Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Philippe Lamarche

The Battle Between Evil and Lesser Evil

After having watched the finale of Jessica Jones, it feels like all the scattered pieces of thematic conflict have come together, and a coherent message emerged. In fact, it’s explicitly brought up by the nurse as she talks to Jessica about her superpowered friend. And in this conversation, we get a better explanation of why Jessica can’t be anyone’s hero: she doesn’t know if what she’s doing is right or wrong. We’ve seen her struggle with guilt all season long as Kilgrave kills innocent people around them as a way to threaten her to act a certain way. The recurrence of this makes her feel like she leaves a trail of death behind her, making her question if killing Kilgrave is worth all the innocent people that may die because of it. This hesitation suggests to the audience that the line between good and bad is not always so clear-cut, and I think this is the main theme of the show. Sometimes, doing the right thing means putting a lot of people in danger.

In the conversation with the nurse, Jessica asks her, “How is he so sure he’s the good guy?”, referring to the nurse’s friend. In that moment, we get to see the question she’s been asking herself all this time, is she even the good guy? With all that blood seemingly on her hands, it’s understandable why she has moments of self-doubt. In fact, in the final battle, she must first pass through a crowd of people ordered to kill each other, to then defeat him by putting the person she cares about most in danger. This is what made Kilgrave so powerful: he could control Jessica by manipulating her guilt. As long as she felt guilty, he was untouchable. So, in a very un-glorious fashion, she must ignore the innocent lives in danger to finally kill Kilgrave. No wonder she doesn’t feel like a hero, even after terminating such a monster. As season 1 rolls to a close and Jessica deletes the messages of people asking for her help, we see that even after everything, she doesn’t see herself as the good guy everyone else does.

Above: Here, Jessica must hand over the most important person to her, her adoptive sister Trish, in order to kill Kilgrave.

Looking at the Soundtrack that gives Jessica Jones its Life

I’m now at episode 12 of season 1 of Jessica Jones, but I’ve wanted to talk about the show’s sound design since the early episodes. Sound has always been important to me as a viewer of both television and movies. In fact, one thing my favorite movies have in common with each other is that I loved their soundtracks (Interstellar (2014), Arrival (2016), and Dunkirk (2017)). However, that’s neither here nor there. All that’s to say is that as I started watching Jessica Jones and paid close attention to the details, I found that the soundtrack was very unique. Like many TV shows, the music is used sparingly, mostly to add tension and emotion. Even then, I thought the way it was used complemented the writing very well. In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned how Jessica Jones frequently chooses to use silence over monologuing and conversation to develop the characters and the plot. In these moments of silence, the music is what drives our understanding of the situation. Without music, it would be very difficult to gauge the feelings of Jessica in one of her many pensive scenes. Most often, we hear a slow, soft, jazzy melody that is reminiscent of the sound of bustling New York. To me, this melody symbolizes her loneliness as the world around her is seemingly so full of energy. This melody is recurrent throughout the show, typically present as Jessica people-watches or drinks in her apartment.

While I think the jazzy melody is the most important item from the soundtrack as a whole, the next most important is Kilgrave’s theme. This track plays whenever something mysterious is afoot, usually signaling the work of the main antagonist. It’s great at building tension and foreshadowing, which contrasts the jazzy melody mentioned earlier. The two combined result in an interchange between pensive and suspenseful moods that mirror Jessica’s internal and external conflicts. The complexity of Jessica and her struggles is one of the things that keep me coming back for more, and the music’s role in developing her complexity is undeniable.

The youtube video above is a great example of the soft music that is so good at setting the mood. Listen for yourself!

Is Jessica Jones a Feminist TV Show?

In my opinion, feminist shows are shows in which women are placed into positions where they are not restricted to a one-dimensional personality, where they are portrayed as independent members of society, and most of all, where they can be the masters of their own destinies. In the past, television predominantly showed women as wives rather than individuals, or they were “sidekicks” to a male protagonist. Jessica Jones brilliantly rejects this outdated model, and not just because the main character is a superpowerful woman.

The first thing about Jessica Jones (the character, not the show) I noticed as I watched the first few episodes is that she was nothing like the cookie-cutter female characters in superhero media. Early on, we are introduced to her alcoholism, her non-existent filter, and her superstrength. While Jessica Jones having these characteristics did not make the show inherently feminist, it did confirm one thing: Jessica Jones is not here to make anyone’s sandwiches.

