After months of anticipation, she’s finally here. “Jessica Jones” hit the streets on Friday with a full, non-teaser trailer, and the outlook couldn’t be brighter — or, perhaps, darker. The show appears to capitalize on the gritty tone “Daredevil” honed so effectively and ups the stakes with Marvel’s creepiest villain yet: the powerful, persuasive Purple Man. While she isn’t the first female Marvel character to helm her own series, Jessica Jones stands apart from the studio’s other women, and that sense of diversity — as well as the character’s complete emotional arc — brings some much-needed variety and development to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While Jessica Jones isn’t the first, she will helm the only female-led Netflix series. And while Black Widow, Maria Hill, Peggy Carter, Scarlet Witch, Quake, Melinda May and Mockingbird have all made important contributions to the MCU in one way or another, when it comes to concentrated storylines, all but Peggy Carter and Quake can be stripped away (and Quake’s inclusion is shaky at that). Black Widow may be the First Lady of the MCU, but she hasn’t had her own film; her arc has unfolded over a course of four movies, sprawling across a five-year time span, and it isn’t finished quite yet. Quake has been a focal point from the get-go of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but she isn’t the main focus, as fan favorite Agent Coulson as well the rest of the ensemble cast have soaked up a lot of that spotlight. Peggy Carter of “Agent Carter” is truly the only female MCU character with a story dedicated to only herself. That isn’t to devalue the contributions of Marvel’s other leading ladies; on the contrary, supporting cast members like Mockingbird and May bring an excellent variety to the teams they’re a part of, and their stories and complex characterizations contribute a lot to the MCU. Further, Black Widow is a crucial member of the Avengers, and — as I’ve previously explored — the team wouldn’t be where they are without her help. However, boiled down to the tag of “main character,” Jessica Jones joins the ranks of Peggy Carter — and that’s about it.
As such, Jessica Jones is one of a handful of MCU women, and that begs an almost inevitable comparison between them. Fortunately, however, she stands apart. She has the savvy of Peggy Carter, but not the spunk; a traumatic past like Black Widow and Melinda May, but not the cool, calm and collectedness; super abilities like Quake, but not an advanced network of support like S.H.I.E.L.D. Most of Marvel’s leading women have a sense of togetherness, or at least a group who understands their mutual struggle. Jessica Jones, on the other hand, does not. She has support from friends new and old (as it seems from the trailer) but no one can truly understand her experience or the way her past — and the Purple Man — haunts her.
The trailer shows that, as in the comics, she underwent some form of trauma (it seems as though the Purple Man forced her to murder), but she doesn’t appear to be at a point where she has come to terms with that and moved on from it, like Black Widow. For all appearances, the show will allow her to fall apart and to struggle. And, with a dedicated amount of creative space denied to characters Black Widow and Melinda May, and that makes “Jessica Jones” an extremely important addition in the MCU.
Working to tell a story with limited space is an incredible difficult task, and the writers and directors have done the best they could with the MCU’s women so far. However, there simply hasn’t been enough room to tightly develop Marvel’s female characters in a way that does justice to their experiences. When we meet them, they have purpose; they have already overcome their major emotional hurdle, and are comfortable enough with themselves and their abilities to pull off incredible feats of strength and fortitude. For the purposes of an ensemble film, this is both inevitable and understandable.
With “Jessica Jones,” the sky is the limit. The show will follow her emotional journey as she confronts her trauma head on. In the trailer, she promises to stop “the Devil” after she comes across a woman in a situation she knows all too well: recovering from a traumatic encounter with the Purple Man. Most importantly, she’ll be allowed to screw up and stumble her way through all of this, which is something characters like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Melinda May were never allowed to do on-screen. While Peggy Carter was allowed to make some mistakes in “Agent Carter,” her character simply doesn’t allow for this particular kind of exploration; what’s more, Peggy’s emotional arc was more about grief, not trauma. “Jessica Jones” may be the MCU’s first real examination of the way trauma takes a toll on a person’s life, and how that person overcomes internal adversity as well as external forces to do good in the world — something Tony Stark accomplished in “Iron Man 3,” but thus far hasn’t been afforded to the MCU’s leading ladies.
Additionally, “Jessica Jones” has more than one female character. Other Marvel Studios’ productions have been dominated by men; generally, there has been one woman — take, for instance, Sif or Pepper Potts or Black Widow — in a crowd of male characters. Even in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Black Widow and Scarlet Witch didn’t exchange a passing “hello.” “Jessica Jones” has them in spades, featuring Patsy Walker as Jessica Jones’ close friend and Jeryn Hogarth — Marvel’s first queer main character, at that! — as her boss. With the addition of Purple Man’s other victim, “Jessica Jones” offers a variety of female characters and relationships, in a way rarely tapped in the MCU. While “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” does a strong job of this, even “Agent Carter” struggled, as Peggy only has one female friend and one female antagonist. In one trailer, we’ve already seen that “Jessica Jones” should offer a wide span of interpersonal female relationships.
Ultimately, Jessica Jones’ struggle with her trauma makes her perhaps the most relatable female character from Marvel Studios to date. While we don’t all have super strength, her resulting anxiety strikes a chord. And while anxiety and trauma are not the same thing, the former often stems from the latter. As a woman with an anxiety disorder, I found myself immediately connected to the character’s chaotic stream of consciousness and realistic reactions in the comics; that isn’t to say this falls in line with everyone’s experience, but it deeply affected my personal experience of the character. I believe the show — which will undoubtedly reach a wider audience than the comics ever did — has an opportunity to connect with a wider audience in much the same way. Hopefully, this will translate to the screen; the trailer does a damn good job of making it seem as though it will.
“Jessica Jones” has turned heads since its first teaser trailer hit the Internet, and for good reason. While the women of the MCU have been flawed, each in their own way, this show will offer an examination of a female character unlike anything that’s come from a Marvel Studios production before. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and this series seems poised to tap into that with wild abandon. With an in-depth exploration of the character’s trauma and anxiety, an incredibly powerful adversary and a host of female friendships, “Jessica Jones” is making waves for all the right reasons.
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