The past few years have been all about females taking up traditionally male roles. Last year, we had Ghostbusters. 2017 has seen a female leading the biggest superhero film ever, as well as the casting of the first ever female Dr Who. Incidentally, if your BBC iPlayer VPN is not working anymore, there are other options that will still give you access to everyone’s favorite time traveller.
Of course, internet trolls have not taken kindly to these occurrences. But they don’t take kindly to progress in general, so let’s not give them time of day. Instead, I want to focus on the character I believe is really taking us into the future.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones had her first screen adaptation in 2015’s Netflix series. It met with critical acclaim and for good reason. Jessica Jones – now appearing in The Defenders – and not Wonder Woman, is the superhero we actually need.
These are 3 reasons why:
She is flawed
Superhero movies these days try to make their heroes somewhat flawed. Mostly, they fail miserably. The one-size-fits-all genre cannot afford to make characters who are hard to like. So, Tony Stark is a good-hearted and charming (anti)hero. Guardians Of The Galaxy pretends to feature anti-heroes while giving us the same old tired self-sacrificing supermen (and woman).
Jessica Jones upends the entire genre by not just being a reluctant hero, but by being a mess of a human being. Facing her enemy head on does not lead her to get her life in order. She fails to save people along the way. She is an actual real-life human being.
She also proves that a female hero does not have to be stunningly beautiful to win us over. Of course, she’s attractive. But throughout most episodes, she looks her absolute worst. While Wonder Woman plays into the “only admirable, beautiful women can have leading roles” trope, Jessica Jones subverts it in every way possible.
She does not fall in love
Jessica Jones has an on-off relationship with Luke Cage in her first season. It cannot be called a romance, because it’s way more complicated than that. She killed his wife, after all. Most importantly, there’s none of that easy love that most superheroes find with the first beautiful woman or man they meet.
Jessica’s relationships are strained. She is difficult to like. She will definitely make for a difficult romantic partner. She actively pushes men away. This has to do with her past, and who she is as a person. And again, she proves that a female superhero does not need a man to accompany her in order to win our hearts.
Guardians Of The Galaxy again provides a fitting contrast. So-called anti-hero Gomorra falls easily in love with the attractive leading man, despite supposedly being jaded and damaged.
Her problems are real and won’t go away
Superheroes are generally presented as having difficult pasts, leaving them with scars that follow them throughout life. Most of the time, this translates as childish representations of complex character traits. They’re used for emotional moments and to justify stupid decisions that move the plot along, rather than influencing the character in a realistic way.
Jessica Jones, on the other hand, suffers from PTSD. It affects everything she does, and won’t go away just because she defeats her enemy. It’s a real disorder that makes her life miserable. There is no indication she’s getting over it anytime soon.
Jessica Jones is the superhero the genre desperately needs. But she’s also the perfect leading lady. She brings us forward in leaps and bounds, rather than the small steps we take with the archetypal goddess trope. While there’s space for both, one is far likelier to stand the test of time as a testament of feminist progress.