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December 7, 2015

Jessica Jones SPOILER thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:18 AM * 91 comments

So I understand from Twitter that this is some kind of travel program about New York, including sections filmed in bits of Brooklyn that aren’t generally on the tourist trail? Do I have that right?

(I know. But I’m not in a state to watch it right now, nor to rewrite the lyrics to Mr. Jones or something to fit what I know about it.)

This thread will abound in both SPOILERS and—given the subject—numerous and varied TRIGGERS for such topics as sexual assault and gaslighting. We have a place to go if the conversation puts you in need of it, but please do not cross the streams.

Comments on Jessica Jones SPOILER thread:
#1 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:40 AM:

I've asked people not to cross the streams between this thread and Dysfunctional Families. The dividing line, if you seek one, is what happens in the series? (here) versus what happened to me that the series is bringing out? (there).

My dual priorities are to (a) shelter the DF thread from unnecessary triggers, which may restrict posting there; and (b) protect the separation of identities that allows people to comment freely in DF, which may restrict posting here.

If you're in doubt, ping me at abi at this domain and we'll figure things out backstage.

#2 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:51 AM:

I liked it a lot. But, jeez, all the characters are so unrelentingly *cheerful.*

Okay, I made that part up.

#3 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:59 AM:

I liked it a good deal more than the unrelenting grimmness of the subject matter would ordinarily make me expect.

After some reflection, I've attributed this to the way the show seems to be interested in telling the story of survivorhood rather than victimhood. There are precious few flashbacks to Jessica's time under Kilgrave's thumb, and far more attention paid to who she is in the aftermath, how she copes or fails to cope, etc. And it isn't just her: Trish with her mother, Malcolm crawling his way out of addiction, etc. It's primarily about how people survive trauma, rather than about the trauma itself -- or at least that's how it came across to me.

Also, I loved attention the story gave to women and their alliances and conflicts -- especially in light of how the ending plays out. Hell, I even loved the fact that some of the women (cough cough Jeri Hogarth cough, but Jessica too, sometimes) were allowed to be unsympathetic, without the narrative then hastily backpedaling to make them Nice. Given that one of the episodes is titled "Smile," I don't think that's an accident.

#4 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 08:39 AM:

It was in AKA Top Shelf Perverts, in the police station. Kilgrave was earnestly expressing his love to Jessica.

My husband and I looked at each other as chills ran up our spines, because what Kilgrave was saying to Jessica was, almost word for word, what another man had said to me, over twenty years ago. And it wasn't being portrayed as right, or cute, or in any way appropriate.

(Reader, no worries, I didn't marry him; even at the tender age of 19 I knew I wasn't an object to be acquired. It just took me a few years to find the words to say it.)

#5 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 09:44 AM:

I'm not a big one for romance, but I liked the attraction between Jessica and Luke Cage. They're both "gifted", and I think they each saw a sort of kindred spirit in the other. It was an "ah, I don't have to explain this, you can understand" feeling, I think.

But that part where Luke tells Jessica he forgives her? And then when Kilgrave said he told him to say that? Oh my dog, that broke me. :(

Kilgrave is arguably the most terrifying villain I've ever seen.

#6 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 09:47 AM:

The series was so on the nose sometimes, and I loved it.

There was such focus on control, not only Kilgrave using his powers but exerting social pressure, and people using their positions of privilege or superior strength or alleged expertise, and everything wrong with people attempting to control each other.

The gaslighting, the "nice guy" Kilgrave, Kilgrave playing the victim, "strong" women making excuses against all reason rather than believing victimized women, and most of all surviving. I am in complete agreement with what Marie said above.

#7 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 10:32 AM:

Jessica says that he raped her. Kilgrave says that was never his intention. Jessica says that he raped her. Kilgrave says how can he possibly tell whether someone is doing something of their own volition? Jessica says that he raped her. Kilgrave says she stayed with him for those 18 seconds of her own free will. Jessica says that he raped her and that his influence is like a mold that is hard to recover from. Killgrave says it wasn't like that. Jessica shows him the scar.

So, so powerful.

#8 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 12:52 PM:

Is it my imagination, or are there a lot more female names than usual among the directors, writers, and producers?

Because from the descriptions here (I haven't seen the show and probably won't), it sounds like the sort of thing that might be made by women and by men who like women. (As opposed to men who like to fuck women, which is not necessarily the same thing.)

#9 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 01:00 PM:

Definitely yes to the comments about survivor vs victim and the scenes where he professes his love and where she tells him what actually happened.

On a less heavy level, I was glad to see a show of this sort portray the actual horror of mind control, something they tend to just brush off and play as something useful.

I mean, in the X-Men almost all of the psychics controlling minds are heroes. In Star Wars the power to control minds is a light-side power that the Jedi use, not something evil. It's always just this happy, easy solution to an insoluble problem, as if it's okay to force someone to want to do what you tell them to.

#10 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 02:10 PM:

As will become apparent, I've been waiting for this thread.

skzb @2: But, jeez, all the characters are so unrelentingly *cheerful.* Okay, I made that part up.

I dunno. Killgrave is generally pretty chipper. O.o

Tennant's performance has been just mind-boggling. Like Dr. Who, only without the compassion.

Repeating myself from the Open Thread, I'm boggled at how it can be so hilarious—and simultaneously make me want to just crawl out of my skin. Somebody really knows their stalkers.

Janice in GA @5: Kilgrave is arguably the most terrifying villain I've ever seen.

Hear hear! (I'm somewhat reminded of a short story Spider Robinson wrote that was similarly terrifying, because the aliens could get inside your head and subsume your will. This is worse.)

I generally am extremely impatient with arch-nemeses, but it totally works for me in this one case. Mainly because, I think, Killgrave isn't the traditional antagonist, but rather is a person with whom Jessica is in mortal conflict. The nemesis-ness is almost incidental.

Dan Guy @6: There was such focus on control, not only Kilgrave using his powers but exerting social pressure

Yes! In addition to having that Power, he's also a master manipulator. He has a very deep understanding of human psychology. Retconning it, I wonder how much is from basic socialization, and how much is from having the ability to make people tell you their truth?

I've also been fascinated watching the other studies in control, as well; Hogarth being only the most obvious.

everything wrong with people attempting to control each other.

Yes. The whole series is a set of master-class studies in consent.

Lee @8: Is it my imagination...?

No, it's not. That's something that I jumped out at me the first time I pulled up the IMDB page.

it sounds like the sort of thing that might be made by women

It would take a supernaturally clued-in man to produce this thing, even with strong female influences on his team.

Dan Guy @7: Jessica shows him the scar.

It's a sad commentary on our culture that it takes showing the scar (not to mention having to have the scar to show) to shut down the argument.

micah @9: I was glad to see a show of this sort portray the actual horror of mind control, something they tend to just brush off and play as something useful.

It's one of those "absolute power" things: What kind of background, character, and personality would it take to have that power and be able—and willing!—to use (or not!) it with integrity? If one had that power, would it even be possible to develope the necessary restraint? What would have to happen?

I've actually encountered a couple of RL (albeit comparatively low-grade) instances of this, and I've concluded that anything that sets one outside of the usual constraints on human behavior is a recipe for psychosis, for many of the same reasons that solitary confinement breaks people.

One thing that struck me very early on is that Killgrave is what Charlie X would have turned into if the Thasians hadn't caught up with him.

#11 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 02:27 PM:

It's interesting to me to contrast it with the previous Marvel Netflix offering, Daredevil.

There is just no doubt in my mind that Daredevil was better made. The whole time I was watching Jessica Jones, I was missing Daredevil's amazing cinematography. Daredevil's pacing and editing did a better job of keeping me hooked, keeping me on the edge of my seat.

But there's no getting past the fact that Daredevil was a much more shallow story. There's really only one idea at the heart of Daredevil, and it's a tribute to Charlie Cox (and to his scenes with Peter McRobie's priest character) that they managed to keep it even vaguely interesting: a vigilante and a mob boss can have the same goal, repairing one neighborhood, and the same willingness to break the law, but the moral distinction is that there are some means that cannot be justified by the ends. Okay, whatever.

Jessica Jones is also a story with, really, only one idea to play with, but it's a much more interesting idea, and one with a lot more contemporary resonance: even more than the source material, this Jessica Jones is an extended riff on what "consent" really means. And it really rings all the changes on that theme in a way that Daredevil never did with its theme. If science fiction is supposed be what Isaac Asimov famously called it, the /real/ literature of ideas? Then Jessica Jones is much better science fiction.

