NOTE: FULL OF SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE OF JESSICA JONES YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
Mo: So. Let’s talk about this article in the Mary Sue of all places.
Erin: Okay. It is bad and wrong
Mo: I feel like we should disclaimer that Jessica Jones is not, like, the second coming or whatever.
Erin: No, but it is pretty good. And it’s also a very different show than a lot of other superhero-themed shows out there
Mo: I mean, we haven’t watched Daredevil yet. Or Arrow, which is clearly very camp but purportedly sort of dark?
Erin: What I mean by ‘a very different show than a lot of other ones’ is that it’s focussed around women – no offence to DD or Arrow but I highly doubt they can claim that.
Mo: Right, point being nothing is perfect and we’re not saying JJ is, but this article? Is wrong on basically every single point it makes. Which in itself is not really worthy of critique – reviews are opinions and everyone is entitled to theirs, EXCEPT that this house believes that it’s wrong for a very specific reason:
This dude has missed every single way in which this show is about and for women. Like every point he gets wrong, he’s getting it wrong because he doesn’t get what Jessica Jones is, what what makes it unique and new and amazing.
Erin: Yeah. The problems with the article come down to, as you say, missing that very important point
Mo: And so we think that the WAY in which Dan Van Winkle got this wrong is kind of super telling ergo worthy of a good hard sporking.
Okay let’s go! In addition to being WRONG I feel like this guy wrote his article in the wrong order and his first point should be last, so let’s skip straight to point 3 for now:
3. Why did it take Jessica so long to realize she was immune?
Erin: I feel like he answered his own question in the first sentence.
Mo: And that’s so tied into the fact that we have a female protagonist I think, and so we aren’t about to let her just shake it off the way any given male protag does. And that it totally makes it BETTER that she doesn’t.
When I think about this I immediately think of Iron Man 3 and how good that film was because it treated PTSD like what it is: a properly debilitating thing that is with you no matter what you do. Iron Man 3 was brilliant and refreshing for the fact that it actually allowed its male lead to be properly weak, at least for a bit, and they were able to do that I think at least in part because RDJ is so good and also because they have a whole suite of other heroes on the team so it’s okay to have him be fallible. Though he still seems to be like so over all that by Ultron so even then I’m sort of ehhh…
But why was it different? Like, I feel like it was notable in IM3 because usually when a dude has PTSD it’s basically just one of his Cool Badges, something to show he’s been through a lot. It doesn’t actually hamper his progress through the story at all. Take Mad Max: Fury Road, which I love, and I think that in Fury Road Hardy’s portrayal of Max is great for the fact that his mannerisms and behaviour are properly odd, he’s so messed up. But his PTSD still doesn’t actually cause him trouble at any point – like at one point it actually helps him.
And I guess that gets us to what it seems to me Jessica Jones is actually about. In that it’s about abuse, and it’s about trauma, and it treats abuse and trauma as what they are: they’re not just plot points or Badges to prove a character has a tough history; they stay with you – even after you win. Jessica’s PTSD is integral to the story that’s being told, so to pass it off as something that she should’ve ‘got over’ for the sake of noticing X plot point is to completely miss that her PTSD is itself a really important part of the story.
I think this relates to point 2 too, actually; when Jessica hits her limit and breaks free of Kilgrave’s control we don’t need to know any more than that she was done, and she walked, and she doesn’t ever go back. Any further explanation is just unnecessary filler for what is a parable about systematic abuse of women by men.
Erin: The other point about this gripe that gets me is when he says:
“I’d actually assumed she knew up until that point, which is why she charged into the room to save his parents – a move that seems completely nonsensical if she thought she was still vulnerable to his control.”
Orrrrrrrrr it was extremely heroic and indicative of her character that she would still run in there to save them even if it meant putting herself under his control again? But these women they’re so illogical and nonsensical lol.
