Jessica Jones Problem

Content Warnings: Rape Mention, Abuse, Horror

Jessica Jones is a Netflix original series based on a problematic-ass comic. The premise: A woman with super strength falls under the control of a villain with mind control powers. He rapes her and uses her to abuse and kill others as well. Somehow she escapes his influence, and in an ensuing accident thinks him dead. But he returns, and she has to find a way to defeat him without risking falling under his control again.

It’s an intense psychological horror in that premise, that plays out very well in the hands of appropriately sensitive writers and directors during the first season. But as the premise is so based on the “sensational” nature of a hideous sex crime, it would be reasonable to suppose that the elimination of the super-rapist would kneecap any further storytelling with the main character.

I wanted that to not be true. A rape survivor’s story shouldn’t have to be defined by her rapist, in fiction or otherwise. I believe better things could be done with this character, and the second season was their chance to do that.

They failed. At the most basic level of writing, it was all about the hook. The first season had an extremely powerful hook. They were never going to be able to match it, in terms of its potential for horror and intrigue. The hook for the second season? Not as compelling.

But as writers and directors, there are ways to make up for the weakness of a hook. Play up the intensity of local situations and scenes, put in a character arc people will really love even if they don’t care that much for the premise. It’s doable. But they didn’t pull it off, not at all.

Frequently throughout the season, it seemed like they were intentionally trying to draw the drama and events smaller, make them less important, or make things less powerfully felt. Bad guys were soft-pedaled and good guys tarnished to where they were indistinguishable, presumably in the name of artistic complexity, but with the effect of draining all sympathy and interest from the audience.

At its worst, it felt like the budget constrained writing from Inhumans. And the dialogue between Jessica and the big bad in the last two episodes felt almost as repetitive and trite as Luke and Vader’s exchanges in Return of the Jedi. The worst part is that two good guy / sympathetic characters from the first season were turned into sleazy assholes with NO resolution to their arcs of descent.

And in the end? It looks like Jessica is angling toward an ultra-heteronormative domestic situation. My feminism shrank three sizes that day. The show was anticlimactic and just tired.

THE TAKE-AWAY
This season had to potential to show that you don’t need a sensational story of sex abuse to make a compelling narrative about a survivor. It failed to do so, and disappointed my shit out. Three thumbs down. I blame no one but the writers, directors, producers. Better luck in your future endeavors, actors.

In Praise of Marvel’s Flops: Inhumans

So Marvel just finished airing the safe-to-say series finale of Inhumans, their most panned production to date, and it got me feeling like, hey, somebody oughtta stick up for anyone that is getting crapped on that hard. So. Marvel’s Inhumans.

In a moment of perfect timing during the last episode, the words “Created by Scott Buck” appeared on the screen just as the villain of the show was saying, “You realize this is all your fault.” But was it? Must we assign blame? Can we accept this moment, this thing as it is, and move on without recriminations? I dunno. Just sayin’.

Inhumanoids is the story of the inhumans, who are a race of superheroes resulting from the work of Ancient AliensTM. They live on the moon. A lot of them have short foreheads, which makes me think the casting director has a short forehead, and just thought, hey, these people look good and normal. And they do, I mean, my head looks like the comic version of Karnak, so maybe it’s a matter of perspective. Even so, it gets a song in my head.

The faces of Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, and Iwan Rheon crudely photoshopped onto monchichis.
Mon chi-Chi! Mon, chi-chi.

Stop: Spoiler time.

The title of this post isn’t a lie. But I have to mention the bad before I can get to the promised praise…
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Lady Actors Doin’ All the Work

As I mentioned in passing in my post the other day, I’ve noticed lady actors often have to work harder than men. Men in acting are allowed to “go subtle,” probably because the directors have heteronormative notions about what looks cool from masc characters. I think that sucks. Men flipping out have been very memorable and cool in cinema history. Se7en Brad’s “What’s in the box?!,” young Mel tremblin’ and shakin’ in Lethal Weapon, lots of guys in Hong Kong cinema.

High key moments aside, even being expressive in casual scenes is surprisingly amiss in dudes. I feel like a big reason young Bruce Willis was a sex symbol was that he bothered to fuckin’ smile in his movies. Arch an eyebrow, look at someone sideways. Use your facial muscles, guys.

I’m mostly noticing this in TV. Steven Amell‘s tiny eyeballs would be hard-pressed to register an emotion, so maybe he has an anatomical disadvantage compared to the rest of the cast of his show. I’m watching all the episodes of Dead Zone I missed back when it aired, and as much as I want to like Anthony Michael Hall, he is usually dead-faced as hell. This was at its worst in the episode when he had a one-night thing with his ex. All the tension and drama throughout the season, Nicole de Boer looking at him with a face brimming with intense feels, and AMH was just kinda standing there bugging his eyes out.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that due to cultural expectations and dramatic conventions, they just gotta play it cool 99% of the time. They still need to let it out of the bottle when it counts. The aforementioned scene in Dead Zone? Way undercut by the man’s acting.

The most comical example ever had to come from the otherwise pretty decent Sam Waterston early in his run on Law & Order. There was an episode where a lady he’d worked with in the past got busted for an ethical violation, which she said she did in his name, because they were having hawt romantical naked torrid hawt affairs. That actress – Laila Robins – was falling all over herself to show that she had some kind of intimate connection with Sam’s character Jack McCoy. Bedroom eyes all the time, slouching around like Mae West. And for all that? Waterston wobbled uncomfortably in his starched collar like an asexual quail.
 

Laila Robins as Diana Hawthorne on Law & Order
too hawt for quails

 
Not that there’s anything wrong with some quails being asexual, but they seem miscast opposite a siren. It was unintentionally funny, but also emblematic of the prob. Men need to work harder in the acting game. And not like Jared Leto.

Great Shows with Nowhere to Go

HBO’s Westworld and SyFy’s 12 Monkeys. I’ve liked those shows a lot. Westworld was laughably edgy at times, seemed like it was trying to reach a quota of F bombs and tiddies in some episodes, but had several excellent to truly great things about it. 12 Monkeys played with a lot of sketchy mental illness tropes, had all the time travel related foolishness you might expect, and used a child as a character motivation in a way that felt emotionally dishonest and a bit ridiculous to me. And the lead actor looks like a tired otter. But it had a bad-ass two-fisted style and some sweet moments of plot payoff. I love the first season twist ending about The Power of Friendship, and Kirk Acevedo is sexy in a way that I find hard to explain. Plus the lead actress (as usual) does all the heavy lifting on the show, and does it well.

I’ve liked both of those shows a lot, but I have such big doubts about future seasons that I’m unlikely to tune in unless I get very positive spoilers. The places they left off promised nothing good. Spoilers below the fold. Anyhow, do you ever get like this? Find yourself bouncing on a show because you can’t imagine it sustaining the same quality going forward?
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Edgie Comics: on TV

Content Warning: Statutory Rape, Homophobia, Biphobia, Eating Disorders,
Fatphobia, let me know if u think I should mention anything else…

Social justice score: 1 out of 5

So Archie Comics got hella weird in the Nü Millennium, with attempts at maintaining relevance by reaching different audiences. One of those tacks was to make a series of serious adult-ish comics with edgy elements written by Mark Waid. Now adult-ish edgy Archie is on The CW and to kill a minute I’m watching the first episode. Thoughts as they come…
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