I'll give it this much, too: other than the relationship between Hellcat and Nuke, and to a lesser extent the relationship between the twins, every character in this film is defined by their relationship with Jessica -- but man, those relationships! Jessica's just plain compassion for Malcolm before she even finds out his secret was amazing and character-defining: drunk off her backside and horrifically traumatized, she's still surprisingly gentle and tolerant with the junkie who keeps inconveniencing her. Jessica's friendship with her partner-in-childhood-trauma, Trish, is one of the best on-screen friendships I've ever seen. I could go on and on.

Oh, and I saw one interview with the cast that pointed out just how incredibly well they used the door to her office as a running metaphor. She exercises poor control over her literal boundaries in the first scene. Even her friend doesn't respect her choice of boundaries, tells her that the new boundaries that SHE picked for Jessica are better. Jessica goes through the whole series with other people able to get right through her boundaries. Jessica spends the entire last two thirds of the series thinking that she has more important problems than fixing her boundaries. Jessica's sloppy boundaries got poor Ruben killed.

#12 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 02:55 PM:

I agree with everything.

skzb @ #2: it's occurred to me that The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt has the same grim subject matter, and sets it in a relentlessly bright and cheerful atmosphere.

#13 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:11 PM:

General point about mind control: I think it's only in fairly recent decades that love spells were seen as horrifying rather than material for light comedy.

#14 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:21 PM:

Brad: That door/boundaries metaphor sailed right over my head. Thanks for pointing that out. And about J and her boundaries: I'm going to have to think about that, because that's another theme that slid right by me.

By contrast, I am in the middle of rewatching the M*A*S*H episode "The Merchant of Korea", and have found myself wondering why the hell BJ doesn't just tell Winchester to eff off. He's got the loaned money (it's been sent off to the States), so it's not like Charles can take it back. So why the hell does he feel compelled to submit to Charles's impositions? Whereas, it's taken as read in the story that BJ has an obligation to Charles because of the loan. Have the social presumptions really changed that much since '77? Or is this just me, being dense?

#15 ::: Privateiron ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:39 PM:

Actually, I thought Jessica Jones was way better made than Daredevil, but it was extremely hard to get psyched about watching the next episode. Ready to jump into today's well crafted pit of despair, hoo-ray! Daredevil was full of bloat; they could have trimmed 3 episodes off easy.

The Purple Man is one of the most awfully slimy villains ever. In comparison, Kingpin was trying to be a hero and doing it wrong; Purple Man considered imitating a hero just as a lark. He could not even put off his need for immediate gratification so that his father could serve him more effectively in the long run. (As good as Tennant was in this role, I can see why they went with Mads for Hannibal. Odd to say about a British actor, but I don't think Tennant could have portrayed the refined aspect of Lecter anywhere near as well as the Dane.)

I have mixed feelings about Jones and Cage. If we reversed the genders, I think we would all be saying Ewww at the idea of them getting back together. It's an interesting piece of feminism to have a male romantic interest who actually is a better person than the protagonist. Male protagonists are always getting women who are too good for them. (It's possible this goes for Izombie as well.) But it's good to see women with the freedom to be muddled jerks, not perfect role models. Even the best female action heroes tend to be Chosen Ones destined for greatness and service. Jones is more like a schlub who got hit with good and very bad luck, then eventually accomplished something despite herself.

Colter is absolutely perfect for Cage. He also gets some of the only genuinely humorous lines. I imagine we will find out there's a whole story, mayhap even a series, to why Cage's wife had that super secret data stick.

Kristen Ritter was amazing, hard to pull off looking genuinely hung over and still sort of functional. I am glad they did not go with the idea of her best friend being Captain Marvel. The normal-ish friend suited the story much better.

The most heart breaking thing might have been losing Ruben; he truly was a Top Shelf Pervert in the best way. The biggest Got'cha was learning that Purple wrote Cage's lines. It made perfect sense in retrospect, but wow it came out of nowhere in the moment.

#16 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:41 PM:

Just finished watching it last night, and here's a discussion thread on a site where I don't check in that often. This is my lucky day!

I'm in agreement with many of the comments here. Kilgrave is basically the extreme version of the abusive stalker, and Jessica's trauma and recovery are well done. I like the fact that she's recognizably the same person before and after Kilgrave. Her experiences with him affect her profoundly, but they don't change her into a completely different person. I love to see so many imperfect but (to varying degrees) sympathetic, or at least interesting, female characters in one show.

One thing I appreciated is that Jessica clearly isn't a trained fighter. She uses her super-strength and her jumping ability in fights, but she has no technique. That seems very appropriate for a character who never really got into the superhero business. She's not a superhero, she's a person with powers.

I thought it was interesting that different people were able to resist Kilgrave's power to differing degrees. Trisha, for example, was able to resist to some extent (at least enough to allow her to keep herself from shooting herself).

Where I thought the series was weak was in the pacing and some of the plotting, especially the interactions with the legal system. I was pissed off by the murder of the detective, which was almost completely irrelevant to the plot and mainly served just to show that Simpson had gone off the rails (and it brought to mind a certain character in Daredevil whose death also seemed gratuitous). The last episode had a number of scenes that seemed shoe-horned in to set things up for the next season and/or related series. But there's always something to quibble about.

#17 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 03:45 PM:

The, um, atmospherics? were gorgeous. It really looked like New York City. The streets were the right width, they had the right mix of garbage and residences and businesses. Jessica and Luke's apartments weren't bizarrely large, even Trish's apartment was a realistic size and layout for her income. And there was the wonderfully comfortable way that the incidental cast was not assumed to be white or straight. People of color , and not the same color, showed up regularly. The stock broker at the end has a boyfriend, who is Asian. I also liked the fact that most of the supporting cast were given a little space to be their ownselves, not just extensions of Jessica's story. It makes the story move a little slower, but so worth it.

I loved the opening credits, the jazzy music transitioning into a rock and roll sound, the noir artwork with a bit too much fuchsia, the way it evoked both noir and art work. I"m told it looks just like the books, but I don't read comics, so I can't speak to that. But it's very, very pretty.

#18 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 04:02 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #13: My university's theater kids recently did a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream where they tried to incorporate the issue of consent in a world with mind-controlling love spells.

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 04:41 PM:

rm, #18: How did that work out? Enquiring minds want to know!

#20 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 04:45 PM:

I liked how they were faithful to the character of Jessica from the comics, but not the plots. I knew they couldn't have Jean Grey in the series, and didn't expect to see the Avengers or Captain Marvel or Spider-Woman or even J. Jonah Jameson. I like that they took the comparatively brief Kilgrave arc that closed the comics series and dove deeply into it.

My biggest uncertainty is about the ending. In the comics, Kilgrave's control over Jessica is broken by someone else, not due to anything Jessica did. On one hand, I like that in the show Jessica breaks his control over her herself, due to her abject horror at killing Reva. On the other hand, I think that sets up a bad precedent that then reflects poorly on the other characters. If doing something that abhorrent breaks Kilgrave's control, what does that say about the other characters who never shook off his control?

I get that telling characters to kill themselves in horrible ways doesn't count, because it's not the abhorrent act that you can refuse but any subsequent commands. There were other characters forced to do horrible things who were then forced to do further horrible things, though.

Does having superpowers somehow factor in? Luke Cage did some terrible things, but maybe none of them were abhorrent enough? And he was perhaps able to pause long enough to allow Jessica to shoot him.

I don't know. I liked the show so much, I'm just trying to develop a headcannon that explains away this one niggling detail.

#21 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 05:06 PM:

Dan Guy @20: It doesn't exactly state that Jessica broke his control due to abhorring the action, it states that she became immune on a biological level.

More likely than just abhorrence, her prolonged exposure (he discarded most people quickly, on account of their lack of use to him) slowly built up a tolerance, so when that truly abhorrent event happened, she had a much smaller hurdle to jump in breaking his powers. So, had he made her kill someone day one, she would have stayed with him afterwards.

#22 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 05:20 PM:

micah @21: That's perfect. Thank you!

#23 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 05:36 PM:

Haven't watched the show yet--it's going to be a while before I can--so I was hesitant to comment, but I can't resist the current discussion of mind control. The thing is, when we talk about forcing someone to do something that would normally be abhorrent to them, we are talking in degrees. That is, how far off from something that that person WOULD normally do is this act?

