How Marvel’s latest Netflix series raises the bar for women characters and social issues
by Melisse Seleck
Who is Jessica Jones?
She’s a pretty dark and depressive character who drinks excessively and keeps to herself. You know she has gone through some heavy stuff and it sometimes feels like she can’t find her way out.
As an entrepreneur running her own private detective agency from her Hell’s Kitchen apartment, she’s an anti-heroine with superhuman powers. Without hiding behind any disguise, Jessica Jones integrates herself into the Manhattan landscape as she speaks her mind – sometimes a bit gruff. But she also carries a soft side for others, especially those abused, scarred and scared – making her a true heroine.
So, why is Jessica Jones so aptly portrayed by Kristen Ritter? Quite simply, she kicks ass in the best way possible as a female character.
Powers: The parameters of her strength are unrevealed, but she can lift an automobile with no discernible effort. She possesses an enhanced level of resistance to physical injury, although she is unsure of whether or not she is bulletproof. She is also able to fly, although she is out of practice in doing so.
Abilities: Jessica Jones is a reasonably skilled detective and hand-to-hand combatant.
Who spearheaded Jessica Jones as a Netflix streaming series?
Melissa Rosenberg is the creator and showrunner of Jessica Jones. Her impressive background includes credits as a writer and producer of numerous film and television programs including Showtime’s Dexter as a writer for three years and executive producer of twelve episodes in 2009. She also wrote the screenplay Step Up and the screenplay adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, followed by the three sequels The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Parts I and II).
What’s to love about the show Jessica Jones?
Whether you are a superhero comics fan or not, it’s easy to be drawn to this finely layered adult world where hot button topics are explored. The biggest are mental and physical abuse: Jessica is manipulated, kidnapped and raped by the mind-controlling villian Kilgrave (menacingly played by David Tennant). Kilgrave’s painful abuse drives Jessica to give up the superhero girl she once was and overcome the past, becoming the woman she is meant to be.
The series does a great job of delving into deep issues such as P.T.S.D., fear, pain, guilt, support groups and addiction.
There is an innate vulnerability and kindness behind Jessica’s tough facade. This complexity is explored through her close bond with Trish Walker, elegantly played by Rachel Taylor. Vulture says it best:
There’s so much love and respect between these two. In a series of flashbacks, we see the origins of their friendship. One day, teenage Trish escapes her mother’s abuse by running into a bathroom, where Jessica has just discovered her powers. (She’s lifting a heavy marble sink above her head.) They each have their secrets. “I don’t tell,” Trish says, “and you don’t save me.” But Jessica can’t resist. When she sees Mama Walker forcing Trish to throw up, she tosses her against the wall.
Jessica Jones was crafted as a film noir series with New York City as a hauntingly beautiful backdrop. As I made my way through the series, I easily found myself understanding Jessica and her need to drink, I could even see myself knocking back a blended scotch with her as she makes overcoming inequality and fighting for justice look so damn good.
And the fact that Jessica Jones is Marvel’s first hit TV franchise starring a super-powered woman? That in and of itself is pretty darn remarkable.
Even more remarkable:
New York City’s “Made in NY” marketing credit program offers qualified film and television productions (shot at least 75% in New York) with free co-branded advertising opportunities. Participants in the Made in NY program are required to provide a donation to a cultural institution as identified by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Jessica Jones chose New York Women In Film & Television for their donation.
Contributors: Katie Chambers, Margarita Sophia Cortes