Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Risa Delatoria is one of my oldest friends. And even though I have not seen her in over a decade she has always been one of my biggest supporter. A positive word from her can turn around my day from abd, to better. She is friends with nearly all my family and friends on face book and calls my mother “Her second mom.” Recently she posted on Facebook the trailer for next week’s Netflix’s release of Jessica Jones. We talked about how we both will be binge watching it.
I was excited that Risa would be watching the same thing, around the same time, even if it is over 900 miles away. There a sense of closeness despite the distance. It is the first time I kind of get what sports people go through. I am no anti-sports that I thought ESPN was the telepathy channel. It not just watching a game, but experiencing something real time with people across the country.
In ways Jessica Jones is the super bowl for geeks. We been waiting for a female center comic based superhero show for a while. OK I know that there is a Supergirl TV show out there, but this seems to me to be the real thing. A dark and gritty feminist butt kicking action adventure story.
Besides having a potential for an amazing female protagonist, David Tenant looks super creepy in the previews as Zebadiah Kilgore AKA The Purple Man. Watch the previews and here him calling out “Jessica” In the background. Let’s face it other than Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been woefully lacking in well done baddies. Ultron just didn’t come up to the level as bad guy as say DC’s Joker. Dr Who Alumni Christopher Eccleston and Karen Gillian do a great job, but they are secondary to the heroes. But Tenant is so amazing in the previews that many people are afraid he will steal the show.
A lot of people have never heard of JJ, so let’s cover a bit of her history. Here is a primer, Jessica Jones was created by comic book writer, Michael Brian Bendis, for the comic book Alias. It was the first book in Marvel’s Max line, a series that dealt with adult story lines. It ran from 2001 to 2004, which corresponded with my renewed interest in comics, but there were two reasons I never got into Alias, first was I really wasn’t interested at that time with a comic book whose main appeal would be sex and cursing. But the second more important reason was that I was really disappointed when I discovered that it wasn’t about Jenifer Gardner’s spy opus Alias.
JJ got her powers after the car she was riding in with her family crashed into a truck with radioactive waste. Her family was killed and she was in a coma, when she awoke she eventually developed super powers. Her powers are in fact rather generic, heighten strength and endurance and limited flight. She decided to use her powers as a heroine named Jewel.
When she tangles against mind controller Kilgrave, he easily turns him into his slave and accomplice. He makes her fall in love with her. He makes her do unspeakable things but does not force her to have sex with him. He is not just a mind controller he is a sadistic manipulator. He not only breaking her but also saying that she isn’t good enough for him.
Eventually he sends her on a mission that is so far away she is able to break free of her influence. Only to finds out no other heroes were even looking for her. Disgusted that she didn’t mean enough to the other supers for them to even have noticed she was gone for eight months, she quits the hero biz and becomes a private eye.
There is no doubt that Jessica Jones’ fits the “broken bird’ trope. Being abused became part of her personality. Much like Harley Quinn who is abused by her boyfriend The Joker, and Black Widow who is abused by a political regime. This is such a big part of her personality that feminist-nerd website The Mary Sue has voiced concerns about how this will be portrayed. To me it is whether or not she can save herself or not that is important to me. The damage has to be handled respectful and realistic way but if she can overcome it, the fact that she has a back story about abuse is alright.
Alias (the comic book) is defiantly a hard “R”. Even if it keeps to the original story line, I don’t think it will be more than a hard “PG-13” because so many children will have access to the show. I don’t mind cursing, sex or violence in a story as long as it move the plot along. I hate CS&V that are in a story only for the sake of being there.
The original Alias comic starts with the F-Word. It was one of the ways that Bendis was saying this isn’t going to be your father’s superhero comic book. In the same way Dare Devil uses almost all the non F-word swear words, to show that it isn’t prime time’s general TV’s Agents of SHIELD. To me this doesn’t work. Sure Foggy Nelson, Ben Uric and Winston Fiske all seem like dudes that would drop an occasional curse word. The writing seemed to me like it was only added in an attempt to make it more edgy. In my opinion it seemed to slow down the dialog. I doubt that JJ will drop an F-Bomb because it would push the envelope just too far.
Sex is always a tricky subject in a story. For most part the actually act of intercourse is boring (to watch on TV at least) The seduction and the tension and expectation can make for good drama but how many shows were ruined when the main characters became lovers (I am looking at you X-Files) . In Alias Jessica and Luke Cage have very erotic sex in the hopes that she can feel anything. I recently wrote a short story where a man, whose daughter is dying from cancer, has loveless sex with a stranger in hopes to feel anything. Of course in the end he feels nothing different. This is hard enough to portray in writing, and is even harder to show on TV. We know from the previews that Jessica and Luke will get it on, but we do not know how graphic it will be.
As for violence, Dare Devil pushed the limitless for a TV, and we can expect that its sister show will continue the family tradition. Both physical but also psychological violence.
So does dark and gritty make good TV? We will see. The shows chance of redemption depends on Jessica’s chance of redemption. In the end the show either fails or succeeds on whether or not Jessica can overcome where she came from. I don’t want Jessica to go from flawed to perfect, I want to see her as grow as a human being. I want to see charterer development. I wasn’t JJ to be a survivor.
In a few days we will see whether or not Jessica Jones can rise beyond her tragic backstory. But I do know that I will not be alone watching her story. I will be on my goat farm in Oregon wearing my Agents of SHIELD Tee, with my cookie dough ice cream, Risa in California in her sweats with popcorn and a glass of wine. And in ways I will feel closer to her than I have in a while. Hope some of you join us.