It made me think of the old cliche about not being able to hypnotize someone into behavior that they wouldn't be capable of in some (not the current, not all) circumstances. I've no idea how true that is, either, but the mind's ability to convince itself that Action A is really Action B fascinates me. For a really trivial example, I've no objection to barking like a dog or meowing like a cat, even in public in some circumstances (really; I freely admit that I'm maybe a little weird about animal noises), so would it be easier to hypnotize me and order me to so, or just as difficult as ordering me to perform an action that I'd never perform? If Kilgrave (consciously or unconsciously) figures out how to order people do things similar to what they might do in very different circumstances, he might then have a better chance at overpowering their own wills. He'd sort of be matching his "master manipulator" ability with his super power, and he'd be even more terrifying, to my perception. And if he goes too far with some people, or even gives one person too much of a chance to begin to learn to perceive what he's doing, then that too might help explain Jessica's resistance.

It also opens up the possibility that there might be people who would never be able to face what they had done, who would lie to themselves and strengthen Kilgrave's control over them that way, which--ouch. You know, maybe I don't mind waiting to watch this show after all . . . does Kilgrave's command wear off after a while, if he doesn't reinforce it? That is, if he orders someone to bark like a dog, do they keep barking like a dog until they die, or do they eventually stop? I can't quite remember from the comics.

#24 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 06:01 PM:

Mary Frances @23:
"For a really trivial example, I've no objection to barking like a dog or meowing like a cat, even in public in some circumstances (really; I freely admit that I'm maybe a little weird about animal noises), so would it be easier to hypnotize me and order me to so"

Sure. It would be unnecessary to hypnotize you; I could presumably just ask you to meow for me as a favor. (Actually, would you? That would probably help illustrate my point nicely. Thanks in advance. :) )

The interesting thing about hypnosis is its ability to shift perceptions. A suggestion like "when I snap my fingers, you'll find that whenever I ask you a question, you can only answer by meowing; no matter how hard you try to answer me in English, only meows come out" can make the meowing seem involuntary, even if it isn't. Nevertheless, if for some reason you had a strong moral objection to the concept of meowing, it would be very unlikely for you to accept a suggestion like that.

Moral objections have no force against Kilgrave, though, except in the unique case of Jessica, who has superpowers.

"does Kilgrave's command wear off after a while, if he doesn't reinforce it?"

Yes, it has a time limit.

#25 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 06:53 PM:

On Midsummer Night's Dream: Oh, disappointingly, I did not catch the show, but it got rave reviews.

I'm not sure how exactly they did it in the staging -- I think delivering some lines with more of a horrified than comedic affect. But the first night they did a discussion after the play.

#26 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 06:59 PM:

My headcanon is that since Jessica heals extremely quickly, she has a superhuman immune system. In the show, Kilgrave's power is explained as an airborne virus.

Also, I assume she is superhumanly tolerant of alcohol, 'cause damn.

#27 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 08:13 PM:

Presumably she and Wolverine metabolize alcohol similarly.

Most of when we see Logan, he's chugging companionably through constant bottles of beer, which basically keeps him somewhere between sober and slightly cheerful (yes, that IS him at 'cheerful').

If you're actually aiming to stay significantly self-medicated AND you have that metabolism, whoo.

#28 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 08:14 PM:

Janet @16: Trish shot the glass 4 times, breaking it, and shot Kilgrave with her 5th bullet. When he told her to put a bullet in her head, she was out of ammo. She put the gun to her throat and pulled the trigger. So she didn't resist at that time, at all, alas.

The next time we see her, she can't figure out how to reload her revolver, and is trying to drive a bullet into her head with her hand. Jessica short-circuits that impulse by having her put the bullet in her mouth.

#29 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 10:03 PM:

Mary Francis @23: Ah, but you DO want to do what Kilgrave wants. That's how the power works. He doesn't make you do it. He makes you want to do it, more than you want anything else in the world, no matter what it takes, no matter what it costs. Because he wants it, and you want to do what he wants.

Up until the end of the series, when he manages to boost his power's range and duration briefly, his limitations are that you and he have to share the same air, and you have to be within 40' of him, at the time he gives the order. And it wears off 12 hours after the last time he gave you an order, more or less.

Even with her extra-fast healing, it took 6 months in his company, full time, for Jessica to become immune to the virus. Although at the time, she didn't attribute it to viral immunity, she attributed it to having been made to kill an innocent person. Which left her blaming herself for not breaking free earlier, until she found out otherwise.

#30 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2015, 11:10 PM:

At the time, she didn't realize she had broken free. She didn't realize she had resisted in the seconds leading up to the bus accident that she thought killed Kilgrave. She thought his death freed her.

Kilgrave, however, knew she was immune, and was careful to not give her a command she would refuse so she wouldn't figure it out.

Which really was just another layer of manipulation. He made her, "of her own free will", send him pictures of her, move in with him, etc.

#31 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 03:42 AM:

Yep. I was summarizing the story to a couple of friends of mine for whom this kind of thing is too intense to actually watch, and this was the part they twigged on:

One of the reasons why Kilgrave is obsessed with Jessica is that this is his one opportunity, ever, to have someone love him who wasn't forced to do so. So he's doing to do whatever it takes to force her to love him. He's that effed up.

#32 ::: Amy Ziegfeld ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 08:47 AM:

There's a moment toward the end of the last episode that really struck me. Jessica, Hogarth, and an unnamed DA are sitting in an interrogation room hashing out what to do about Jessica having snapped Kilgrave's neck. Hogarth presents her version of events: Overcome with self-loathing, Kilgrave ordered Jessica to kill him. Jessica looks shocked and spends the rest of the scene squirming, clearly wishing to dispute this story. It's a minor moment of tension because we're not sure if she's going to speak up and potentially make her case much more complicated, but ultimately she keeps quiet.

It's amazing because, thanks to everything that's come before and Ritter's acting, we get exactly what her internal struggle is. She overcame Killgrave, she beat him on her own and killed him of her own volition. She's spent over a year recovering from his manipulation and getting out from under his thumb, and now she's gotten rid of him for good. Yet, her throwing him off is being portrayed as her being, once again, Killgrave's puppet. She won because she overcame his power for good, but in order to avoid legal trouble she has to portray herself as the innocent victim and Killgrave as having just... decided he was done.

There's just so much to this show, every layer tying back into the themes of abuse, the way abusers operate, the way society shelters abusers and punishes victims who don't fit the proper narrative.

#33 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 11:52 AM:

May I point out that Jessica Jones went to high-school with Veronica Mars, whose father was the alien Mathesar?

#34 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:14 PM:

Here's a parallel that I haven't seen much made of, which I think the show did interesting things with: Kilgrave & Hogarth.

Obviously the parallel is light: Hogarth isn't a rapist/murderer, nor does she have mind control powers. They're more different than similar.

On the other hand, the show hints strongly at the connection by having Hogarth be the only non-Kilgrave characters to show interest in his powers as a possible good -- the whole "imagine what his powers could do if he were on our side", thing, with Jones's apt rejoinder about what side is this; her attempt to replicate his powers using the aborted fetus. (There's a possible, arguable exception, depending on whether you think Jones was ever really tempted to try and turn Kilgrave into a hero or was always using that to play him.)

But the moment where the parallel really reached out and hit me was when Pam was in the interrogation room and she said something to Hogarth about "you made me a killer", and Hogarth's reply is that she didn't do that, Pam *choose* to bash in Wendy's skull. It's eerily parallel to what Kilgrave says to Jones about her killing of Cage's wife Reva: I didn't tell you to murder her, I just said take care of her, it was your choice. In both cases the guilty party is trying to gaslight the other, weaker party into taking guilt for their actions. It's an incredible moment of abuse from Hogarth, and IMS it's right after that that Pam says Hogarth is evil and she doesn't want anything to do with her.

Not sure where I would go with this parallel. Maybe this: it's good to have some element in the show to reaffirm (what we already know but which people are capable of missing) that Kilgrave's evil is about his sociopathy, his manipulativeness, his willingness to abuse others, etc, rather than his powers per se. The fact that Hogarth can echo him (on a smaller level) reinforces the connection between Kilgrave and real-life abusers whom he resembles in so many ways.

#35 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:24 PM:

Janice @28 -- Ah, that makes more sense. Thanks!

Amy @32 -- I like Jessica in that scene, too, and I read her internal conflict in the same way. I thought it was very powerful. But at the same time I thought it was undermined by the whole legal situation, which didn't make much sense.

