Jessica Jones: The Female Hero TV Deserves

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Fans fortunate enough to have gotten into the Marvel-Netflix panel at the recent New York Comic Con were not only introduced to the [absurdly beautiful] cast of Marvel’s newest show, but were also treated to a surprise viewing of the first episode of Jessica Jones.  

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The pilot was just as good, if not better, than Daredevil, and wholly different from any other comic-book adaptation series that is currently in the television landscape.

Spoiler Warning:

Right from the start, the tonal and thematic differences between the two shows are visible. Daredevil fulfilled its promise of a crime drama, whereas Jessica Jones is going the route of neo-noir, detective series. Both shows are darker and more realistic than films from the Marvel universe. There are no Nordic gods flying around with magic hammers or 90-year old virgins in spangly costumes.

While Marvel has had strong female characters, like Black Widow of The Avengers, or Melinda May of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the rest have been lacking thus far. Take Natalie Portman in Thor, for example. She was supposed to be a brilliant scientist, but spent 120 minutes making googly eyes at Chris Hemsworth. While characters like Black Widow or May are great in their own right, I always felt that they were underused. Not just in terms of screen time, but in their complexity as characters.

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Often in the superhero genre, having a female hero just means putting a woman in the place of a male hero and having her beat the crap out of people just as her male counterparts would. Maybe she’ll throw in a few quips about “girl power” during the fight. These shows and films demonstrate that women can be strong too, but only in the most literal sense. CBS’s new show, Supergirl, seemed to have fallen into a similar trap during its first episode. The audience doesn’t need on-the-nose explanations about female empowerment, delivered in the form of exposition and forced dialogue.  Jessica Jones still focuses on our heroine as a human, who, despite her superpowers, is damaged, bruised, and has a terrible past. In fact, her “superpowers” barely get any screen time in the first episode, and her origin story isn’t addressed.  

We learn that she has PTSD, from an encounter with a man named Kilgrave, who can will people to do anything he wants them to. In Episode 1, Jessica deals with the trauma of having survived that encounter, but her past catches up when she discovers that Kilgrave has taken a new victim. This forces Jessica to struggle with the reality of her past coming back to haunt her, and the question of whether or not she runs or faces it head on.  

“Knowing it’s real means you gotta make a decision. One, keep denying it. Or two, do something about it.” -Jessica Jones, Episode 1

There’s so much more to dissect and analyze from the premiere episode of the show, but I’ll save it for after I binge watch all the episodes this November.

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