Saturday, 13 February 2016

Geekery of the Weekery: Jessica Jones Part 2

Continuing on from the last Geekery of the Weekery post, I'm going to go into a bit further analysis.  Trigger Warning for discussion of abusive relationships and mental health issues.  Also a super spoiler alert.  I couldn't really discuss what I want to discuss without spoilers, so don't read any further if you haven't seen the show.  For the rest of you though, let's get stuck in!

Mental Illness

The cornerstone of Jessica Jones is the story of abuse, power and control, and the mental health (namely post traumatic stress) fallout from it.  Having experienced PTSD myself in the past (for wildly different reasons to Jessica), I found Krysten Ritter's performance in Jessica Jones very realistic and relatable, particularly her periodic relapses and panic attacks.  The coping strategies of other characters were also realistic: Malcolm diving in to help others by forming a support group, Trish training to fight and turning her house into a fortress to combat her own fear and feelings of vulnerability, Will launching into a one-track campaign to take Kilgrave down.  The show does a good job of avoiding stigmatising and caricaturish stereotypes of mental illness, which is always a nice change from general media depictions.  

I was disappointed at Jessica's response to Malcolm's support group, belittling his efforts and refusing to be part of it.  Given that she is the protagonist of the show, I felt that the writers had a great opportunity to demonstrate to the audience that it's ok to ask for help and seek support.  The lone wolf approach is detrimental to mental health.  However, Jessica's response was realistic for her character as her coping strategy was to push others away.  To have her do otherwise would have been out of character for her.  Hopefully though, in the next season of JJ, we'll see her more proactively seeking and receiving the support she needs.

Abusive Relationships

The series does well demonstrating the power and control that often gets overlooked in abusive relationships where there may not be signs of physical abuse (that's not to say that Killgrave didn't physically abuse Jessica, but real life partner abuse isn't always visible).  Killgrave may have had mind control at his disposal, but most of the tactics he uses on Jessica are just old fashioned manipulation techniques which is part of the reason that for much of the season, Jessica doesn't even realise that she is immune to his powers.  But what I find most compelling, and perhaps more frightening, is the demonstration of entitlement to and over women by nearly all of the male characters - some more frequent and brazen offenders than others.

Male Entitlement

It's easy to pinpoint Killgrave's sense of entitlement to Jessica.  He goes to great lengths to get her attention and 'woo' her, including purchasing her childhood home and decking it out exactly how it was when she was a child.  As far as he is concerned, his efforts mean he is entitled to her, despite her clear indications that she wants nothing to do with him, not only to her, but to her affection.  'Smile' becomes a trigger for her.  To be honest, I love that the show did this.  Women are constantly being told to smile by random men as if we exist for their viewing pleasure, and we're seen as petty if we talk about it.  

Will Simpson acts entitled in a different way.  He feels entitled to play the hero in a one-man crusade to take down Killgrave and protect Trish and Jessica.  He refuses to accept Jessica as more competent and skilled than him, talks over Trish and Jessica simultaneously putting Trish down.  He thwarts their plans regularly, locks Trish in her own home and thus demonstrates complete lack of respect for their own agency and abilities.  

These are all techniques used by real people in real life, and to me that's what makes this show truly scary and truly satisfying at the end when it all comes back to get them.

There is so much to unpack from just this one season of Jessica Jones, and I'm really looking forward to seeing season 2.  Would love to hear some feedback from you guys on JJ.  What did you get out of the show? any themes I didn't touch on?

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