#36 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:24 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #13: this is an interesting insight, I think. It would be good material for a paper exploring the cultural change around consent I think — the fact that (I think? as far as I know?) in earlier times *everyone* took lovespells as funny, no one saw them as horrific.

I wonder when this change happened? Quite recently, I would say. I wonder is there some popular culture artifact that is either the marker or the cause of the start of the change (when did it start? How fast did it spread?)

Two Marvel comics examples (to stick vaguely on topic):

1) Carol Danvers. In Avengers #200, she runs off with an interdimensional villain who used some sort of SFified love spell on her. X-Men writer Chris Claremont was reputedly horrified by this, and wrote X-Men Annual #10 which showed her furious at the Avengers for betraying her and (basically) abetting her rape.

2) Starfox, an erstwhile Avenger who made people "feel good", a power treated as unproblematic in his time in the Avengers, but which was then treated as sexual assault in Dan Slott's run on She Hulk (although, IMS, it was somehow explained away at the end of the story line.)

...OT, but it occurs to me that the Jedi/Sith mind control powers are never shown as evil that I can recall (certainly not in the films). The Sith are evil due to rather old fashioned chopping, choking & lightning zapping; the Jedi, who use mind control, are the good guys. Perhaps Star Wars should take "how to make villains seem evil" lessons from Jessica Jones.

#37 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Amy Ziegfeld #32/Janet #5: That moment could be another entry in my "Hogarth/Kilgrave parallels" sketch in #34. In a small way there, Hogarth is taking agency/truth from Jones (and giving that agency, fictionally, to Kilgrave). Sure, she means well -- ut then, according to him, so did Kilgrave. (That's unfair: she really was trying to help Jones, Kilgrave wasn't.) Anyway, Readers, add that in to the above, please.

#38 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:42 PM:

I liked the series's second half, but the whole thing overall suffered from some paddingitis. Had the tale been told over 8 hours instead of 13, it'd have been far more powerful. In my personal opinion, anyway.

#39 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:43 PM:

Apropos of Stephen's points: one of the things I like best about this show is that it isn't only about rape and Kilgrave as a rapist/abuser. It's also about Jeri mistreating her ex-wife and girlfriend, and about Trish's mother mistreating her daughter, and about Jessica mistreating Cage, and about Robyn mistreating her brother, and so on. Not all of these situations are equivalent; some abuse is more severe than other cases. But part of what makes the show work, I think, is that richness: it isn't hammering a single note the whole time, but exploring multiple angles on its topic, with different characters and different kinds of relationship. Helps it avoid being a Very Special Episode of the Marvel franchise, handing out a lecture in thirteen episodes.

#40 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 02:51 PM:

Amy, #32: Yeah, that would be a powerful moment.

I can think of two potential reframings that might help someone in Jessica's situation at that point:

1) "It's the last he'll get, and not enough to fight over." (This is actually a line used to describe an embezzling trustee in a Regency romance, but it has wider applications.) This is the one last time that Jessica has to effectively give Kilgrave a say in her life, and then she is DONE with him forever.

2) "You can accomplish anything as long as you're willing to let someone else get the credit." This is no different, at root, from what a lot of women in business environments have to deal with; their accomplishments are routinely stolen and given to men. In this particular case, the goal is staying out of jail, and the price that has to be paid is letting Kilgrave have the credit for her own mental/moral strength.

Note that I'm not offering up either of these reframings as the "right" way to look at the situation, but only as alternatives which might help Jessica (or someone in an analogous position) feel a little better about what she's having to do.

#41 ::: Amy Ziegfeld ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 06:01 PM:

Janet, #35

I actually am a lawyer in real life, and... You're right, neither scenario seems particularly harder than the other for the defense. The scenario proffered by Hogarth is one of... I suppose duress or incapacity. Either A. she was forced to do it against her will, or B. she wasn't consciously responsible for her actions.

(Duress in real life tends to be "somebody threatened to shoot my family if I didn't rob that bank," so consciously responsible for your actions but forced into them by outside circumstances. Incapacity is more "I robbed that bank while sleepwalking," so unaware of your situation and without the mental state to have willed yourself to commit the crime you committed. In a world with 100% effective mind control, I could see either defense applying, depending on how the control was framed.)

The alternative that maintains Jones' agency would probably be a self-defense or defense-of-others argument. That seems tough, because Killgrave doesn't appear to be armed or actively threatening physical violence. But on the other hand, both Hogarth's story and the true story rely upon accepting that Killgrave has mind control powers. If you can surmount that hurdle for one story, you can surmount it for both.

Further: Presumably the entire crowd at the docks will vouch for Killgrave's mind control abilities. But Hogarth's story requires getting the entire crowd on board for "Killgrave ordered Jones to kill him," while the truth requires everyone to testify, truthfully, that they were ready to kill one another on Killgrave's command until Jones intervened.

I guess my take is that, for purposes of putting the incident away, it's a little tidier to just say that Killgrave did it, since the DA already let Hope go on basically the same argument (under Killgrave's influence). Once the question of self-defense arises, you need to interview all those witnesses and confirm that story. It seems like Hogarth's story is better calculated to get the DA to bite so that the whole case can be put behind them.

#42 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 06:54 PM:

Stephen Frug #36: in earlier times *everyone* took lovespells as funny, no one saw them as horrific.

AIUI, it's not so much that they thought they were "funny", as that they represent human experience -- people can fall in love "out of the blue", and find themselves wondering "where did that come from". For most of human history, "a god/spirit/demon/witch did it" has been considered a reasonably satisfactory explanation for such matters. (q.v. "genius")

Then too, romantic love (not to mention sexual desire) has often been seen as dangerous and antisocial, not to mention a breach of parental control. Remember the discussion in DF a ways back about how "love is not necessarily good"? Prior eras knew that just fine -- think in those terms, and love spells start to look more plausible. Including the nasty aspects!

#43 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 07:22 PM:

I grew up thinking of certain things I did or that happened to me as normal and funny, but when I look back now, they really were deeply not ok.

But I laughed, and I shook off the weird feeling because "obviously" it was funny.

#44 ::: Gement ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 07:57 PM:

I admired that the show is almost an exploded diagram of abusive scenarios and their effects. They showed between 5 and 8 specific and different abusive relationship structures, and I'm rounding Kilgrave down to 1 there. (the counts above 5 are questions of where you draw the line between "Abusive Relationship" and "You Just Don't DO That WTF")

1. Kilgrave/everyone

2. Parents/Kilgrave (even if treatment was necessary, the behavior on those tapes was BS)

3. Stage mom/Trish ("If you hadn't eaten all that pizza, we wouldn't have to do this.")

4. The twins ("He'll never make it out there; he can't even tie his shoes without my permission!")

5. Supersoldier/Trish (The drugs made me do it... uh huh.)

The remaining things are clearly Not Okay but don't have the... I don't know, a weird clinging feeling I associate with abuse situations? Mileage varies.

6. The lawyer's divorce getting nasty was an open question with both sides behaving badly until she sent her known violent superstrength PI to get a signature.

7. It's complicated, but Malcolm being open to being used, by Jessica and by the surviving twin. It seemed like in trying to atone, he'd lost track of his boundaries and both of them were stomping all over that. When Jessica used him as a distraction in the crowded official building, without warning him, all I could think was, "Jessica, this is how black people DIE."

8. Jessica having sex with Luke after a year of, let's be blunt, stalking him with her PI skills. Out of guilt, but whatever. Because she is an active alcoholic with poor impulse control, but whatever. Jessica having sex with Luke after literally throwing his wife under a bus. (Usually writing black women out is so much more figurative!)

Whether you call it rape or a more nuanced word, it sure ain't consent.

In comics, they end up together. I'm relieved that at least in this version, thanks to Kilgrave's amazing stagecraft, we don't see free Luke interact with Jessica after she comes clean. No instant forgiveness. I'm hoping they let him not forgive her for a damn long time.

#45 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 08:59 PM:

I was puzzled by how mixed the actions scenes were in quality. The bar fight early on — Jessica & Luke against a bunch of toughs — was a nice study in personalities. Jessica was perfectly willing to break pieces of the bar, while Luke carefully avoided doing so.

On the other hand, some of the stuntwork was just terrible. There’s a scene where Jessica jumps to get away from some gunmen, and they don’t even show the jump. Just a close-up of her feet starting to jump, and then the gunmen looking around, confused. It reminded me of a comedic scene from Blackadder (the one where he’s on trial for witchcraft).