Rather than dissecting Jessica’s character, I wanted to take a look at the gender spread on the show’s main cast (pictured below). As you can see, among the eight most important characters, there’s a nice 50-50 split between men and women. Hiring more female actresses into important roles is always a great first step towards producing a show with feminist values. This show also fulfills another of my requirements to be considered feminist: the female characters are all portrayed as independent members of society. In addition to the no-nonsense Jessica Jones, Jeri Hogarth is a ruthless lawyer, Trish Walker is a self-asserting public figure, and Hope Shlottman is a girl who, despite being raped, does not succumb to the attitude of a victim. These 4 characters are a powerful group of female leads, not limited by relationships to any men, contrary to many female characters in recent media.

Also contrary to most of today’s media, the show gives us a sidekick who is not only male, but mostly important because of his relationship to Trish. While this is mostly true earlier on in season 1, the portrayal of Will Simpson as a supporting character supports the kind of role reversal between male lead and female supporting character the show writers were going for. With all this in mind, it’s hard to argue that the show Jessica Jones favors men over women, or that it victimizes female characters, so I’m gonna chalk this show down as being feminist, in the best way possible.

 

Above: The main cast of Jessica Jones.

Portrayal of Women in Crime Television

How do crime TV shows portray women’s involvement in violent acts?

 

Our research question concerns how women are stereotypically pigeonholed into certain roles in television, specifically within the crime genre. Through our research on women’s representation in crime TV shows, we hope to explore the validity of the notion that women are wrongfully exploited on TV. During our initial research process, we were able to obtain information about gender representation across a large range of multimedia: from advertisements, to movies, and finally to TV shows. As we came across a particular peer-reviewed papers, we were intrigued by how TV shows dating back from even the 1970s victimized women and portrayed them as insecure and vulnerable individuals. An article analyzing the James Bond franchise points out how female characters have played nearly identical roles in all of the movies, most of which were minor or sexual partners of Bond. Furthermore, an article by Los Angeles Review of Books provided an interesting insight into the conflict that crime TV shows face in portraying deep, compelling female characters in crime shows as it uses Detector Kate Beckett in “Castle”, for example. We’re interested to see how crime TV, as a whole, employs female characters in their stories; are we getting more complex, motivated lead detectives, or damsels in distress?

 

The representation of women on crime TV doesn’t just affect crime TV and actresses in the business. Misrepresentation on TV can lead to a lot assumptions in young people, and when not corrected, they persist into adulthood. Through our research, we hope to discover whether or not such a problem exists with gender in crime television. Our question is important because the first step to change is understanding the problem. TV should represent genders equally, and although it doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic, it should be fair. TV is a huge influencer in the public’s lives, and crime a hugely popular genre within it, so it should present information that supports equality between genders.

 

Sometimes Silence can be the Greatest Storyteller: The Writing in Jessica Jones

Whenever I find myself analyzing Jessica Jones, I find myself realizing how unique the show is compared to its competitors. In accordance with the conclusion I made in my last blog, the dark mood of the show is also developed through the writing. This blog post will be analyzing a single episode, Season 1 Episode 7: AKA Top Shelf Perverts. I’m looking at only a single episode because 1) I haven’t seen the entire first season and 2) the writers vary per episode. This episode was written by Jenna Reback and Micah Schraft. Reback has written 9 episodes for Jessica Jones, and Schraft has written 3 episodes, although he has a variety of experience producing and writing for 3 and 10 shows, respectively. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that these two writers wrote the story as the producer intended it to be written, so it can be used as an accurate representation of season 1 as a whole.

Season 1 seems to open every episode in a similar fashion: there is almost always a full minute, or more, of near silence as we are transported into the world of Jessica Jones. This first minute of silence feels like it eases us into the show before everything picks up as the action begins. In fact, I would argue that most of the storytelling is carried by said action, rather than by speech. Jessica Jones, in particular, prefers to act instead of monologue out her plans. Many times, the show takes the viewers along for a ride, rather than holding our hands through the story. Conversation is used more as a tool for developing relationships between characters than driving plot. Because of this, nearly all conversation is between the 4-5 main characters, and chatter is kept to a minimum.

The infrequency of chatter further develops the show’s dark mood. In contrast, dialogue-heavy shows like The Good Place, one of my personal favorites, feel very lively. The rhythm of dialogue in Jessica Jones can be more appropriately characterized by alternating periods of heated conversation and periods of very little conversation. This reinforces Jessica Jones’ stance that the world can be a depressing, lonely place; the show may revolve around Jones, but that doesn’t mean anyone on the streets of New York cares about her presence. The moments of silence really bring that idea to life, in my opinion.

Above: Not only do the writers want to keep talking to a minimum, but so does the antagonist! Also, notice how much we can tell about the antagonist from the indirect characterization provided through this character’s line.

