‘Jessica Jones’ Is the #MeToo Superheroine We Need Right Now
The second season of the Marvel Netflix series couldn’t have come at a better time.
Jessica Jones is here at just the right time.
The first season, though rough around the edges at times, offered a penetrating exploration of toxic masculinity through its villain Kilgrave (David Tennant). His ability to control people’s minds led him to Jessica (Krysten Ritter), whom he subsequently abused, stripped of all agency, and forced into a relationship with him. The season at times fell prey to gossamer-like plotting but a thrilling climactic showdown between Jessica and Kilgrave tied things together beautifully.
Season 2 has the same intentions and blows them up even further. And just as Luke Cage debuted on Netflix amid a wave of high-profile police brutality cases, providing audiences cathartic release in the form of a bulletproof black man standing up to police in Harlem, the second season of Jessica Jones has arrived in the throes of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
In the wake of Kilgrave’s attack on Jessica, she’s not only struggling to return to her normal life; she’s attempting to find out what life is. If the first season resonated for anyone who ever experienced assault in their lives, then the second is about what to do next. Jessica has already done the hero thing in The Defenders, so we don’t have to suffer through the early-show pangs of “will she keep her detective agency open?” She’s fully operational as the season begins, and the waffling over her so-called destiny as a hero is no longer an issue. What is an issue is what she will do with her rage. Often, when we see women’s stories, they’re presented as docile or raging against other women over the attention of a man. Jessica, however, fully taps into her rage this because, to quote Amy Jellicoe, she’s “a woman who is over it.”
As creator Melissa Rosenberg told The New York Times, “We were writing the second season during the whole Trump/Hillary election, and I was just so angry. We constantly talked about characters that had been trying to be nice for so long, finally just saying, ‘Get out of my way!’ Just tapping into the rage Hillary must have felt every day.”
The season wrapped shooting well before #MeToo had its moment, yet it fits within the ethos that helped create #MeToo. After the relative bliss of the Obama era and the idea that Hillary Clinton was on the horizon, a story like Jessica Jones may have resonated with only some part of the audience. But now, over a year later, women are fed up, angry, and well, over it. Jessica Jones feels like the culmination of that moment condensed into one television season. “We all play a role in what society constructs for us,” Rosenberg said. “And I think what’s incredible about this [#MeToo] movement is us saying, you know, we’re not going to play those roles anymore.”
To flesh this out, Jessica’s best friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) gets more to do this season. She’s stalked by her dangerous ex, made into a precocious Nora Helmer by her boyfriend, and confronts those who abused her in the past. Trish is mad as hell, too, and no longer relegated to the sidekick—she’s a full-fledged character with her own mission that doesn’t need to check in with Jessica.
As we enter a new era of female superheroes, it’s easy to say that Jessica Jones benefits from a movie like Wonder Woman. But Jessica Jones came before the DC blockbuster, and taps into the American zeitgeist in a way that Patty Jenkins’ film wasn’t able to. Perhaps it’s the New York City setting or its diverse array of characters, but Jessica feels like a revelation both when it comes to superheroes on TV and how we view women on TV. When we talk about the TV series that wow critics, we usually focus on masculine fare like Mad Men, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. What Jessica Jones proves is that women can be mad as hell too and just as compelling.