Monday, November 30, 2015

Netflix, Jessica Jones, and the Female Character Conundrum

I anticipate getting in trouble for this post . . .

I love Netflix.  And I love superheroes.  When I first got the news that Marvel was going to be releasing some Netflix-exclusive series featuring some of their characters, I got really excited.  

And then it came - Daredevil, in all of it's glory.  I absolutely loved the series.  I watched the whole thing in about three days, which is hard to do with four kids running around and working eleven hours a day.  In fact, just before the release of Daredevil, I had done a broadcast of Raging Sanity Radio (Raging Sanity Radio on Facebook) talking about the sexualization of culture and media.  Imagine how delighted I was to be able to watch the series that, although rated TV-MA, was largely lacking in sexual content.  Needless to say, when I saw that Jessica Jones was getting ready to drop, I was expecting the sexual content to be similar.

I was wrong.

Now, I'm not the morality police (for the purposes of this article); I recognize that people have the right to create anything they want to.  I enjoy my religious freedom in this great country of ours, and I recognize that it's hard for me to have religious freedom and then preach that we have to subdue the liberties of others.  That being said, however, I was still disappointed with the amount of sexual content in Jessica Jones.  

I also recognize that the two series have been written by two different sets of people, and that the relationship between Jessica Jones and Luke Cage is central to their stories in the Marvel Universe.  I get all of that.  I'm still disappointed.  Here's why:

One of the most common complaints among feminist media watchdogs is how sexualized women are in all forms of media: print, advertising, television, film, even video games.  To that point, it seems like something that would raise a red flag, having a female superhero whose sexual exploits receive a decent amount of screentime (in typical Netflix fashion, which is all of the intense grunting and motion with a reduced amount of skin) after having had a male superhero series where there is little to no sexual content, especially not involving the main character. I'm confused.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that women don't have sex drives or anything along those lines.  My confusion stems from the fact that strong female characters, which Jessica Jones definitely is, are often portrayed as extremely sexually active, almost like it's a requirement for a strong female character to have to get some.  And they don't just do it to Jessica - all 3 of the main female characters have been subjected to the same treatment.

Furthermore, it seems that there exist some differing opinions among feminists when it comes to the portrayal of women in media: while there are those who would say that women are overly sexualized in media, there are also those who have an issue with repressing women and their sexuality, and feel that media is a means for demonstrating how sexual women can and should be.

Listen: there are a lot of things that I really like about the series; the music, the lighting, the blue/gray motif (it really is a beautiful show to watch, aesthetically).  I'm just asking the question in case nobody else has: did she have to be made into a sex symbol, and was it done just because she's a strong female character?

If you know the answer to this question, you let me know (

Here's a link to download the radio broadcast that I mentioned at the beginning of the post (I apologize in advance for the commercials):