Annotated Bibliography: The Victimization of Women on TV

Annotated Bibliography

Philippe Lamarche

 

Callanan, Valerie J. “Media Consumption, Perceptions of Crime Risk and Fear of Crime: Examining Race/Ethnic Differences.” Sociological Perspectives 55.1 (2012): 93-115. ProQuest. Web. 20 Sep. 2018.

This peer-reviewed article aims to answer two main questions: 1) how do different types of crime-related media affect fear of crime, and 2) does media-related fear of crime differ for different ethnic and racial groups? The study used well-researched assessments to determine perception of neighborhood crime risk and the fear of crime, and then looked to see if there were trends regarding race/ethnicity. The survey’s results determined that fear of crime is higher in victims, women, blacks, and Latinos, and that it is negatively associated with education, age, and income. It also, however, concluded that crime drama television had little to no impact on fear of crime. This source is meaningful to our research because it goes in depth on how the portrayal of violence and crime on television can affect society, thus emphasizing the importance of the portrayal of women on television. However, it is inconclusive as to whether victimization of women in crime dramas actually influences their fear of crime.

 

Cavender, Gray, and Nancy C. Jurik. “Policing Race and Gender: An Analysis of “Prime Suspect 2″.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 32.3 (2004): 211-30. ProQuest. Web. 20 Sep. 2018.

This article dives into a particular episode of the television series called Prime Suspect, a crime drama featuring a London policewoman Jane Tennison, with the objective of discussing how it handles race and gender. The show first aired in 1991 and was taken off air in 2006, placing it during third wave feminism. After 3 in-depth observations of Prime Suspect 2, the researchers concluded that although this film features a prominent female protagonist, it fails in promoting ideals of gender and racial equality. This article introduces us to and dissects a good example of a show that attempts to take a feminist stance by including a female lead in a male-dominated profession. Despite this, the show errs more on the side of post-feminist depictions of women; Jane Tennison’s strength and determination leave her alone and unlikable.  Despite its failure at promoting feminism, this show also serves as an exception to prove the rule: crime dramas with female leads are few and far in between, and even those that exist don’t always uphold feminist values.

 

Sommers, Zach. “MISSING WHITE WOMAN SYNDROME: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS OF RACE AND GENDER DISPARITIES IN ONLINE NEWS COVERAGE OF MISSING PERSONS.” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 106.2 (2016): 275-314. ProQuest. Web.           20 Sep. 2018.

This article is an attempt at measuring the accurateness of the Missing White Woman Syndrome. Missing White Woman Syndrome is the cultural phenomenon where white women and girls are reported missing more than any other group of Americans. The authors discovered that the disparity in coverage is indeed true, and this was accomplished by looking at FBI data and data from 4 online news sources. Statistical analysis was used to prove that both women and white persons were overrepresented as missing, thus it was concluded that white women were overrepresented as well. Although the article does not dive into why this is the case, we can hypothesize that this is the case because women are often portrayed as needing saving (i.e. damsel in distress). Regardless of the reason, it reinforces the idea that women on television are heavily associated with being victims. Even in the news, women are disproportionately shown as victims when compared to men, spurring the belief that women are more helpless and in need of defending.

 

Costanza, Justine Ashley. “Sexist Portrayals Of Women Still Dominate Prime Time TV: Study.” International Business Times. IBT Media Inc, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2018.

This article comes from an online newspaper, and it discusses the rampant sexism still present in the entertainment industry. It brings up the fact that even though things are improving and women are getting more and more involved in the production of television, there are clear inequalities. Costanza argues that we still see a lot of stereotypes on television that we think have been left in the past, like a female character’s worth being tied completely to her relation to a man. She also strongly emphasizes that objectification and sexualization of women is very present and negatively affects general female audiences. Although this article doesn’t specifically talk to women being portrayed as victims, it can be implied that this portrayal is also a result of sexism in the industry. Adding to this source’s value is that it speaks to the current state of the television industry and suggests that unless women become more empowered in the television industry, female characters will continue to be victimized and portrayed negatively.

 

Hains, Rebecca C. “The Problematics of Reclaiming the Girlish: The Powerpuff Girls and Girl      Power.” Femspec 5.1 (2004): 1. ProQuest. Web. 20 Sep. 2018.

First, this article introduces “girl power” as a part of the contemporary movement and discusses the idea behind the movement: women and strong are not mutually exclusive. It also argues, on the other hand, that embracing “girl power” is to shift focus back on femininity and to a toxic obsession over looks. The author here looks at the Powerpuff Girls and analyzes its themes of girl power versus feminism. She argues that the show has a complicated tendency to portray women both progressively and regressively. The show embraces the idea that girls can be both cute and strong at the same time; that women and girls aren’t restricted to being just one or the other. However, this message ends up being very specific to race, class, and size. The message that girls can be anything ends up being represented only by white, middle class, attractive girls. Consequently, the show suggests that if you are not these things, you cannot be a powerful girl. This article can be used as an example of a television show with strong, female protagonists but who unsuccessfully try to empower girls as a whole. It supports the observation that lack of victimization of women does not necessarily mean that it upholds feminist ideals.

