Friday, January 15, 2016

The Post Modern, Post Noir, Post Punk Superhero, or Thoughts on Jessica Jones


Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones

 Jessica Jones, a hard drinking, hard living, self-loathing private eye working in the Big City has a secret; she’s really, really strong.  Most of us have secrets if we’ve lived long enough, things we are embarrassed, ashamed or feel guilt over.  But I can almost guarantee that none of those secrets include ripping a door off its hinges or throwing somebody through a wall.  This is the Marvel Universe, where the metaphors can be as ham-fisted as the dialogue, and a lady can walk the mean streets alone at night unafraid of the bad elements, because she herself is a bad element.
Jessica Jones stars Krysten Ritter, you know her as Jane from Breaking Bad, AKA “I woke up, I found her, that’s all I know”.   She has a haunting, guarded beauty that she does her best to hide or diminish as she sullenly stalks the streets, trying to drink away her past while remaining emotionally distant and caustically aloof.  She’s a hard character to like initially, because she’s all edges and scowls, she doesn’t let anyone in.  But then again, she’s Jessica Jones, closed off, defensive and the only one who will fight for you.
There’s a running joke throughout the series concerning her broken door.  Here she is in New York City, completely unconcerned with her safety, passing out dead drunk without another thought.  Because you know, super strength and anger issues, no one would dare bother her.  Contrast her apartment against her best friend Trish, admirably portrayed by Rachael Taylor, who lives behind a stainless steel bank vault.
But the series would have been just like every other alcoholic loner detective crime show without the introduction of a supervillain, the yang to her yin with Kilgrave, the master manipulator.  I enjoyed David Tennant’s eerily charismatic performance just as much as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in Daredevil.  Equally sensitive and menacing, I found it difficult to watch the beloved 10th Doctor being so callous and creepy.  It’s a testament to his brilliant acting; a villain that can make me feel uncomfortable, leading to times when I actually had to stop watching and remind myself that this was all just acting.
Jessica Jones also features Carrie-Anne Moss AKA Trinity, as a cold-hearted lesbian lawyer (her sexuality is relevant as it’s a major plot point) and Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Nicolas Coppola’s inspiration for his more famous screen name (which you should already know), serves as Jessica’s erstwhile partner and another person to pull away from and feel guilty over.  There’s also a cool jazz soundtrack with a moody and edgy intensity that perfectly compliments her character and the tone of the series.
It’s important to note that Jessica Jones was filmed in New York, like Gotham, Elementary and even Law & Order, the Big Apple becomes another character, another portrait painted in skylines and street scenes.  The textures and rhythms of New York are woven into the densely layered visual landscape of the series until they are just as ubiquitous as Jessica Jones’ black leather jacket or Luke Cage’s Harley.  Or Kilgrave’s purple suit.  (He’s purple in the comic book).
Much has been written about the post-feminist themes of Jessica Jones; she is in the most literal sense, a strong independent woman.  While I am a great admirer of lady parts. I don’t possess any, and I don’t feel qualified to talk on the matter.  But I am imminently qualified to speak on the subject of superheroes in general, and Jessica Jones in particular.
As I’ve said before, all pop culture, and I do mean all of it, is a reflection of the zeitgeist, the popular mood, politics and the current state of the nation.  It is a barometer of social history.  Look at how bright and shiny the music of the 80’s was and think of how it reflected the era.  The most obvious example is Godzilla destroying Tokyo as Japan’s reaction to the end of WWII.  What does that mean for Jessica Jones?  She’s the strongest woman she knows, and yet she is not in control of her world.  Her enemy is physically weaker, but able to use her own strength against her, she becomes helpless, she struggles against the overwhelming and persuasive power of her enemy’s will.

You could easily make the case that the US foreign policy is the embodiment of Jessica Jones, we’re the strongest kid on the block with nukes we will never use, an impotent superpower fighting enemies we cannot identify or comprehend.  Her struggle to regain respect and self-worth becomes our national struggle against enemies real and imagined, in a world of rapidly shifting alliances and religious extremism.  Or you can just tell yourself that this is the Marvel Universe, where men can fly and women can burn you with their laser eyes.




my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.