Chances are you hadn’t heard of Marvel’s latest hero until the Netflix series dropped last weekend. Jessica Jones isn’t a household name like Spiderman or Ironman, but I think the boys club of comic book superheroes is about to get a run for their money.
Jessica Jones doesn’t wear a cape or a costume. Nor does she go by a silly name or hide behind a mask. As the series unfolds you realise that she’s already been there, done that and suffered for it, becoming jaded and chooses instead to work as a private investigator. The stylistic opening credits and first scenes set the gritty tone of darkness and isolation before we’re introduced to our heroine as she effortlessly tosses an unsatisfied customer through her office door.
The classic film noir influence is strong and Jessica’s resourceful P.I. skills remind me of Nancy Drew. You know, if Nancy Drew had PTSD, alcoholism and super strength.
Krysten Ritter is brilliant in the lead role, conveying about five pages of dialogue in a single glare and crafting a truly haunted character who desperately tries to forget her traumatic past through work and cheap whiskey. She’s a foul mouthed slob who punches first, asks questions later, takes no shit and tries her best not to care, for fear of being vulnerable.
Women on screen aren’t often allowed to be messy or flawed in the same ways that male characters are. A female character with self-destructive tendencies is branded “petty” and “self-indulgent”, while the exact same traits in men are viewed as a 'deep' commentary on the human condition. Flawed female characters are considered unlikeable and therefore unmarketable. But thankfully this is beginning to change and, to the delight of many, more complex women like Jessica Jones are gracing our screens.
It’s made clear from the start that something has broken Jessica down and stripped away her sense of self, and this is where the trigger warnings come in. At a time when almost two women are killed per week here in Australia, and many at the hands of a current or former partner, Jessica Jones presents us with a textbook abuser as the show’s main villain.
Kilgrave is by far the most terrifying character I’ve ever witnessed on screen, because for so many women and victims of abuse, he is real. That may sound like an outrageous claim to make about a fictional supervillain with the ability to control minds, but powers aside, it’s true.
Domestic violence and other forms of sexual or emotional abuse are about manipulation and control stemming from a sense of entitlement. Perpetrators of such violence often show an inability to empathise with their victims, believing themselves to be completely justified in their own actions.