Park, Jaeyoon. “The Unruly Woman in FX’s Justified.” Americana : The Journal of American         Popular Culture, 1900 to Present 13.2 (2014)ProQuest. Web. 20 Sep. 2018.

This article focuses on the FX Series Justified, and like a few others, looks in-depth at a show with complicated pre-feminist and pro-feminist ideals. The author focuses on two central female characters who exhibit pro-feminist qualities but are limited by their pre-feminist conditions in an isolated society where the patriarchy is prominent. This setting can be explained by the show’s plot taking place in the heart of the Appalachia, assumed to be a culturally backward region. One of the main female characters is an unruly working-class woman who kills her repeatedly abusive husband, and typically lives as she wants, without falling into the usual female tropes. She refuses to be treated unfairly by men, and she is untamable. The other character however, despite being the leader of a marijuana ring and exercising power of many people, is held back by her vulnerability and motherhood. This show, and the author’s analysis of it, depict a different kind of victimization: these two women who embody many pro-feminist ideals, are essentially victims of the pre-feminist culture they live in. This victimization may not look the same as victimization in the face of physical violence, but the effect is the same: they are restricted as women and as people. To add to this show’s credit and relevance, Justified also succeeds in representing working-class women, who are usually neglected in favor of middle-class women.

Jessica Jones has a Dark Past, and a Dark Show

Six episodes into season 1 of Jessica Jones and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. There is so much left to learn about the characters’ pasts, the extent of Jessica’s abilities, and the message the producers wanted to convey to the viewers. However, something that was made clear as soon as the intro sequence of the pilot episode came onscreen was this show’s visual style. Within the first minute of the first episode, it is clear that Jessica Jones will deviate from the cheerful, vibrant visuals of your typical Marvel blockbusters like The Avengers. The intro features a dark scenes contrasted with bright streaks of color on which silhouettes are depicted. And while not every scene is as somber as the opening sequence, the rest of the show echoes a new trend in television: dark and moody visuals.

The visual style of the show is one of its distinguishing features, and it is prominent in every scene. Much of the show takes place in dimly lit apartments, whether it be Jessica’s or one of her client’s. When’s she not inside, she’s interacting with a gray, gloomy New York. These visuals not only establish the scene, but are consistently setting the mood. The visuals represent Jessica’s attitude and perspective that the world is a dark, depressing place. This idea is also reinforced by recurring images of Jessica drinking alone in her apartment and of her somberly looking at herself in the mirror. Everything considered, the visuals is part of what makes this show different from mainstream TV; Jessica Jones isn’t afraid of showing you a world painted in grayscale. This, in my opinion, is one of its strengths and one of the factors that made me choose it.

See below for a series of shots from Jessica Jones‘ intro sequence that demonstrate the type of gloomy images employed by the animators.

Philippe Lamarche in 341 Words

Hi, and welcome to my first blog post. My name is Philippe Lamarche, and I’m a Quebec-born Biology major projected to graduate in 2022. This is my first experience in an English class at Georgia Tech, and there are a couple reasons as to why I’m looking forward to this course. English classes in the past have taught me important lessons that go far beyond the walls of the classroom, and I believe this will be no exception. They have greatly improved my quality of writing, given me valuable public speaking practice, and pushed me out of my comfort zone with multimedia projects. However, my development as a multimedia content creator is far from over, and my gut tells me that I will be getting plenty of opportunities to improve.

Additionally, this class will introduce me to a variety of television shows that will expand my understanding of the genre. I have never been an avid television viewer, so I feel that this is a media outlet that I can learn from. Clearly, people put lots of passion into television shows they produce, so it’s only natural that they would contain insightful themes or interesting comments on the state of society. I’ve picked the television series Jessica Jones in the hopes that it will contain just that. I’m choosing it based on positive reviews I’ve heard from my friends, as well as an interesting premise that I think will keep me captivated throughout all the episodes. It’s a show about a ex-superheroine with a dark past who becomes a private investigator in NYC dealing with people who have remarkable abilities, like herself. The protagonist is really interesting because she is both clearly flawed and clearly powerful, so seeing how she will handle her obstacles in the show should be very interesting. On top of that, she doesn’t seem like the generic strong female lead that we see in certain blockbusters like the Divergent trilogy.

Below is my Common First-Week Video, if you care to learn more about my expectations for this class.

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