Is the Scarlet Witch a Racist Stereotype?

The Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) as seen in the comic book Marvel series

**Update** I was just informed that Wanda’s father (Magneto) was recently revealed to be Roma so that actually makes her Roma! Not just adopted by Roma parents!

** Update 2** This was written prior to WandaVision, please do not apply WandaVision to this article as such.

The Scarlet Witch is a very popular character in the Marvel universe (albeit polarizing — many fans either love her or completely hate her). She was adopted by Roma parents in the comics and as such, many fans ask “How do the Roma feel about her? Is she a racist stereotype?” I will do my best to explore this. I will go into a simplified version of her history, her powers, and try to give a verdict. I am Roma, it even says so on my birth certificate as my ‘nationality’ (I was born in Russia for reference/context sake of this). Also, I will be speaking solely about the comics version of Wanda, since the movies didn’t really get too in-depth into her own history (in the Avengers) and I am staying away from anything Elizabeth (the actress who played Wanda in the Avengers series) might have said about the character on social media or in a behind the scenes interview. Now, let’s get into this.

Short Answer: No, Wanda is NOT a racist stereotype, her biological father, Magneto, was Roma and her adoptive parents were Roma as well. I get into my reasonings below.

Here is a basic history of the character:

  • Her father is Magneto and her mother is Magda Eisenhardt
  • Madga gave birth to Wanda and her brother without the knowledge of Magneto
  • Madga later dies of PRESUMED (Marvel is not clear on what exactly happened to her) of weather exposure. One of the helpers who helped Madga give birth to Wanda and her brother took the children and dropped them off at a Roma camp
  • There is a prophecy foretold by a group of witches that Wanda will be one of the most powerful, if not THE most powerful witch on Earth, they later go on to recruit Wanda to train her with her powers
  • Wanda’s adoptive mom (Roma) is killed and Wanda and her brother are ran out of the Roma community
  • Wanda later has her powers manifest due to a man attempting to sexually assault her
  • Magneto shows up and claims that Wanda and her brother are under his protection, but stil doesn’t know that Wanda and her brother are his children
  • As time goes on, Wanda and her brother eventually join the Brotherhood
  • Eventually they abandon the Brotherhood and end up joining the Avengers

What happens after that basically depends on the universe and comic story and everything.

Her powers:

  • Before encountering an old God, she has the power to manipulate energy (like create forcefields)
  • After meeting said God and having some of his powers, she can now manipulate “chaos magic” which is a very powerful form of magic
  • Probability manipulation

So let’s get into the meat of this — is she a racist caricature? Let’s break this down:

  • The comic books use the phrase “gypsy” — this was likely due to her creators being ignorant to the fact that “gypsy” is indeed a slur
  • Wanda’s adoptive Roma family does face persecution — this is accurate since Roma communities still face extreme prejudice in modern day Europe
  • She has magical powers (Marvel can’t seem to decide if they want Wanda to be a ‘true’ mutant or not). The Roma community for the most part actually detests any associations with “magic” or “witchcraft” (”witch” is actually ‘bad word’ in the Roma community — it’s normally used as an insult to suggest that the person you’re calling which is a person who eats human babies). Any Roma doing “magic” (”fortune telling” type stuff) was done solely to get money from people. In many places it’s illegal to actually employ Roma, so they’re FORCED to steal and “con” people out of money
  • Her clothing (FROM WHAT I COULD FIND) when she was with her Roma adoptive parents, was not “Stereotypical gypsy costume” (I don’t know how else to phrase it, I’m using the term ‘gypsy’ here to show the fetishization and romanticization that europeans used for the Roma community when photographing them to show to people in the photographer’s home town). It’s not nessacarily historically accurate (not typical/culturally correct Roma outfits for young women), BUT it’s not the romanticized/fetishized crap you see for halloween costumes (plain dresses an average woman in Europe would wear for the time period is what it looks like — again, NOT specific to Roma culture/community/fahsion)
  • “Behind the scenes/fun facts” about her: she is a vegeterian and doesn’t drink alcohol, both traits aren’t inherently Roma or not Roma
  • She’s created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — as hard as I could try, I could NOT find any “this is what inspired her” type interviews or behind the scenes QandA about this character so specifics in that regard are unknown
  • There are rumors that Jack Kirby gave Wanda the head covering (wimple) as a nod to the fashion at the time of her release (women’s fashion in the mid 1960s). It could also be a nod towards famous/infamous witch stories in American history. The Roma do have a traditional head covering known the the “dikhlo” for women, typically the dikhlo was used to denote married women (contemporarily some Roma women have worn one, married or not, just because they like the aestheics of them)
  • Final verdict: in my views, I am saying this as someone born Roma (it even has the freaking ‘g slur’ on my birth certificate as my nationality), no, Wanda is NOT a racist stereotype. Yes, she’s a witch (mutant or not, the witch powers are there), but it doesn’t get into the “fortune telling” crap that often gets associated with “gypsy stereotypes” (her powers involve chaos magic, probability manipulation and energy manipulation — none of them inherently dealing inherently with precognition, the ability to see the future before it happens)

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.