#46 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 09:16 PM:

Avram @45: I noticed that, in general, they were somewhat reluctant to directly show JJ's "jumping" powers. Shots of her landing, or closeups of feet, etc, were about all we got. My feeling was that was either deliberate, or they had a hard time getting it to look good, so they punted.

Gement @44: Rounding Kilgrave/Everyone down to 1 knocks a lot of abusive relationships out of the count :-). I would be tempted to count Jeri/wife and Jeri/girlfriend as well.

What's also important is not just the variety of abuse patterns, but the variety of abuse survivor responses. JJ falls into the bottle, troubled by nightmares/flashbacks; Hope kills herself to stop enabling her abuser; Simpson becomes an abuser, "apologizing" to his victim; Malcolm tries to help others; etc.

#47 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 09:23 PM:

Gement @44: Regarding Luke/Jessica, I keep thinking of just extending the messed up relationships they've been going with and having him keep right on not forgiving her, but still going with the comic story of her being pregnant with their child.

Except now, it's not some happy family, and in fact she got pregnant while he was under Kilgrave's control, and he's the sort of guy that will try to be a father, but that doesn't mean he'll be a husband by any stretch. Probably not where they're going, but it would fit with the messed up nature of her life.

#48 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2015, 10:45 PM:

Stephen @ 36: In the follow-up series to the comics, "The Pulse", they deal with the whole debacle of Carol Danvers being mind-controlled by an interdimensional being in order to conceive and give birth to him, allowing him entry into our world, so that they could be a IRL couple.

#49 ::: Privateiron ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2015, 09:25 AM:

Gement @44: I think 6-8 all count as abuse. What Jessica does in the hospital is a pretty clear signal that she's not a "hero" in the usual TV sense. At least they did not try to pass it off as humor. ("Tonto, don't go to town!)

I thought that Hogarth might be attracted to Kilgrave's potential and no shock, she was. (Did they use the same design people from "House of Cards"? They basically made her a clone of Robin Wright.)

I was surprised at how little use they made of the amazing Clarke Peters, but he was fantastic in his few scenes.

#50 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2015, 04:20 PM:

Mind control is an interesting and terrifying power, made more complex when viewed in the context of other superpowers or Jedi mind tricks. I play a lot of tabletop RPGs, and I usually play the mage or other spell-using-person. Many systems don't bake in creative and nonviolent solutions for non magic-users.

A lot of modern RPGs have a spell or ability that is functionally a Jedi Mind Trick: on the spot hypnotic-like suggestion, with a customary wrinkle - the closer your suggestion is to something the target would actually want to do, the more likely it is to succeed. There are straight-up mind control spells too, but they tend to be a lot messier and I rarely actually used them.

In a recent Star Wars campaign, I played a best-case-scenario mind-control person - she was a civil servant who used suggestion primarily to de-escalate situations and cut through bureaucracy. She would always try normal negotiation tactics first, and relied on mind tricks only when there was no other nonviolent option. When used correctly and ethically, Jedi mind tricks are little more than an exceptionally strong ability to bluff or negotiate.

And that's a thing that Jessica Jones touched on: in a way, successful lies and manipulation are a form of "mind control," they make you think the universe is different than it actually is, and act accordingly. But total blank honest truth doesn't ever really work either, because lawful society is forged on rules that privilege the powerful and don't account for edge-cases. Violence is so often the default in these settings (and in human conflict resolution in general). Lies, con artistry, or mind control are sometimes the best ways to avoid violence once it seems inevitable.

My favorite personal use of suggestion was in a Shadowrun campaign. We had just purchased a piece of contraband from a guy who stole it, when a squad of trained assassins burst into the bar where we were doing the deal, intent on retrieving the item. We had the thing but they thought our source had it, so I used the simplest suggestion I could think of: "Your target is going to try to escape in the confusion so focus on him, let everyone else go."

I succeeded, and I succeeded STRONG. My whole team walked out of there unharmed, along with several dozen innocent bystanders. The guy we'd bought the thing from was dead for sure, but that was pretty much inevitable, given the firepower the assassins had and the size of their team. Fights where there was no harm done to anyone not directly involved with the scheme were rare in that world, but we achieved it... all thanks to mild to moderate mind control.

In the end, our conclusions about mind control were interesting if morally unsatisfying, and similar to the conclusions the show came to - not just in regards to mind control, but all superpowers. When a genuinely good person who constantly worries about becoming a monster has these powers, they can do a whole lot of good. But eliminate the constant paranoia about becoming evil or turning to the dark side, and it's pretty easy to play god. That's one of the big things about Killgrave: he's never going to develop that internal compass, so "deploying" him in a controlled fashion is impossible.

The last time I played Shadowrun, they had changed the system so that the most viable magical build was a charisma mage: essentially a character who is naturally extremely attractive, and enhances that attractiveness with surgery and makeup. The vast majority of their tricks involve using people's default desire to please attractive people, and a lot of their actual spells just push "attractive person privilege" a few points further. I made a mage of that type, and made her sort of a low-level internet personality. I was kind of amazed how far I could get with just being attractive and moderately well-known. The inherent bonuses from those qualities were equal in power to the effectiveness of an actual mind-control spell cast by someone less charismatic. I'm not sure how to wrap that up neatly, but I found that mechanical tidbit interesting.

Mind control is terrifying in part because it's invisible and leaves no trace. I'm sure if most people were given a choice between being shot in the head and being mysteriously compelled to walk outside, they'd choose the latter... but we understand a corpse with a bullet in its head. We know what happened there. There's evidence. I can understand why many feel that mind control is a violation even more serious than violence, even while I continue to make "good guy" characters who can use it. I think it helps if you consider it a last resort second only to ending a life, and use it accordingly.

#51 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2015, 09:45 PM:

The show was okay-ish, but has some rather glaring flaws. The awful fight/powers cinematography, and the weak-ass writing (like Malcolm getting over his drug habit within, like, a few minutes, just through the power of friendship) foremost among them.

I would have loved for the show to have been better, because I'm sure it's weaknesses will be attributed to being "female-centered", even though there is no evidence of that.

#52 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 01:01 PM:

...So was anybody else, after Jessica snapped Killgrave's neck, thinking, "Please actually remove his head from his body!"?

Privateiron @15: The Purple Man is one of the most awfully slimy villains ever. In comparison, Kingpin...

I finally worked out that by "The Purple Man" you mean Killgrave. If so, where does "The Purple Man" name come from? I don't recall him being called that in the series. Is that from the comic? And who's Kingpin?

Janet @16: Where I thought the series was weak was in the pacing and some of the plotting

I finally finished it last night. Part of what took me so long was that Netflix had the aspect ratio borked, and it was giving me a headache. But once they fixed that, I realized that I was just kind of struggling (not hugely, but noticeably) through the last five eps. The middle eps were much better, in terms of their intensity and ability to suck me in. I think that's because they were focused more on characterization than action. As a general rule, action generally bores me, and I will often as not fast forward through fight and chase scenes. I only resorted to that once in ep 12, but even so, those last five eps were kind of a let-down.

Brad Hicks @31: So he's doing to do whatever it takes to force her to love him. He's that effed up.

...because he knows, on some level, that he's unlovable. His mistake (and his tragedy) is in not understanding that it's his behavior that makes him unlovable, not his intrinsic self. (Well, if you postulate that his psychopathy is a product of his circumstances, rather than a result of an organic defect.) (Not unlike the fallacy trolls commonly succumb to, "You don't like what I have to say!" "Um, no, we don't like what you're saying because you're being rude.")

Serge Broom @33: *snerk* Small world, eh?

Stephen Frug @34: Kilgrave & Hogarth

Yeah, I was intrigued by that parallel, too.

Stephen Frug @36: the change (when did it start? How fast did it spread?)

It's been in the water for a long time, at least as far back as the '70s.

But for my sense, the real sea change is a product of the interesction of the Internet and the ascendency of the Geeks (the latter of which has been a long time brewing, but I think Obama's election marks the tipping point).

Female Geekdom (dating roughly from the start of the Hawkeye Project, and [that woman who objected to guys making sexist remarks behind her at the conference, and tweeting their photo, and the resulting firestorm; specifics elude me]), and Geeks of Color sort of collectively stood up, shook its head, and said, "Now wait just a minute...!"

