Yep, you read that right. Of all of the harrowing scenes in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, the biggest gut punch takes place in a coffee shop during a mostly quite conversation. But before I get too much into that, .
Lots and lots of spoilers. If you haven’t finished episode 10 “AKA 1,000 Cuts,” back out of this post now and come back later. And if you haven’t finished the series, I’d recommend avoiding the comment section. I’d also recommend reevaluating your life choices because what are you waiting for? Go finish it now! It’s great!
Granted I wish that they’d spent as much time on Jessica Jones’ fight scenes as they did on Daredevil’s, but that might be my only complaint. The writing, the villain, the casting, it’s all perfect. David Tennant might steal his scenes as Kilgrave, but Krysten Ritter’s performance as Jones is so pitch perfect I don’t think they could have done the show without her. Maybe it’s because of her previous roles, but I absolutely buy her as a superhero how actually has little interest in the hero part.
Which is the most intriguing part of Jones as a character. She isn’t really a hero, she’s a domestic abuse survivor who’s trying to repair her life. The fact that she might inadvertently be helping others is secondary. And the show doesn’t shy away from the underlying domestic abuse or female wish fulfillment themes in the slightest. One of Jones’ first acts is to head out into the city after dark by herself. Her superpowers allow her to do something unthinkable for most women: not be constantly afraid for her safety. It’s a surprisingly sad but completely understandable desire. If a woman had Jones’ strength, sure, she could save people. But she could also just not worry about people fucking with her.
The flip side is Jones’ terror at being victimized again by Kilgrave. While she might have super strength, she, like everyone else in the show, was susceptible to Kilgrave’s virus. The “relationship” that he’s mourning nearly destroyed her. The rape, the control, the blaming her for how he treated her. They might be heightened, comic book versions of an abusive relationship, but it’s a true depiction of an abusive relationship.
And since the show deals with the partner violence as well as it does, it shouldn’t be surprising when it also deals with the inevitable victim blaming as well. But in this case “as well” means soul crushing.
Yep, crazy ass Robyn, enraged by the death of her brother, blames Jones not only for h the abuse Jones suffered, but for the abuse that Kilgrave inflected on everyone in support group. And much like the depiction of an abusive relationship, the victim blaming is a heightened, comic book version of of victim blaming. But just barely.
At its core, this might be one of the purest versions of victim blaming that’s ever been filmed. Robyn was pissed that Jones had a “private” problem, one that didn’t affected Robyn or her brother, and turned it into a public one. If Jones had done a better job of managing her monster in private, none of these bad things would have happened to the rest of the group.
The scene exposes all of the subtext every time we ask a battered woman why she stayed. Or when we ask why a raped college student had so much to drink. Pretending that it’s a victim’s job to prevent an attack puts the crime back into the private sphere where we’re comfortable with it.
It’s another reason why diversity in casting and storytelling continue creating the best entertain available today. This story takes a familiar plotline of the hero being turned on, and gives it an entirely new spin. Most comic book/ superhero movies have villains that average people don’t know how to fight. Jessica Jones has a villain that average people don’t want to.