(Warning - the following contains major plot SPOILERS for the recently released Jessica Jones. If you haven't yet watched the whole first season, then proceed with caution...)
So. Jessica Jones. If you've already finished watching Marvel and Netflix's latest team-up (and if you haven't, feel free to go away and finish it up. We'll wait...) you're likely well aware of its general and surprisingly consistent awesomeness. From supporting roles up to Krysten Ritter's lead, via subtle comic-book nods and some notable cameos, there's a whole lot to love about the show.
Even more than that, though...
Jessica Jones Might Just Be the Most Important TV Show of the Year
The reason? Well, hows about five?
5. It's Genuinely Feminist
Now, it's taken generations, but entertainment executives have, over the past few years, finally begun to work out that gender equality isn't just a buzzword you can use in meetings, but is in fact something that you have to actively commit to, and fight for. With a surprising number of shows and movies still failing the Bechdel test, though, we're still a long way away from an industry that genuinely treats women as being truly equal.
Take a look at Jessica Jones, though, and not only does it contain constant scenes in which strong, independent women live their own varied, complex lives - in which they don't just talk about men - but it roots the entire story in a distinctly feminist idea of equality. Men who dominate women and treat them as objects to be controlled are villains. Men who treat women as people, just like them, are heroes. No woman has to act a certain way in order to be 'normal', or sexual, or respected - and the leading heroic male figures (Luke and Malcolm) very pointedly defer to the female characters at key moments.
Now, that isn't to say it's perfect in that respect - but compared to pretty much every other show (or movie) out there, it's damn close.
4. It Breaks a (Terrible) Unspoken Rule
While recently promoting his (excellent, and notably also on Netflix) new show Master of None, Aziz Ansari discussed one of the most pernicious and problematic trends in modern television: the unofficial 'quota-ing' of minority groups. As he argued:
"When they cast these shows, they’re like, ‘We already have our minority guy or our minority girl'...There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can’t be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can’t be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people there can be two, women there can be two, but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can’t be two."
Now, Jessica Jones isn't perfect when it comes to diversity - the relative lack of Asian characters, for instance, is notable - but think back to that scene towards the end of episode 13, where Malcolm and Claire have a conversation about, and around, Luke...
That is a scene in which three distinctly non-white characters - all from different backgrounds, and none of them simple stereotypes - interact in a substantial, plot-relevant way.
It sucks that it's still notable, but the simple act of featuring a scene like that - one that breaks Ansari's unspoken rule - puts Jessica Jones light years ahead of most television out there.
3. It's Honest About Sexual Assault and Consent
In an 'average' year, close to 300,000 people will be raped or sexually assaulted in the United States. That's once every 107 seconds. 68% of assaults are never reported. 98% of those who commit them will never spend a day in prison.
Meanwhile, the terms in which we as a society define consent (both regarding sex, and in other areas) seem to be far from agreed upon, with shockingly high numbers of polled students apparently unclear whether sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.
In other words? Jessica Jones, which is, at its core, a discussion of both consent - Kilgrave is both obsessed with obtaining it, and ultimately willing to ignore it - and the consequences of sexual assault, is directly addressing some of the most important issues facing society today. What's more, by recognizing that victims of sexual assault deal with the trauma in different ways - as well as by reminding us that sexual assault comes in multiple forms - the show is actively helping to raise both debate, and promote change.
2. It Raises Debate (At a Time Where We Really Need it)
Now, not matter what side of the abortion debate you are on, it's likely safe to say that you think the issue is one that genuinely matters. Watching Jessica Jones - which features a key sub-plot involving an abortion - is likely to get people talking about it.
From violence against women and issues of consent, to the nature of government involvement, via abortion, drug use and treatment, post traumatic stress disorder and the way we treat those accused of a crime, Jessica Jones actively raises countless controversial issues, and asks us to think - and talk - about them. In an era of polarized debate that far too often ignores anything approaching an opposing viewpoint, that matters.
What's more, what other superhero show (or movie) can be said to do the same
1. It Might Be Only the Begininning
Now, in and of itself, Jessica Jones can certainly be seen as a vocal, progressive and potentially hugely important example of a TV show standing up and addressing issues that matter.
It might also, however, be something even more. Considering the slow move towards such things that we've seen both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with the surprisingly politically charged Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for instance) and outside of it, it's not impossible to imagine that Jessica Jones could one day be seen as a key moment in commercial superhero-themed entertainment aiming to be more than simply entertainment. It could, in other words, be less a progressive side-note in the history of superheroes on screen, and more of a beginning.
After all, Jessica Jones isn't just about people with powers - it's about real people, and the world we all live in. What's more, it's directly concerned with addressing the real world problems millions of people encounter on a daily basis. If more mainstream entertainment takes that as its cue, we might just start to see some real world things change too.