When I first read Alias, it was a game changer for me. Jessica Jones isn't a typical hero, but she was a character I related to- her thought process is similar to mine, we both swear a lot, we both have low self-confidence, we’re both rude and often inconsiderate and insensitive, we're both survivors. Her personality stuck out to me and I felt a connection to her that I’d never really had with a fictional character before. I’ve connected with many female characters, but perhaps the reason why my connection to Jessica felt more intense was because of the nature of her experience. The main villain in the comic and in the first season of the show is Kilgrave, a man with the ability to control minds who has a particularly heinous stroke of evil inside him.
But are his actions actually abnormally heinous?
I’m a woman who’s been raped by two different men. I’m a woman who’s spent months living in a world of illusions created for me by men- though not under the influence of mind control, these deceptions and the resulting traumas were no less cruel, and the illusions certainly felt real to me. I’m a woman who’s spent my life in a patriarchal society that’s devoted to making women doubt themselves and hate themselves, that forces us to cope with these feelings in whatever ways we can. I’m a woman who’s learned to survive in spite of all of this, and I know that that is why I feel such a deep connection to Jessica Jones.
In many ways, Kilgrave is an extraordinarily terrible man, but in many ways he and his actions are merely metaphors for men, the patriarchy and the damage they cause to women. In many ways, Jessica is an extraordinarily heroic woman, but in many ways she and her experiences are a metaphor for women, what we have to endure and what we can become.
In the show, Kilgrave raped both Jessica and Hope, a woman whose parents hired Jessica to find her. They changed this from the comics- in the comics, Kilgrave never physically raped Jessica, instead he would force her to watch him sleep with other women, and would force her to cry and beg for him to sleep with her. At first I thought it was strange that they changed that, but as the series went on, I appreciated it. Jessica and Hope were both raped by this man, and both ended up having to deal with his presence in their lives. For me, it was a relief to see these women dealing with something that I could relate to, and I felt that it was important that Jessica and Hope both responded to the same situation in different ways. This portrayal of their experiences is truly a testament to the caliber of the writing of this show.
Because of what Kilgrave did to her, Jessica experienced PTSD, and it was a big part of her life. I liked that it showed the ways (besides alcohol) that she learned to cope with it- Birch Street, Higgins Drive, Cobalt Lane. This mantra, of sorts, helped to center her when she was really struggling. This was a coping mechanism that she passed on to Hope, in addition to instilling in Hope the sense that what Kilgrave had done to her was not her fault. Society works very hard to force the blame onto women for things that have been done to them, and Jessica worked very hard from the beginning to make sure that Hope knew that she was not to blame.
Jessica and the relationships she cultivated with the women around her are unique. Her relationship with Hope was based on a shared traumatic experience, one that made each of them feel isolated, which is a way a lot of women who experience trauma feel. Jessica never let Hope feel isolated, she showed Hope that she’d experienced many of the same things when she’d been under Kilgrave’s influence. This type of bond between two women is something I had never seen on TV before, though this type of bond is one that I am entirely familiar with because it’s a bond I share with a lot of women who’ve experienced the same shit I have. It’s a bond that feels unbreakable and it’s a bond that gives me strength in my weakest moments.
Jessica’s best friend and sister is Trish Walker (it took me a long time to piece together from IMDb before the show aired that Trish is short for Patricia, and that Patsy is short for Patricia, and that they intended for Trish to be Hellcat, whose name in the comics is Patsy Walker) and their relationship is comparable to the relationship between Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, which was a relationship that set a high bar for representations of female friendships. Jessica acts like she doesn’t care about anyone, but she spent most of her life devoted to caring for Trish, and not in a way that cast any sort of appearance of weakness on Trish. Trish’s spirit and attitude, and her willingness to do what is right no matter what the cost is made her an incredibly admirable character to me. Trish experienced Kilgrave’s mind control later in the show, and I think that it helped her to understand Jessica’s response to what he’d done to her. In many ways Jessica and Trish operated as a team, and it was nice to see the different ways they worked to support each other, and the ways they balanced each other out.
Another woman in Jessica’s life was Jeri, a lesbian lawyer (I mention her sexuality because she’s the first openly gay character in the MCU and I think it’s important to acknowledge that) who worked with Jessica in a kind of moral grey area. They respect and depend on each other, and it’s this mutual respect and codependence that keeps their relationship together despite the fact that their personalities clash in a lot of ways. They both understand the concepts of right and wrong, but both have accepted that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to make good things happen.
Jessica’s approach to problem-solving is part of what makes her so unique- she makes decisions with the best intentions, that don’t always play out the way she wants them to, and then she’s left to clean up her mess. It adds a layer of complexity to her that we only ever really see in male characters, because generally in TV if a woman fucks up, it’s because she’s incompetent, but if a man fucks up, he did the wrong thing, but for the right reasons. Women are never allowed to fuck up the ways that Jessica does, and it is, again, a testament to the caliber of the writing that they allowed her character to fuck up without having anyone doubt her capabilities.
She is known for her tumultuous relationship with Luke Cage. I don’t have much to say about him, other than I love him. The comics end with Jessica revealing to Luke that she’s pregnant, and it was the main thing I dreaded about this adaptation. I knew Jessica was able to stand on her own two feet, but I worried that the show would obscure that. It’s something I’m tired of seeing- women having their stories inextricably linked to their love lives and their characters never moving beyond that. I was pleasantly surprised when the series ended and Jessica wasn’t pregnant, and I was impressed by the way the writers handled their relationship.
I knew that this show would be good, because each role was cast perfectly, it was based on a comic that I deeply love and the folks at Marvel/Netflix have been, frankly, killing it lately. I knew that I would love the show no matter what because of my connection with Jessica. I just didn’t realize how drastically the subtle changes made in the adaptation would alter the story, and I certainly didn’t expect them to make the story better than it had been in the comics, but somehow... the series is better than the comic.
I love you, Jessica Jones, and I hope we get to see more of you.