Jessica Jones; Our Initial Thoughts on the Themes & Characters of Marvel’s First Female Led Superhero Show

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After having watched Marvel’s flagship Netflix series, Daredevil, we found ourselves hyper excited to catch their follow up, Jessica Jones. In true Marvel form, the show does not at all disappoint and delivers all of the non-stop action, drama, and quippy dialog that we’ve come to expect while also managing to address intense themes and subject matters that are all too often mistreated or misrepresented within mainstream media. This has left us with a slew of thoughts about the show and while we’ll attempt to discuss them to the best of our ability, we’ll try to avoid spoiling the show for those that haven’t yet seen it, however, minor spoilers will be inevitable.

First of all, the show is phenomenal in that it approaches the audience with one major villain and one major villain only allowing the show to fully express it’s deeper themes. Most superhero related media these days try to overrun us with villains and global threats, but Jessica Jones focuses on a truly horrifying villain reminiscent whose motivations recall stories you might read about in a daily paper. While Killgrave has heightened abilities, the ability to control peoples minds, the threat he poses is something very real. In short, he’s nothing more than an abusive ex-boyfriend hellbent on maintaining his control over Jones. While Jones struggles to drag herself away from Killgrave, her reports to the police go unpursued and she’s continuously questioned about the reality of the threat. The crimes of Killgrave are inadvertently pushed onto Jones for which she reluctantly accepts the responsibility.

In a world where threats of violence on women all too often go unheeded and victim blaming runs rampant, this show demonstrates these issues beautifully through it’s lens of heightened reality. We suspect that these themes could resonate with women viewers and we hope that they draw parallels to real life with men, helping them to better understand the perceived futility that people can feel while dealing with some of these very real issues.

Stepping away from the shows heavy thematics, Jessica Jones takes a similar approach to the introduction of its antagonist much in the same way that Daredevil did; slowly and with a great deal of patience. While Killgrave is acknowledged in the shows first episode, his vile nature is slowly revealed throughout the series which slowly allows viewers to understand the way he works and his deeper, if not ultimately simplistic, motivations. This slow burn approach tied in with real themes of domestic violence help to draw the viewer in while they develop emotional connections to the shows variety of characters.

The show also celebrates a certain level of real world diversity among it’s cast. The women of the show aren’t there to simply motivate the men in their lives and they’re not strong women for the sake of making their characters relatable to men. In many instances the women have to muster the strength to overcome their obstacles and face the challenges at hand in a very real world, not everything is black and white kind of way. In fact, this show loves to dwell in the grey areas with our hero afflicted by alcoholism and a difficulty to relate to people due to her inherent differences and past struggles, she still manages to summon the courage necessary to do the jobs she needs to do. Her strength is her burden alone yet she still has the capacity to open up, although it may be difficult for her to do at times. Her real life struggles are overcome in order to achieve bigger goals and in that lies her true heroism.

Jones’ best friend, Trish Walker, also works hard to take control of her life having survived serious child abuse and child exploitation at the hands of her mother. Walker has no inherent powers, yet continuously calls forth her own personal strength to deal with a variety of issues throughout the show while still managing to provide an intimate companionship and bond with the shows titular character.

The male characters resonate a lot of different aspects of masculine culture in a variety of fascinating ways. Killgrave presents a harsh representation of male control, dominance, and mistrust while, at least at times, his affections and intentions seem to be genuine. He believes he can offer Jones true companionship which he continuous to force upon her despite her reluctance.

Luke Cage might just be the shows one standout good guy, offering Jones a true and sincere friendship while abstaining from romantic pressures, while suppressing certain emotions allowing viewers to see that despite an intense want to do good, nobody is perfect. As a man who has also experienced tragedy, he recognizes the similarities in Jones allowing her to take things at her own pace only offering his assistance should she want it. His soft nature is in contrast with his unbreakable skin and super-strength which he has no problems keeping in control until he falls under Killgraves influence which helps to highlight the dark, emotional, and viscerally repressed side of Cage.

Some of the shows smaller characters prove to actually be some of the shows biggest, portraying a variety of real world afflictions, conflicts, and sexual issues. The side characters traverse similar obstacles to Jones, but in a way that allows them all to find their own unique paths to clarity, redemption, or self acceptance sometimes inadvertently aided by Jones and sometimes not. While she may be the through-line in many of their lives, their choices are left for them to make which helps to make them very relatable and real.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones is rife with the kinds of real world conflict that comics books have always helped to illustrate best. Sometimes issues are best observed through a fantastic lens as it over-exaggerates the points in ways in which they become clear to viewers while allowing parallels to be drawn to real life situations and in this, Jessica Jones excels. While we eagerly awaiting the second season of Daredevil, we’re just as excited to see where Jessica’s world takes us next, especially if its continues on with the same kinds of complex themes, situations, and character development as laid out in it’s first season.

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