It's really been gaining steam in the last two-three years, such that it's even hit the mainstream: the Grey's Anatomy episode "Something Against You" had a really nice primer on privilege, for example.

Another marker, I think, is the whole Puppies Hugos fracas.

I think it's also a generational thing: we're now well into our second post-Feminism generation, with women coming up who expect to be heard and have their viewpoint considered seriously. And where they find they can't expect it, they demand it.

Stephen Frug @37: Sure, she means well -- but then, according to him, so did Kilgrave. (That's unfair: she really was trying to help Jones, Kilgrave wasn't.

Well, except that it seemed to me that Killgrave somehow believed in his core that Jessica could love him, if he could just get the conditions right.

Given his history and his relationship with humankind, I think Killgrave just doesn't get the concept of consent, except in the most abstract sense. It eludes him entirely that he simply can't make someone truly love him.

Serge Broom @38: Had the tale been told over 8 hours instead of 13, it'd have been far more powerful.

I think you're right.

Elliott Mason @43: But I laughed, and I shook off the weird feeling because "obviously" it was funny.

Rewatching M*A*S*H, I've kind of had to keep one eye half screwed shut to ignore the whole "Hawkeye as serial harrasser" theme. I didn't find it funny at the time, but nowadays I find it not only not-funny, but seriously not-even-okay. (Huh. Maybe this, in part, explains my general aversion to sitcoms.)

Gement @44: I admired that the show is almost an exploded diagram of abusive scenarios and their effects.

Oo! YES, I like that image.

Privateiron @49: They basically made her a clone of Robin Wright.

*snerk* Black  hat  suit Claire Underwood. :-)

Leah Miller @50: successful lies and manipulation are a form of "mind control," they make you think the universe is different than it actually is, and act accordingly.

Thus my initial take that the series was "about" gaslighting—it's really about abuse, of which gaslighting is a subset. But that's what really stood out to me in the beginning.

I think it helps if you consider it a last resort second only to ending a life, and use it accordingly.

Dear Ghu, can you imagine what our current political scene would look like, if actual mind control were a thing? ::shudder::

Stanoje @51: I would have loved for the show to have been better

Mileage clearly varies. For my money, the fight choreography was entirely ignorable (because fights:boring, for my taste), and Malcolm's recovery was one piece of one out of 13 episodes.

#53 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 01:13 PM:

Kingpin is the villain-name of the main baddie from Daredevil, who in the recent Netflix TV version is, I think, never called that (they use his name, Wilson Fisk).

#54 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 02:14 PM:

Jacque, #52: Kingpin. Apparently they've done away with his cape name on the show.

#55 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 02:27 PM:

And here's the ref on the Purple Man. Yes, it's the comic book name of Kilgrave. (Haven't watched the show yet, but I don't mind spoilers.)

#56 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 04:09 PM:

Jacque @52:

The show alludes to the "Purple Man" moniker, although it never actually says the name: Jessica's flashbacks to Killgrave always have purple lighting, and often present-day scenes where he uses his powers do as well. At least a few of his outfits also include purple - I've seen a purple scarf with an overcoat, and a purple suit jacket.

In the comics, the source of his powers was exposure to a chemical that altered his skin, turning it purple and mutating it to produce psychoactive pheremones.

#57 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 04:48 PM:

When Hope got into the elevator, she had [if I recall] a purple purse. I enough time to think "I hope that doesn't mean something." And then ONE SECOND LATER she reached into it. Ouch.

#58 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 05:09 PM:

shadowsong @56: Killgrave ... purple lighting

Ah, that would be why I missed that; while I was struggling to cope with the anamorphed image, I jacked up the exposure on my screen, which had the effect of enhancing the yellow and supressing the purple, so I totally missed the purple lighting for much of the series.

#59 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 07:36 PM:

I think that Malcolm's recovery actually makes sense. Normally when recovering from addiction, there are two pieces: the physical addiction and the emotional structures that led to the addiction. With the notable exception of nicotine, the first is the easy one. Malcolm certainly had the first, but there's no reason to believe that he had the second. Jessica gets him past the bad bit with the physical piece, and in fact engages his innate emotional structures by challenging him. Malcolm really doesn't have a reason to stay a junkie, as he never had a good reason to be one in the first place.

#60 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2015, 08:34 PM:

Jacque #52: So was anybody else, after Jessica snapped Killgrave's neck, thinking, "Please actually remove his head from his body!"?

Actually, yeah. Gruesome though it be.

#61 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2015, 10:29 AM:

This will be a little long and discursive. I'm going to start out by saying that I absolutely believe in redemption. I'm a fan of it. I truly believe that even horrible people who have done horrible things can become better people. However, there is a very specific redemption narrative that really chaps my ass. I didn't realize how much I disliked it until I saw the third season of "Slings and Arrows" were they declined to follow the script, and it filled me with an absolutely unholy joy.

I think of it as the story of The Boy With All the Clues. The story arc is about some guy (almost always a guy, in fact) who is in a position of power and behaves badly. Throughout the narrative, he is provided multiple clues that he's being an asshole. Sometimes it's people sorrowfully telling him that he's behaving badly, sometimes it's a reversal of fortune where he has to experience crap, sometimes it's a sudden loss... whatever. Over and over again, the protagonist is given clue after clue after clue. Eventually, he has a sudden after-school-special moment, where he realizes that he's been an asshole, and then there are unicorns farting rainbows and bunny rabbits dancing in green grass, and all is right in the world. Possibly my very least favorite of this genre is "A Christmas Carol," but that's partly because I truly hate Dickens.

One of the really problematic aspects of these narratives is that the victims exist primarily as set pieces and props. Their pain is an object lesson, and their oppression merely a device for helping TBWATC learn better. The final clue is never a truly righteous anger by one of the abused. And, very often, the denouement includes forgiveness from the abused. One of the functions of these narratives is to get people to be patient with their abusers, to defuse their anger and despair by holding out hope that the bastard will learn better. The thing I loved about the ending of "Slings and Arrows" is that TBWATC did exactly what the powerful assholes in my life have always done, which is make a nod toward becoming a better person, but then slip right back to being an asshole the moment it becomes convenient for them.

In "Jessica Jones" there are a series of nods to this narrative. The videos that suggest an abused childhood, some of the ways in which Killgrave acts like he's really trying to change for Jessica, that horrific suggestion that she act as his moral compass and her briefly considering actually taking that devil's bargain. But the show firmly rejects this narrative, and embraces the fact that none of his victims owe him a second chance, and that their rage is utterly reasonable.

I especially appreciated the way the truly horrifying videos of the ten-year-old Killgrave being experimented upon were re-contextualized by the information that child-KIllgrave had a deadly disease and that these were medical procedures attempting to save his life. I don't think that they're evidence of abuse (as someone suggested). I would have to watch the videos again, carefully, but I don't recall anything that strikes me as abusive if seen as a medical procedure.

I used to work in Bone Marrow Transplant, and so I got to see the edges of parents making truly terrifying choices for their very young children. Bone marrow transplants are an extreme procedure, and it's actually very frightening to realize that the person capable of giving informed consent is not the person who will suffer the consequences of the decision. One of my nieces was born with several congenital heart defects. Her first open heart surgery was about fifteen minute after birth. By the time she was five, she'd had three open heart surgeries. On the way to the doctor, she would recognize the exit from the freeway to the hospital, and start screaming. She didn't stop screaming until she was in the car on the way home. My sister was calm and pragmatic about this behavior (bless her). And now, Willow is sixteen, active, healthy, smart, and a lovely lovely girl. Because her parents chose procedures that were extremely painful and utterly terrifying.

And there we have the thing I love most about JJ: consent is hard. Consent is complicated.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2015, 02:46 PM:

Lydy, #61: That's a fine and thought-provoking analysis, particularly your dissection of the TBWATC trope. Would you consider porting it over to the current DFD thread? I think there are people there, who may not be reading this thread, who would find it useful.

#63 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2015, 11:55 PM:

Lydy Nickerson @61: One of the functions of these narratives is to get people to be patient with their abusers, to defuse their anger and despair by holding out hope that the bastard will learn better.

This rhymes very strongly for me with a discussion else-thread (maybe in one of the DFD threads?) about the "Beauty and the Beast" trope wherein it's the heroine's job to suffer the Beast's abuse until she manages to convince him he's loved—which similarly serves to reinforce the [patri/kyri]archical power of the abuser, and the abused's resposibility to supply the emotional work needed to build and maintain a supportive/nurturing social environment.