Mo: Yeh. Like, the other major thread of the show, I think, something they come back to several times, is the idea of Jessica as a superhero – it’s the part of the origin story where the gritty reluctant hero realises that this is their calling. That arc is there for Jessica, and it’s touched on for Luke Cage, too. It’s a pretty standard trope so I’m not sure why it passed Winkle by but there you go. She resists the ‘hero’ label, she resists the trappings, and she presents as this hard-boiled PI who’s all about the paycheque, yet she isn’t; she is a hero, and this one of the moments where we see that because she’s seeing people being hurt and in spite of everything her response is to throw herself at it to try to save them. This is the journey she started on when she decided not to run away as soon as she realised Kilgrave was back.
Erin: The fact that Kilgrave can manipulate her for so long is because he keeps putting innocent people in her path and she refuses to just ignore them. Which leads us nicely into:
4. Hope’s death
“Hope’s death didn’t make sense to me for one critical reason: she was no longer providing a reason for Jessica to keep Kilgrave alive.”
Hope was ABSOLUTELY still a liability for Jessica, and Kilgrave knew it. Sure, she was out of prison, but she literally walked out of a jail cell and into Kilgrave’s arms. He knew Jessica’s guilt over Hope was a button that he could push and use to manipulate her, even without the threat of prison hanging over her, and you can’t tell me that he wasn’t going to keep pushing that button to torture her as long as it existed.
Mo: Yeah, as long as Hope was around she was a tool for him, and since he clearly wasn’t dead yet, she was still a liability, just like anyone else Jessica felt responsible for. More than that just on a practical level they were literally in the middle of a prisoner exchange. So I’m not sure how the writer missed that. Since it was in the plot.
But also, here Winkle does the EXACT same thing he did in the last point.
I mean y’know she’s only been kidnapped and mind raped and ACTUALLY raped by this dude, then killed her own parents, then spent time in prison, then been released right into the arms of her rapist.
Erin: She only spent her last however long in jail, AFTER BEING MIND-CONTROLLED TO KILL HER PARENTS, pregnant by her rapist, had an abortion, and now he’s right there using her just as he did before. But we definitely expect her to be as clear-headed as us, the audience, when reacting to a horrific situation. Once again, GIRLS R SO ILLOGICAL.
Mo: Like honestly we could probably have summed up our objection to this article as, “This guy persistently and consistently undermines abuse of women as ‘not that bad’.” But I feel like I could keep picking at its bones anyway.
Erin: Well, let’s look at the next point, which I think is tied into the same criticism but from the other angle.
5. The whole Simpson storyline, complete with killing Clemons
Mo: Yeh, here I was just “…You really don’t get this show at all, do you?”
Let me break it down.
Man abuses woman who trusts him.
Man feels remorseful and badgers woman ’til she forgives him and gets together with him.
Man abuses woman again.
Man feels bad, woman forgives him.
Man abuses woman again.
Well. Anyway, I feel like I’ve made my point.
Erin: Yeah. Simpson was alternately rage-y and violent and apologetic and helpful? Gosh, what does that sound like?
Personally I think the combat drug storyline was fine because I do think we will see it continue to play out, but even putting that aside it was crucial to the story JJ was telling to have a ‘good guy’ who is still unpredictably violent and unreliable.
Mo: Like I think the mistake that Winkle makes here is that he thinks Simpson’s story arc has much if anything to do with Simpson.
Erin: And obviously he is watching the series through his own lens that focusses on the experience of the white man… which leads us into the next point…
6. The purple man (did not) cometh
Really? Really dude, you’re going to argue at length that certain plot points weren’t ‘sensical’ and then turn around and complain that the bad guy didn’t ACTUALLY TURN PURPLE? Uh, okay.
I think this was an extremely telling issue, actually. He wants to see Kilgrave given more character development – ongoing physical pain, even, that would’ve led to his final defeat. Because him being a mind-rapist with absolutely no idea how people actually work wasn’t enough to lead to his downfall, no, he needs to be physically hurting.
