Originally posted to Facebook on 7/28/17
Already time for more gushing about Jessica Jones.
There is so much that this show gets right. And it’s strongest asset is that it’s told from a female point of view. Not only the obvious stuff like the struggles of Jessica (Krysten Ritter) and Trish (Rachael Taylor), but we see sides of the male characters that would otherwise go unexplored in the predominantly male viewpoint of super hero media.
A shining example of this is Sergeant Will Simpson (Wil Traval). In any other story, this guy would be the hero. He’s a former soldier, current police officer. He wants to help people. He gets mind controlled into doing something awful, but wants to make amends in any way he can. It would be SO easy to show this character as being no different than Captain America. But the story isn’t about him. He isn’t the protagonist. And this is something that the show knows, but his character doesn’t.
What makes Captain America a true hero is that he spent most of his life being the little guy. It’s even a direct quote from his first film that he “understands the value of strength”. This is a key difference between Steve Rogers and Will Simpson. Will thinks that having strength and wanting to help makes him the hero no matter what. This is a very common real world issue with toxic masculinity. Men who try to insert themselves in the problems of others because they want to be the hero, not understanding that they aren’t needed or wanted. Their ego makes them blind to things like that.
Will’s presence makes Trish and Jessica uncomfortable. Jessica repeatedly tells him to leave them be so they can work things out. But he persists. Demanding that he be a part of things not out of altruism, but because of his personal need to feel better about what he has done. His motivations are selfish, despite what he thinks. And it’s things like that which aren’t explored in male-focused stories, either because that’s outside the male fantasy of heroism, or because characters like Steve Rogers are actually heroic enough to not find themselves in that position. Either way, it’s a refreshing perspective shift.
Another way that the female perspective bleeds into the male characters is with Luke Cage (Mike Colter, who is excellent despite not being Terry Crews). I had my reservations at first with seeing that they were introducing Luke in such a prominent way in what is supposed to be a story about Jessica. It could’ve easily been a situation where some studio head said “well, we need this powerful male character to be included so men have someone to connect with”. But, like everything else this show gets right, Luke Cage is given the secondary treatment that’s appropriate in Jessica’s story. While he gets a fair amount of screen time, very little is done to develop him independent of Jessica. He exists to further her story. All of their interactions are rooted in her perspective and her issues. This is made even more evident after the release of Luke Cage’s own show. All I knew about his personal character, I learned from watching his own show. All I knew about him from JJ was that he was a cool headed, unbreakable dude with a painful past. And that’s it. Again, this show does an excellent job keeping the focus where it ought to be, despite so many opportunities to go down a more beaten path.
And while none of the concepts are new for women who have ever dealt with men, it’s wonderful to have it shown so clearly in a medium known for its hyper-masculinity. Making this a must watch for people of all genders. A refreshing and affirming viewpoint for feminists, and a much needed perspective change for people who need a little more understanding.
(UPDATED A SHORT WHILE LATER)
Ahhh! I just got to an excellent part that mirrors nicely with what I was saying about Simpson!
Luke and Jessica were together and Luke offers his support to her by saying that she doesn’t have to face Kilgrave alone. To which Jessica replies “Yeah, I do”. Now, this is where Simpson and a lot of other typical masculine characters would keep pushing the point. But Luke Cage simply says “Good for you” and drops the subject.
Now, I’m fully aware of my own guilt at times for being overly supportive to the point where I put myself where I’m not needed or wanted. So I mean it deeply when I say it’s great to see a truly positive male role model on how to stay on the right side of that line between being supportive and being controlling/patronizing.