Multiple times throughout JJ, it struck me that this was a B&B retelling, and also that it was very much told from the woman's/oppressed perspective.

#64 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2015, 09:22 PM:

Lydy Nickerson @61: "The final clue is never a truly righteous anger by one of the abused. And, very often, the denouement includes forgiveness from the abused. One of the functions of these narratives is to get people to be patient with their abusers, to defuse their anger and despair by holding out hope that the bastard will learn better. ... But the show firmly rejects this narrative, and embraces the fact that none of his victims owe him a second chance, and that their rage is utterly reasonable."

High on the list of my longest-held peeves is this (it seems to me, very American) idea that anger is never justified (except at foreigners), that whoever gets angry first loses. If justice denied doesn't make you angry, in my opinion, you're wrong. Anger is where you get the energy to work for change. So unsurprisingly, it's almost always people with some stake in the status quo saying, "Don't take that tone! Calm down."

#65 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2015, 02:58 AM:

Lydy Nickerson @61: Very well put.

Often, TBWATC also is only cruel to people that are portrayed as completely innocent, which I always feel undercuts the meaning. It's as if, were they to torment someone who is also not a great person, then maybe it wouldn't be the same.

Fortunately, this show completely dodged that by having his victims be actual people with actual complexity, and still left it clear that it wasn't okay to make them suffer.

#66 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2015, 07:32 AM:

The bit about how the only victim who counts as one (in a lot of standard narratives) is the innocent victim is part of why I find Robyn so interesting in this show, in a thematic sense.

Because, honestly, she's annoying. She's aggressive and creepy and the kind of weird that makes the monkey brain feel angry and defensive, in a lot of her scenes. She makes choices that are bad for the characters we already care about. Her relationship with her brother is strange and upsetting, and quite likely abusive. More than one friend of mine who's watched the show has mentioned that they hate every scene she's in, or wish she had died instead of her brother (who had his own issues), or otherwise just generally disliked that she was in the show at all.

And--some of her scenes are unpleasant and uncomfortable when I watch them, yeah. AND YET. This is the part that gets me on the reflection, or at least didn't really hit me until nearly the end of the show:

The show believes that she's a real person whose pain matters. Even though she's a 'bad' victim. She causes serious problems (usually while working on incomplete information that made her choices pretty rational in context for her), she expresses her pain through aggression, she's not nice, she's not very good... But she's still a victim. Her pain is real. And the show gives that some comedy edge, but without disrespecting the validity of her pain. One can see that she has been wronged without having to like her, and that's okay, because you don't have to be a likable person to be a real victim. Bad things happening to unlikable people are still bad things.

It's just--weirdly validating. (And easier to think about in this sense when I'm further out from the story, rather than watching her on screen; the actor is really good at portraying someone who makes other people around her uncomfortable.) You don't have to be perfect and perfectly victimized and a complete innocent for your pain to count, any more than the pain you've suffered justifies causing more to other people. It's okay for it to be complicated.

#67 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2015, 09:14 AM:

At one point after the show, when still processing, I found myself wondering what happened to Robyn . And I realized that I cared more about this one annoying character than I did about everyone on [other TV show] put together.

#68 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2015, 03:17 PM:

Fade @ #66 --

Yes, yes, yes. Early on I was expecting some kind of odd plot thing to be revealed about Robyn, like she and her brother had been Kilgraved the way Malcolm had, or they were involved in some other weird thing, because otherwise, why was the story spending so much time on them? But after a while I realized that no, they were exactly who they appeared to be -- and I think you've hit the nail on the head in answering my "why" question. There were moments where I felt empathy for Robyn, even as I didn't like her. *That* was the point of putting her and her brother into the story. She's kind of an awful person in several ways and she still didn't deserve to have that happen to her. We could easily feel bad for Ruben, because he was the doormat of the pair and it's almost always sad when a character gets murdered, but Robyn? By her presence, by what happens to her, she makes the whole Kilgrave thing three-dimensional, because what he does is awful even when it happens to an unlikable person who isn't our heroine (let's face it, Jessica is not always likable either). That's a really important element to include.

#69 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2015, 10:14 PM:

@Fade 66: Those are really good points about Robyn, thank you. One of the problems with the victims in most narratives always being utterly innocent (Tiny Tim, I'm looking at you) is that it tends to reinforce the feeling that the rest of us have that we partly deserve the crappy things that happens to us. Quite apart from the incredibly complicated way in which most adults have a level of complicity in their own abuse, there's the underlying conviction that we're not very good people. I like the way that the narrative forces us to admit that Robyn, horrid as she is, does not deserve to be abused also gives us the space to understand that Jessica and Luke are, in fact, not completely wonderful people with nary a flaw or blemish. In some ways, it strips away some of Jessica's excuses.

#70 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2015, 10:17 AM:

Lydy, thank you for your comments -- I'm finding them wise and helpful applied to both the show and to my life (crossing streams a little, maybe --?-- because why do we find a drama fascinating other than the way it hits us in the real-life gut?)

I fought a little urge to defend Dickens after your first comment (short summary: I'm responding to different bits of Dickens, mainly the portraits of dysfunctional parenting in Bleak House), and your second comment made me realize why, and what you were saying that is so true. Yeah, Tiny Tim. The perfect victim thing; I can't complain or stick up for myself because, after all, I have complicity. I have a similar problem with It's a Wonderful Life -- of course George Bailey's absence would make the world much worse, but would the same be true for Ernie Bishop? I'd like to see an It's a Wonderful Life where someone who didn't save an entire town is shown that even if the world at large goes on much the same without them, their presence is still intrinsically important. And within the genre constraints of a show where the heroine has to have superpowers, that's more or less what Jessica Jones does -- everyone's life matters. There are no faceless minions.

Jessica's heroism in the end is in part her decision to do what she can even after she realizes how badly she's messed up and hurt others. Malcolm is even more heroic for finding a way to help her and others; without Malcolm joining her business at the end she would have given in to her self-image.

#71 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2015, 11:39 AM:

rm @70: My biggest problem with Dickens is prose style. I find him irritating and unreadable. I also think that he tend to be an apologist for the status quo without meaning to, but that's more based on reading critiques of Dickens, rather than actually reading Dickens. I think that he's probably very good, but not to my taste.

I, too, would like to see a version of It's a Wonderful Life which showed the value of someone who wasn't so blasted perfect. (I actually hate that film, but I'm a hard sell on pretty much anything with God, Christmas, or Angels in it.)

I really like Malcolm. I'm not sure why, exactly. But he makes me smile when he's on-screen. One of the interesting things that Killgrave does is try to convince people that they were complicit in their abuse when they actually weren't. He gaslights Jessica about killing Reva. He makes Malcolm physically addicted, and Malcolm has a hard time understanding that this was done to him, not something that he did to himself.

Killgrave claims, at one point, that he doesn't really understand consent. This is a lie. Notice how careful he is about confirming that the person who owns Jessica's childhood home is happy with the transition to sell. Notice how he gets Laurent to confirm for Jessica that he is happy to have this gig that pays better than anything he could have gotten on his own. Killgrave absolutely understands consent. He understands it well, and uses gas lighting to convince people that they have consented to things they did not consent to. This is actually an interesting aspect of the whole abuse narrative. Some of his victims really are completely innocent of complicity. The fact that he gaslights them into thinking that they were complicit is... Food for thought.

#72 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2015, 11:40 AM:

Lee @62: I'm not currently participating in the DF threads, but you can certainly port what I said over if you think it would be useful in any fashion.

#73 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2015, 06:25 PM:

Lydy Nickerson #71: The real-world version of that often plays off the victim's trying to maintain a sense of control -- "I must have made a mistake, surely there was some way I could have avoided that" is marginally less ego-painful than "somebody just came along and did that to me, and there was nothing I could do about it".

#74 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2015, 12:14 AM:

And Emily Nussbaum in the New Yorker is writing about just this exact theme.

#75 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2015, 03:22 PM:

@71, About Kilgrave and consent: If I remember right, Kilgrave was very, very careful with his language so that the man who sold the house did so without coercion. On the other hand, Laurent and his wife were trapped in a hellish situation that happened to pay twice as well as the previous job, and Kilgrave asked the exact questions to show that he was paying well and to avoid showing that they were under instructions to stab themselves (was it "cut their own faces off" or was that someone else?) if anything went wrong with their boss.

