She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she’s pretty lethal – Jessica Jones was undoubtedly a hit for Netflix and their Marvel series. It was refreshing to see a female superhero in a position of total power, but also to have a female character that wasn’t in some way over shadowed by her male counterparts – have you tried finding a Black Widow figure in The Avengers toy range? Even my ten-year-old step-daughter has commented on her notable absence.
More often than not, the female characters in Marvel films and shows are merely there for the purposes of romance – case in point, the wonderful Rachel McAdams in the latest origin story, Doctor Strange. They add an emotional and more tender, human element to the super hero who would otherwise spend the entire two hours emotionally detached, saving the world, and demolishing buildings in the process for good measure. To an extent even more prominent characters like Black Widow serve this purpose – cue that painfully awkward scene where she sings lullabies to Hulk to calm him down.
Either that or, of course, they need rescuing. Silly women, always being captured.
It would be entirely wrong of me to suggest there are absolutely no other strong female leads in the comic book universe – it simply wouldn’t be true, there are many; however, they’re not only massively outweighed by the men, but generally speaking they’re also seen as secondary characters to them. It’s for this reason that Jessica Jones really stood out to me as a ground breaking series.
Not only does the show broach the subject of women being powerful and not in need of men, it also deals with aspects of taboo subjects like emotional, sexual and physical abuse, which a lot of shows would try to ‘soften’ the blow of. In fact, it’s this distressing past that almost entirely drives Jones to do what she does – she isn’t in it for the glory, or even necessarily to do good; she simply wants to survive when her assailant, wonderfully portrayed by David Tennant, reappears.
It’s this raw story and the drive to survive that makes Jones more relatable to women than other female superheroes – super strength aside, she isn’t typical super hero material. She doesn’t wear a cape or a tight fitting lycra suit. She drinks (too much, not going to advocate that…), she makes bad decisions and she doesn’t always do the right thing. Whilst we won’t be seeing young girls looking up to her as a role model any time soon – quite rightly – it’s such a breath of fresh air to see a woman (sort of) in control of her own mind and able to function without going all googly eyed at the sight of an attractive man.
With Wonder Woman coming up on my eagerly-awaited-film radar, I’m hopeful the days of lack-lustre, doe eyed women characters in comic book films are slowly but surely being put behind us. It’s important that the younger generation of comic book fans see more characters like Wonder Woman, or Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, because it’s about time film makers and cinema goers alike started to realise women aren’t just there for eye candy – looking at you, misogyny-filled Suicide Squad – or as an accompaniment to a muscled, good looking man.