Why Jessica Jones Is the Hero We Need

Alias Jessica Jones David Mack

Our heroine, by artist David Mack.

When I was 14, I fell in love with the Uncanny X-Men, and especially teenaged hero Kitty Pryde. Kitty was everything I wanted to be: cute, fantastically smart, super powered, and conveniently emancipated from her parents so she could go live with an adoring group of grownup superheroes who thought she was the best and always had her back. But years later, when I read Brian Michael Bendis’s gripping Alias series, it hit me like a punch to the gut: although I had grown up wanting to be Kitty, I was really more like Jessica Jones. And I wish I had met her earlier.

Jessica Jones’s origin story starts out much like any superhero’s: she survives the tragic death of her family and an accident that gifts her with superpowers. Soon she’s dyed her hair bright purple, clapped on some shiny tights, and is poised to become the very! Best! Superhero! She can be!

Unfortunately, that’s not very good. She’s soon captured by Zebediah Killgrave, aka the Purple Man, who completely violates her, keeping her in his thrall via mind control, for eight months. When she finally meets her would-be “adoring group of grownup superheroes” (while being forced to attack them), they beat her so badly they send her to the hospital in a coma. When she wakes up, she realizes that instead of “having her back,” no one really noticed that she was missing. For eight months.

Jessica Jones, despite her early promise, was not destined to be the darling superhero mascot adored by millions. Instead, she was a failure. A loser. A damaged woman who the world does not revolve around–instead, she must make her place, and her peace, herself.

Meeting Jessica Jones started a chain reaction deep in my soul. I, like so many girls, grew up hearing the same mantra: “You can be anything you want! You’re smart! You work hard! You can do anything!” But what if you can’t? What are we taught to do when we fail, when we don’t live up to our potential, when life slaps us so hard it knocks the wind out of us?

Now I am not knocking the loving people who told us this–in the ’70s and ’80s, we were coming off decades of asking women, “Do you really need to go to college?” and “Why would you want to be anything other than a wife and mother?” Our messages to girls are always evolving. But I think everyone would benefit if our next iteration includes the following information:

“You are going to fuck up. You are going to fail. You are going to hurt other people, and yourself. You are going to compromise yourself in ways you later regret to get the things you think you need. And you’re still a worthwhile person. And you’re still deserving of love. And you can use all your fuckups and failures to help someone else.”

Jessica Jones fucked up as a hero and retreated, becoming a disreputable private detective with a love for booze and the occasional man. When I fucked up my life 15 years ago (fizzled comics career, terrible-idea marriage to someone who isolated and emotionally abused me), I fled to the other side of the country. While I did not actually become a detective, I did tirelessly investigate the cases of Can I Get That Dude’s Attention and How Many Shots Can I Have Tonight and Still Function Tomorrow (really, I left no stone unturned).

But what I love the most about Jessica Jones and Alias is, her redemption didn’t come in the form of a training montage (let’s figure out those faulty powers!), a new shiny uniform, and a team of super-cool friends: you can be a special awesome girl superhero after all, Jessica! Instead, her journey is slower, more painful. More mistakes. And as she learns, she creates a new life for herself, on her own terms. Which is what we all really want anyway.

Anyway. Haven’t watched Jessica Jones on Netflix, but as you can see, I’ve got high hopes. Still love you Kitty Pryde!

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Nap. STRIKE! The view as I type.

Nap. STRIKE! The view as I type.

Happy Monday! This post is last because Sarah has decided to go on a nap strike today. Late, short morning nap and no afternoon nap. Oh boy. She’s rattling around in her playpen while I type this up.

Entertaining

I was so sad last April when Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables, died that I made a date for tea and to watch the movie with my friend Kari. Schedules being what they were, we finally were able to get together this Saturday. There was tea. There was raspberry cordial. There will be (someday) a blog post! In the meantime, here are some recipes from the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook.

I’m gearing up for my brother’s girlfriend’s baby shower this weekend! My Mom and I are having so much fun with this. We chose Tiffany blue, black, and white as the colors, along with pandas (my brother’s girlfriend’s favorite animal). While designing some of the tags and things, I came across a Tiffany font that’s pretty close to the real thing. I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them!

Our Twin Peaks dinner party was so much fun last May that we’ve decided to throw a Twin Peaks brunch in September! I can get a lot more people over for brunch than dinner (50+ versus 14), and there was a lot of breakfast food on the show.

The Twin Peaks revival on Showtime won’t arrive until 2007, but TVLine’s Twin Peaks Is Back: 14 Burning Questions Season 3 Must Address article should refresh your memory and pique your interest.

Zero Waste

I know, I know, I had a temper tantrum about this last week. But I’m still committed to reducing our waste. Thus far, I’ve only done curbside composting, but with our big new community garden plot, I might take Zero Waste Chef’s simple advice and just start throwing scraps on the ground outside!

In the same vein, school’s starting again soon, but my EasyLunchboxes are starting to break down after three years of constant use. Tempted by these stainless steel LunchBots at Life Without Plastic.

Comics

Oh my god, I am so far out the loop I didn’t even realize there was a Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde series coming out! Issue #2 is out this week, and I’m gonna hunt #1 down as well.

Speaking of comics, here’s a preview of Abe Sapien #25, with a quick word-association interview with the co-writer (and my husband) Scott Allie.

That’s all I got! I have so many blog posts in my brain but I need to send them out through my fingers and onto the Internet . . .

Kitty Pryde Costumes

The Many “Phases” of Kitty Pryde

I found this in a box of “memories” my parents gave me when they moved to their new house last year, and–well–I felt the need to share it with you.

Kitty Pryde Costumes

I estimate that I was 15 or 16 when I drew this, deep into my X-Men/Excalibur addiction. As you can see, I’ve got Kitty pre-X-Men, in the traditional black/yellow costume, in one of her Sprite (?!) costumes (lower left), as Shadowcat in the John Romita, Jr. days (lower right), and as her Excalibur incarnation in the center.

As you can see, I loved puns even then, because I have always been super cool. I don’t remember, but I must have drawn one of the small faces and traced it? Or I was totally crazy.

Who were your comic book character obsessions? Got any fan art to confess to?