. 

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Okay, if you haven’t watched She-Hulk yet, you really need to. It’s a great take on toxic fan culture that actively makes fun of itself from start to finish. It makes a statement that it’s ok to break away from old formulas that worked great for things that came before it. 

And the narrations we hear in this episode embody that break from tradition.

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A Fourth Wall Break from Tradition

The next (and last) time we hear narration used in the episode, it comes at a low point for the main character - and as narrators are known to do, they narrate. 

Only this time, it’s cut short.

As the narrator begins his Ted Cassidy-Esque voiceover, abruptly echoing everything wrong in Jennifer’s life, she decides that she’d rather not hear it anymore. Refusing to entertain one more insult, even in narrative form, she stops the narrator dead in his tracks and sets off to figure out life for herself. 

Which, while hilarious to watch, is both deceptively symbolic and foreshadows her altering the narrative to something she thinks is better.

The most fascinating use of this type of narration is that it acts like an allegory (or Hulk-sized metaphor if you weren’t an English Lit. major). It reflects more than a character choosing not to be insulted, but a protagonist seizing their destiny both on and off script.

Kim Handysides is an award-winning voice artist, and coach. Among her 20K+ narrations, you have heard her on Discovery, Netflix, and the major networks, in iMax, the White House and the Smithsonian.

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