Liberal politics and darkness seep into Jessica Jones on Netflix
Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones is many things. It’s possibly the biggest surprise spotlight grab by a B- or even C-list comic book character since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s one of the grimmest, darkest, boldest shows out there: a TV show that’s essentially 13 hours of PTSD related to the aftermath of sexual assault. This is even more remarkable in light of the fact that the show is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that Jessica Jones’ graphic sex scenes and shivering junkies and dour musings on futility coexist in the same world as the massive alien invasion of The Avengers or the wacky heist in Ant-Man.Even if allegedly deals with sexual assault properly, which is surely more than can be said for recent superhero comics from the mainstream, this still sounds awfully superfluous. If nearly every episode deals with sexual abuse, that would surely make it a challenge to watch. If Daredevil had been that heavy, I doubt many people would've wanted to read it (and if it's like that now in the Quesada/Alonso era, probably even less). But no less eyebrow raising is how this series apparently takes the Gamergate campaign and follows the mainstream press example by turning it into a villain without expert research, in the guise of the adversary called Kilgrave:
And it’s a huge feminist achievement. This is a show in which rape is a core theme, but one that pretty much entirely avoids feeling exploitative or male-gazey. It’s a show with a female showrunner, Melissa Rosenberg, who’s done her homework about depicting sexual assault and the associated PTSD realistically and responsibly and who knows all the standard tropes for strong female characters and deftly avoids most of them. But perhaps most interestingly, Jessica Jones is our first identifiably post-Gamergate thriller.
He may be just one man, but he can act through an army of servants, of which he has a limitless supply. He can “be” anyone in a crowd, turn anyone from a small child to a police officer to a close friend or lover into an agent for him to act through. Jessica realizes that Kilgrave has compiled an accurate photographic record of all her movements simply because there’s no way for her to walk around New York City and avoid everyone with a smartphone. In other words, Kilgrave’s power is an analog, low-tech, “meatspace” version of a power that some men in the Gamergate crowd seem to dream of having: the power to be anyone, be anywhere, and do anything without social repercussions. It’s a power that, in our world, can be acquired by any determined troll with basic computer skills and an Internet connection.One thing that's clear - Slate's writer is using the Gamergate campaign as a scapegoat, just like countless other PC advocates. But I wouldn't be surprised if the writers of this series did exploit all the propaganda over the past year for narrow agendas.
The frightening thing about Kilgrave, after all, is we see people who act like him and get away with it all the time in the real world despite the real world not including genetic mutants with psychic abilities. People who, despite their failure to emit infectious brain-altering viral particles into the air around them, are able to make other people do horrible things. A guy who crowdsources sexual assault by making random calls to fast food restaurants pretending to be a cop and instructing managers to strip-search female employees. One deranged troll—who went to prison and got a swastika tattooed on his chest—can flood a woman’s inbox with death threats by making up blatant, obvious lies that an angry misogynist mob wants to believe.
And, of course, in the case that feels most eerily parallel to Kilgrave’s motivations in Jessica Jones, a vengeful ex can systematically destroy a game developer’s professional reputation, social network, and overall sense of safety by writing a blog post designed to push all the buttons that make gamers angry, sparking a massive culture war that’s still going a year later. As Rowan Kaiser put it in an early review of the first two episodes of Jessica Jones, it would be fair to describe Kilgrave as a “living, breathing harassment campaign.” He is a guy who sees the whole world as a game, himself as the player, and everyone else as nonplayer characters—and he is willing to try over and over again at the game until he wins.
On top of all that, I just don't see the point of giving viewership to a program based on a Bendis premise, because it only gives him an undeserved boost.