Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jessica Jones Thoughts (Spoilers)

I was pretty excited when I heard Sleigh Bells in the show. They're a great band, and its use in the show is a truly spectacular music cue.

Before I get into the meat of this post, some updates and excuses!
Dropped the ball on Songaday pretty much immediately. I just abandoned ship when I missed 3 and 4. My work schedule is pretty nasty to my spare time.
Legend of the Elements is struck by chronic delays that are out of my control. I'm waiting on an editor to finish and cannot progress til then. Keep watching the Kickstarter updates to stay up to date.
I know I don't post here much. I want to post more! I think the key is being comfortable with shorter posts that aren't long ramblings. I understand that, but I still have a tough time actually being okay with short posts.
If you like Pixel Art, I've got stuff on that front.


So I watched the show through the other day. Two sittings, episodes 1-9 and then 10-13.
I loved the show. Not with the same wide smile that I love many things, like Avatar and Final Fantasy and Scott Pilgrim. Jessica Jones drags my mind through an emotional quagmire in the way a powerful film does, which is pretty uncommon for television!

Many folks are singing the show's praises. It does a great job with some very sensitive subjects, and doesn't tiptoe around them. Jessica is a powerful anti-hero, a really good follow-up to Daredevil. The two mirror each other in some interesting ways. Jessica is insistent in her refusal of the mantle of the hero, while Daredevil wishes desperately to be a hero but has resigned himself to become the devil of Hell's Kitchen instead. Despite that, Jessica is pretty consistently more heroic than the Murdock, or at least less willing to dirty her hands (though if asked Jessica would deny that).

The thing I most want to take about is Kilgrave. Specifically, how much hatred I built up for him.
First, let me praise David Tennant. Yeah, I loved him as the tenth Doctor. That really shouldn't matter, but as the shadow of the Doctor looms large over any actor who played him I think it's important for me to say that, while I loved him as the Doctor, I am a sharp and aware enough audience to separate his performances. And god damn is this the performance of a lifetime.
I would say it's a shame that we won't see any more of his spectacular work in future seasons...but I can't.

By the end of the show, I needed him to die. And that's what I want to talk about.

It's not a simple thing to make me believe a character must die. It's just not in me. I love merciful heroes. It's the reason I'm a big fan of CW's Flash, Spiderman, and any Superman but Snyder's. CW's Flash is a breath of fresh air after a couple years of Arrow, because Barry is an idealist. He doesn't allow himself to fall onto the dark path, even when it could lead to lasting success. He sacrifices of himself to keep people happy. Spiderman is driven by what he feels is right, and he feels guilty because he isn't bringing great enough good for his standards even when he does his best. Superman is among my favorites - or, more accurately, the idea of Superman. He is the perfect role model, the sort of character who one can always ask "What would Superman do in this situation" and find a powerful answer. It's no mistake that he's a Jesus allegory in many cases. Many people don't like Supes for that reason, that he's a goody two-shoes, but I think we need a hero like that.
This is not actually a post about Superman. I could also talk about Superman for quite a while, because I have strong feelings about why I like Superman! But that's a different post.
The point is that it is very rare for me to hate a character viscerally enough that they need to die. But Kilgrave got to that level with me.

Some of it is his vile crimes. He is a serial rapist, a killer, and a slaver. This alone brings him close to the "too dangerous to be left alive" line, but... I don't get this type of repulsion from The Joker. Maybe it's the rape; I've never known The Joker to be explicitly sexual with his violence. I obviously condemn the Joker (though I would not want it to be Batman that kills him) but it's not such a deep or personal anger.
Some of it is his demeanor. He is a sociopath. "People" are just objects to serve him, and he doesn't care who he chews up.
A lot of it is his power. Mind control, especially when you retain your consciousness under the commands, is among the most terrifying things to me. His power had limits at first, but as the show went on he just kept pushing past past those barriers. The real limitations of his power...well, who knows?

I thought about what it was that made the anger personal. It came to me later. Before I watched the show, I saw someone post about it and they questioned why the show was trying to make Kilgrave seem sympathetic after what they'd showed us he'd done. I knew ahead of time that they would try, though thankfully they were vague enough that I wasn't spoiled on any context.
And then episodes 8 and 9 happened.
Kilgrave was given reasons. They gave him a twisted and deluded form of love. They'd already kinda established it, but they showed it instead of just telling. They gave him a tragic backstory.
And it works. You feel a little pang of sympathy for the monster.

And I finished the show and I asked myself the same question I read before I started: "Why are they trying to make him sympathetic?" I again bring up The Joker (I'll talk the Dark Knight one specifically). The Joker is wild and murderous. He just wants to destroy, and does so with unrelenting fervor and a love for what he does. He too has a "tragic backstory." He actually gives several! But despite the lack of truth in the stories, you can be pretty sure that he didn't make those scars himself; something tragic happened. And I don't feel the same sort of sympathy and rage at him.

I think I found my answer.
Kilgrave manipulated me.
The previously-mentioned tragic backstory is child experimentation and torture. They show us the cruelty of the parents. They show us the screaming agony from the needle in his back. And they show us over and over and over and over in episode 9 as they torment Kilgrave himself with the video.
Violence against children by adults, especially by their parents, is among the quickest shortcuts to making us feel bad for them. It works. Even when you don't want it to, it works.
That much is a pretty decent answer for why I felt sympathy for him. But linked to that, I think I also got an answer for why they did it.
It's cheap. It's a really cheap trick to make you sympathetic. Like I said, it's a fast shortcut to generate sympathy, and the faster the shortcut, the easier it is to notice. And it's pretty much impossible to miss this one. You know they're trying to elicit sympathy, and you know it's working for some reason. Even though you don't want to, Kilgrave's past tricks your brain into feeling pity, and that makes me angry! And unlike things with the Joker, he's done it to me personally, not just to other characters. And that's why I think he elicits that deep of a personal reaction from me. He didn't just manipulate people. He manipulated me. And chances are he manipulated you too! And that's frightening and it makes you question how easy it is to provoke sympathy and it's aggravating.
This thought ran through my mind right after finishing the show, about why I felt so okay with Jessica snapping Kilgrave's neck despite my supposed ideals. I thought "I wouldn't have felt safe if he was allowed to escape and roam free" and I'd thought I was talking about in-universe, that the rest of the Marvel continuity was in danger from his continued life. But I think I really did mean it when I thought that I wouldn't have felt safe. He's fictional, but he affected me, tricked my mind, and he's fictional.
And so I needed him to die at the end. And Jessica didn't disappoint.

So kudos to the showrunners and writers for some really masterful filmcraft. And kudos to David Tennant for genuinely frightening me. I'm very ready for Season 2.

End Recording,