And this may sound ungenerous, but I can’t help but think that one of the reasons the proponents of the ‘Purple Man’ want him to be purple is to distance him from the spectre of the average white guy (sorry David Tennant) who could (and DOES) easily exist in our world today, passing unnoticed all around us.
Mo: I think I’d find that assertion ungenerous out of context. In the context of Winkle’s ongoing inability to accept that this show is about more than male character development I’m inclined to agree with you that it takes on a little more significance than just the objections of a comic book fan. It feels like it would be a lot more comfortable if the character was purple because then he wouldn’t just be, y’know, like any other guy who happens to be an obsessive entitled asshole. And likewise I feel like the creators will have left him ‘normal’ coloured in part to emphasise just that, to create that discomfort.
Also, I’m just… how on earth would that have fitted with the overall tone of the show? I mean, beyond any grumpy feminist objections, in what way would this show have benefited from its villain being PURPLE?
“Instead of finding him his normal, confident self, Jessica could’ve tracked him down and discovered that his obsession with her was destroying everyone including himself.”
Because apparently we need to SEE him turn purple to realise how poisonous and deadly his obsession was.
…except I kind of got that already from the trail of dead bodies and traumatised survivors left in his wake. But no, we need to make this about him and his self-destruction.
Say it with me: THIS ISN’T HIS STORY.
Mo: It also ties us neatly back into point 1 actually.
1. Kilgrave’s death scene
Like there are other major issues that we’ll get to, but first of all:
Though also I reject completely the idea that his plans for Trish were somehow less bad than him making Jessica kill someone else. Like, had this guy been paying ANY attention (spoiler: we think not).
Erin: Wow, yeah. I really really liked the death scene, actually, and I’ll admit that for a split-second I actually bought that he had re-assumed control over her (great acting from Kristyn Ritter, there). The moment when I realised she was playing him was ultimate poetic justice and made his end that much more satisfying.
And calling his manipulation of Trish “the most convoluted, indirect way to test whether or not he had control over the one person who could do him in” is just missing so many points. SO MANY.
Firstly, we have been shown (and told) over the entire series that Trish is one of the very few people Jessica loves and will do anything to protect. So I’d say he had her number pretty good on that choice.
Secondly, this is Winkle assuming that forcing Jessica to kill someone is worse than letting her rapist take her sister/best friend away from her forever and put her through the same living hell she herself has endured. And I feel like again, this is where the fact that this is a show by women and FOR women comes into play. It’s made clear in every single episode what a hellish experience it was for Jessica and how it has traumatised her. It is only natural and logical that putting Trish through that is probably the worst thing he could have done, so again, Kilgrave knew exactly what he was doing in making that the ultimate test of his control over Jessica.
And preferring that he should escape/she should ‘run him down’ would have subverted the absolute satisfaction of beating him at his own game. We know that she’s stronger and faster than him already, but for her to master her fear and manipulate him into approaching her was an amazing moment and much more meaningful than another chase through a dark alley.
Mo: Yeah, it just baffles me that anyone watching the show can get to the end of it and still feel that forcing Jessica to kill someone would be worse than him taking Trish away. I’m just “…has this whole thing just gone completely over your head?”
I think that what it comes down to is that if you haven’t been constantly forced to deal with the characters you identify with in shows being the ones who’re systematically subjugated and used to further other characters’ development, maybe JJ just doesn’t come across as revolutionary in the same way. It’s like Crimson Peak all over again, where you have this group of people who are going “Well, it was pretty, but not so much on the substance” and the other group of “OMG THIS WAS SO SUBVERSIVE” folk.
Erin: Yeah. It depends on the characters you identify with and your expectations, and I think JJ was absolutely subversive in a lot of ways that few other things have done before. And I loved it, and I hope it’s the start of huge trend. Even if it means putting up with thinkpieces from dudes who miss the point repeatedly.
Mo: In his closing paragraphs, he’s all:
“I know nothing about the main themes of this show, but I’m a man on the Internet, so I figured I’d waste valuable screen inches dissecting it in a major internet magazine anyway.”
Dudes, am I right?