So yes, he understands consent. He just doesn't care for the concept.

#76 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2015, 10:31 AM:

@73, David Harmon: Quite some time ago, I read an article about women recovering from rape. The writer noted that women who felt that they had some blame in the matter -- I shouldn't have gotten that drunk, I shouldn't have gone down that dark alley, I should have listened to my girlfriend about him -- recovered more quickly than women who felt that this was something that had happened entirely out of the blue and they had no share in the blame. The author theorized that it gave these women a sense of control, and a way to think about the future that wasn't hopeless and helpless.

I find that this tangles up in complicated ways in my head with the concept of "victim blaming," which I hurry to add is absolutely a thing, and a terribly shitty thing to do to someone. The obvious difference between the two is that in the first case, these are people who choose, as part of their recovery, to accept some blame, while the latter is someone from the outside attempting to force a narrative upon a damaged person. Very different. But from one step removed, they look remarkably similar. This also plays off against the various bits of advice that women are given about how not to get raped, in the same space where men are not admonished to not rape someone.

Killgrave's victims are shown making different choices about how they metabolize their abuse. I really like that. I am amused by the support group that Jessica forms because she's looking for intelligence, not support. It's clear from the few scenes we see with them that they're floundering around, trying to find a useful model. They seem to be trying to use an AA model, and that's actually, in the end, not going to be very helpful. They might do better with a terminal-illness support group. I love how Malcolm tries to push the group into helping people. Have I mentioned that I love Malcolm? He's a genuinely decent person. And we're back to one of the things I love about JJ overall: there are lots of different types of people. There's a broad range of human behavior on display, not just normal and not just tormented and dysfunctional.

#77 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2015, 08:55 PM:

Lydy Nickerson #76: Yes, we desperately want Bad Stuff to at least have a reason, even if it's "I fucked up". Thus endless superstitions in all aspects of life, and some nasty turns of religious faith. Of course that's only one way of reclaiming control...

#78 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2015, 10:42 PM:

Lydy Nickerson #76, cont'd: It occurs to me that victim-blaming isn't just entangled, it's identical to that sort of self-blaming. The only difference is first-person versus second or third: In both cases, the key emotional driver is the need to believe that the abuse or rape could have been avoided (if only the victim had...).

#79 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2015, 01:40 PM:

@78 David Harmon: I think the emotional driver is actually very different, although the method is identical. In the case of the survivor, it's an attempt to gain control of the narrative and an attempt to gain control of one's life. In the case of "victim blaming", it's an attempt to create an excuse for the abuser, and to shift blame from the guilty party to the victim. The first case is about empowering the victim and the second case is making the victim an object instead of an an active participant in their own experience.

#80 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Lydy, #79: I'd take it further than that: the second is about reducing the victim to the status of a spear-carrier in the abuser's story. A redshirt, as it were; someone who is present only to be part of an experience for the protagonist.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2015, 10:16 PM:

Lydy Nickerson #79: I'm realizing that I was focused on one part of victim-blaming, which is probably not the part most visible or troublesome to you. I think you're thinking about the blamers who are explicitly identifying with and supporting the rapist, and denigrating the victim as part of that. (I wasn't thinking about them because, frankly, when I see that I tend to summarily dismiss the offender from my list of people I want to continue reading, much less engage with.)

The aspect I'm thinking about is lower-profile but insidious: When people who you'd expect to be, or who claim to be, identifying with the victim, are nevertheless coming out with "well, she should have...". Often with a shout-out to purported "realism", to the effect of "ideals are all very well, but if she wanted to be safe...".

#82 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2015, 11:58 PM:

@81 David Harmon: I find myself thinking that this lower level of victim blaming you talk about is actually about perceptual safety for the person doing the blaming. If your best friend got attacked, you might be afraid that a similar thing would happen to you, so you construct a way in which this was the victim's fault so that you can not do those things, and therefore be safe. It's a classic misfire of empathy, putting yourself into someone else's shoes to the point that you become the center of the story. It's all about you.

The thing that all the different flavors of victim-blaming have in common is turning the victim into an object, instead of a person with power and options. I've been noticing behavior in a lot of different areas, actually. There's a lot of writing about oppressed people, either historical or present-day, which tends to treat these people as things which are acted upon, rather than people acting for themselves. I think it's an easier narrative to write. The complex ways in which the oppressors and the oppressed interact isn't as clean and obvious as the types of morality tales we like to tell ourselves about the way people live in the world.

#83 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 08:06 AM:

Lydy Nickerson #82: ...perceptual safety for the person doing the blaming.

Exactly... whether or not that person is the victim at hand. Or to put it another way, whether the threat to that person is from experience, or example. (The line between empathy and threat modeling gets blurry here.)

The complex ways in which the oppressors and the oppressed interact isn't as clean and obvious as the types of morality tales we like to tell ourselves about the way people live in the world.

Yeah, and rape is pretty much the paradigmatic example for that. The barefaced claim that rape is purely about violence, and "therefore" not at all about sex... well, that might have been useful in the early stages of facing down open predation, but then it became an active impediment to dealing with subtler issues of coercion, power relations, and desperate measures.

Coercion, pressure, and aggressive persuasion have always been a widespread part of the human experience, including human sexuality. The rules for what's acceptable, forgivable, or redeemable (rather than otherwise), have been changing rapidly (and I agree for the better), but it's important to remember that these are changes. Some of those changes may be unprecedented in human history, and they represent major power shifts which have not yet settled into stability.

#84 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 08:33 AM:

PS: Coercion, pressure, and aggressive persuasion.... "Deception" belongs in that list too.

#85 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 08:48 AM:

#82 ::: Lydy Nickerson

"There's a lot of writing about oppressed people, either historical or present-day, which tends to treat these people as things which are acted upon, rather than people acting for themselves."

I've seen victim blaming which treats the perpetrator as a force of nature, so that the victim is the one who's making all the choices. In particular, I'm tired of the question about why Jews didn't assimilate and/or the idea that Jews were just persecuted for being different.

This seems to be structurally similar to the advice for women on how not to be raped which adds up to living an extremely constrained life.

Back to the show-- I've been watching it slowly (up to episode 4, I'm living with learning some spoilers), and I've been struck by how efficient the dialogue is-- character says most important thing, other character replies with most important thing. I'm not sure whether this is most notable in conversations that include Jessica. Does this sort of dialogue have a name? At this point, I'm calling it compressed dialogue.

Also, I'm very fond of Luke Cage's pragmatism. He doesn't let Jessica bite his finger as hard as possible because he's got too much sense.

#86 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 10:16 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #85: I've seen victim blaming which treats the perpetrator as a force of nature

Except that the "force of nature" thing implies "that's just how things work, nothing you can do about it", which seriously undercuts the idea that "the victim is making all the choices".

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2015, 10:00 PM:

David H., #86: You frequently hear both of those arguments being made in the same conversations by the same people. On the one hand, there's nothing to be done about rapists; on the other, the victim is totally in control of the rapist's behavior.

This is nothing new; there are all kinds of situations in which women (or other lower-status people) are expected to perform several mutually-exclusive behaviors at the same time, so that whichever one they're not doing can be blamed for whatever happened to them.

#88 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2015, 02:00 PM:

I track how torture is presented in fiction, and I was incredibly pleased to see the no-torture sequence in Episode 5.

It wasn't exactly a principled stand against torture, but it was still written into the story that torture didn't make sense and wasn't used.

#89 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 11:00 AM:

@ 88 Nancy: I actually liked Jessica's comfortably pragmatic approach to torture. It would have been out of character, I think, for her to have taken a principled stance. I also think that the fact that torture doesn't work plays into understanding that our current cultural obsession with it is obscene and fetishistic.

#90 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2015, 01:47 PM:

#89 ::: Lydy Nickerson

I agree that it would be out of character for Jessica to have a principled objection to torture, but I wish someone in popular media did.

Actually, what I really want is a television series set in a torture rehab unit.

#91 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2015, 11:38 AM:

Jessica Jones doesn't have a principled objection to torture. She's already used forceful interrogation twice in episode 6, and I haven't even watched it to the end yet.

It's plausibly in character for her, but I wish popular media would stop portraying torture as something that people can just do, and which works to get information, and which has no side effects. There could be side effects later in the series, but I'm betting there won't be.

I'm pretty sure posting about this is the right thing to do, but I also wonder if it comes off as a tiresome obsession.

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