Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why Marvel’s Jessica Jones Matters


Jessica Jones is the superhero we all need. She’s not above everyone else. She’s not better than anyone else. Tony Stark excels at creating new tech, Steve Rogers is a flawless and respected leader with a perfect body, Natasha Romanoff is a near-emotionless superspy, Clark Kent is an unstoppable perfection limited only by a glowing green rock, and the rich Batman has a deus ex machina to get him out of every situation. Jessica Jones is a working woman, struggling to make a living, what pitiful version of living she’s doing. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is all about women’s empowerment. Trish Walker’s line perfectly sums up the theme of the series: “Men and power; it’s seriously a disease.” 


Don't get between Jessica and her booze.

Addiction to sex, drugs, alcohol, and anything else as an alternative coping mechanism are explored for PTSD, the loss of a loved one, and power abuse. Kilgrave is addicted to power over people. He asserts his patriarchal dominance over women, completely unaware that he rapes women on a regular basis and makes them his sex slaves. He thinks that all women love him, especially Jessica. It’s a complex for more disturbing than just the distinct want of power. Luke has empty sexual engagements with different women to fill the void in his life after Reva’s death. Similarly, Jessica does the same in the comics and holds onto a bit of that with Luke in the TV series, doing anal instead of vaginal sex just to feel something different. Just to feel. Jessica seeks alcohol to numb her PTSD and life’s messiness. Simpson relies on pills to provide superpowers and becomes addicted, having a high tolerance for them. His revenge plot, fueled by his red, white and blue pills, foils Jessica’s and Trish’s carefully laid plans. All reason and sympathy are beyond reach as vengeance, bloodspill and focus rise to the surface. With a past in drug abuse, Trish confronts her addiction and takes one of Simpson’s red pills to combat him in his rage state. What season two will hold for Trish is unknown, but she may be battling addiction to the pills to feel that surge of power, to be the superhero she’d always wanted to be. Can she fight her urges to fight the good fight?

The sister relationship between Trish and Jessica is a much needed addition to the realistic female friendships on screen, one not circling around men. Because this is a show created by women, and it does make a difference right now in Hollywood productions. Trish and Jessica have saved each other countless times. She’s the only person Jessica loves enough to actually say, “I love you.” Despite the need to find Kilgrave, Jessica stays with Trish as she lies in the hospital, until she’s texted by Kilgrave to seek out her “boyfriend” Luke before his death. For over a year now, Jessica stopped talking to Trish. It wasn’t out of hate or lack of love. It was anything but. She did it to protect her in the case that she might hurt the person she loves most in the world. But when she finally accepts and enlists Trish in the hunt for Kilgrave, they make each other stronger and better. They work as a whole. Trish experiences briefly what Jessica had gone through and experiences empathy for Jessica on a whole new level. This experience will make them even closer.

Best buds and foster sisters Jessica Jones and Patricia Walker investigate together.

The intensity of Kilgrave’s mental power over others is rivaled by Jessica’s own ability to have influence over others in a different fashion, as Robyn so easily and offensively points out. Though Robyn doesn’t know Jessica’s life, she sees what’s on the surface. Where Kilgrave forces people to do his bidding, Jessica doesn’t and doesn’t even know that others are helping her at times. People love her and will do things for her, love that she does not return for fear that anyone she gets close to will die, as proven by Kilgrave throughout the series. Jessica inspires others in her efforts to inadvertently save them. She makes difficult choices and is foiled by others at almost every turn, from Kilgrave to Robyn to Simpson. It’s this struggle to take the right path in seeking justice that inspires others to dedicate themselves to her, creating a support team: Trish, Luke, Malcolm, sometimes Simpson and Jeri, and eventually Robyn and Detective Clemons. Trish, without “gifts” is just as much of a hero as Jessica, probably even more so. She investigates on her own and with Jessica. She took life into her own hands, first as a child with Jessica’s help and now by herself to learn self-defense.

Jessica struggles to find hope in the everyday, a reason to live, to exist, after what Kilgrave had done to do her and forced her to do. That hope comes in the personified form of the aptly named Hope Shlottman, the girl who brought Kilgrave back to Jessica’s life with crippling fear. Jessica offers hope to Hope and to herself by promising to get rid of Kilgrave, proving her innocence. Instead of running, she chooses to fight, seeing herself in Hope, knowing what he’d done to her. Kilgrave raped her as well and even impregnated Hope, who aborts the baby when imprisoned. She can’t have that reminder of the most horrible time in her life. The worst part: there is no hope for Hope. There is no hope, and hope dies with Hope. She would be scarred for the rest of her life. If she’d lived, she would see Kilgrave at every turn, like Jessica. Hope would replay the event of killing her parents on repeat for the rest of her life. Things had gone far too wrong at the point of Kilgrave’s abduction of Hope once more. It’s so heartbreaking and stressful. Jessica was fighting for Hope, and Hope takes action against herself to allow Jessica the opportunity to kill Kilgrave, which would allow her to not worry about Hope’s innocence in her parents’ murder. She takes matters into her own hands to do what must be done. In this way, there is Hope. She leaves a legacy as a reminder of why Kilgrave needs to die instead of be trialed and imprisoned as the scariest villain the Marvel universe has seen. Hope knew she couldn’t kill Kilgrave, but Jessica could. Hope knew she could never be as strong as Jessica, emotionally and physically. She could never jump as high or feel as sane. Hope could never be normal again. She could never be.

Jeri Hogarth power walks with Jessica
Jessica Jones presents the most diverse cast yet with a quite a few actors of color and a significant number of women. Jeri Hogarth, Malcom Ducasse, Will Simpson, Luke Cage, Hope Shlottman and Trish Walker all get their own storylines, big and small. It’s important that the series treats them all as well-rounded characters with their own motivations, origins and fears. No Marvel movie has had so many women in the main and supporting cast, though Thor runs a second close with Jane, Sif, Frigga and Darcy in ratio to the rest of the cast. The treatment, though, of the Thor women is far from perfect: Jane doing “science” and ending up being a damsel, Sif being lovelorn, Frigga being fridged and Darcy being comedic relief. Avengers saw Black Widow as a motherly type that can’t be a mother and Scarlet Witch as simply a dangerous weapon to be fought over with robotic Maria Hill and the lovestruck Dr. Cho as mere afterthoughts. Luckily, Jessica is a TV series and can get into the complexities of the characters. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is proof that a superheroine lead works and is successful. There should be no reason to mention this, but apparently Hollywood execs have a different misogynistic view. As far as I’m concerned, Jessica Jones has no place in the film world. It works perfectly on its own and as part of the Defenders. Although, I would love to see all the shade she would throw at Steve, Tony and Bruce. Jessica Jones is the hero we've needed to keep a stale franchise going with a fresh outlook.

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