On Friday Marvel released the second of their Netflix series, Jessica Jones. So far the Netflix series feel custom-made for people who don’t really like superheroes, with the emphasis on street-level life and realism and not superpowers. If you’ve ever disliked a Marvel movie for being too goofy, give Jessica Jones a shot because it is not goofy in the slightest. But you should really give it a shot just because it’s an extremely well made show featuring an outstanding female protagonist, who is played by the always enjoyable Krysten Ritter. Here are three reasons to watch Jessica Jones.
Jessica Jones is a boss bitch
Yes, Jessica has superpowers, but no, she isn’t a superhero. She’s actually a private investigator, and Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller. Jessica is a classic noir gumshoe—hard-drinking, short on friends, long on regrets, with a complicated love interest. She tried to be a hero and it blew up in her face, so now she’s a PI and while she isn’t in hiding, she “isn’t advertising”, as she says. Ritter is the perfect person to play Jessica, who is unforgiving and unapologetic, and who is being eaten alive by guilt. She’s struggling with PTSD—we see Jessica having full-blown episodes and working through coping mechanisms, and a mid-season flashback scene shows us just how much trauma has permanently changed her. This is a complex, layered character, and Ritter as Jones is setting the bar very high for future Marvel heroines.
The story is about rape recovery
Too often we’re talking about how shows use rape in cheap, exploitative ways, but in Jessica Jones it’s woven into the very fabric of the narrative. We never see an assault, but it is explicitly made clear that the villain, Killgrave (Dr. Who’s David Tennant) raped Jessica, as well as other victims. Even his power is a rape—he’s a mind-controller. This may be too much for some, who simply don’t want to engage with this topic at all, but Jessica Jones handles it with compassion. While Jessica has been victimized, she is not a victim—the show is literally about how she puts herself back together and continues to live a full life after her assault, including having wall-banging super-sex with the super-hot Luke Cage (Mike Colter). This is not about using rape for shock value, but using recovery to drive a narrative.
The villain is male entitlement
Killgrave is hands down Marvel’s best villain—yes, even better than Loki. He’s not even a villain you love to hate, he’s straight REPULSIVE. He’s demanding, controlling, and obsessed with Jessica. He’s a stalker from the Edward Cullen School of Creepy Boyfriends, which is no accident—Melissa Rosenberg, screenwriter of the Twilight movies, is the Jessica Jones showrunner. The show feels like a refutation of the creepy “romance” of the Twilight Saga, and Killgrave is, mind-control aside, basically just an incredibly entitled asshole who throws a massive tantrum when he’s not given what he wants. He wants Jessica to love him, and he’s prepared to destroy her world in order to make that happen.
Jessica Jones deals explicitly with how we undermine women as witnesses, disbelieve their narratives, and refuse to accept evidence of abuse. Killgrave thrives because no one wants to admit the horrible implications of the truth. (Sound familiar?) So Jessica has to not only physically fight Killgrave, she also has to fight a justice system that makes it almost impossible for women to be heard. There’s a lot more to this theme, but we’ll come back to it after everyone is caught up.