Can the MCU’s darkest story yet really be told right?
For those of you just joining us, hot off the initial success of Daredevil, Netflix went all in, announcing they’d do an additional trio of new Marvel shows, and first up in the pipeline is Jessica Jones. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of her, that’s kind of her thing. Not even the other superheroes have heard of her.
But, here’s the real issue that’s bigger than her relative anonymity. Alias (not the TV show, but the Jessica Jones comic book story that this Netflix show is based on) was Marvel’s first comic specifically produced with UNCENSORED content. We’re talking explicit adult scenarios that usually have a warning before you watch. HBO stuff, watch-with-your-hand-on-the-TV-remote-ready-to-change-the-channel-because-your-parents-might-walk-in stuff. But also, the subject matter isn’t just sexual, it’s dark and traumatizing.
Can Netflix actually do a show darker than Daredevil and (maybe the bigger question) will Marvel let them? Will the Marvel Cinematic Universe let us see the REAL Jessica Jones in all her not-so-shiny inglory?
As you might have already figured out, this is going to include some major spoilers for the comics. We’ll try to avoid spoiling big plot details that might find their way onto the show, but if you don’t want to know anything at all about the potential plot, maybe check out our article breaking down the Jessica Jones teaser trailer instead.
Also, we’re gonna discuss some seriously adult content and themes here. Fair warning.
We all good? Ok, let’s do this!
Who is Jessica Jones?
To put it in a nutshell, Jessica Jones is “remarkably strong and yet remarkably damaged. She’s as remarkably dry and witty as she is emotional and real.” (As the show’s EP Jeph Loeb says.) Jessica starts off her comic run already retired from the superhero game (she tried it, it did not go well for her). So she’s become a private detective specializing in powered individuals, but she actively avoids the kind of big, crazy, city-smashing superhero battles that the Avengers always find themselves in.
She Got Powers?
Okay, so she’s not a full-blown superhero, but she does have powers. A nasty car accident killed her parents and brother, but the truck they collided with was carrying radioactive experimental chemicals that spilled on her. Voila! Super strength and flight capabilities (although she’s pretty bad at it). The series might have a few flashbacks to her time as the superhero Jewel.
What’s So Adult?
Okay, so what’s so adult about that?
Well, after she quit the superhero game (and exactly how that came to pass is almost certainly going to factor in), Jessica went into the private detective business, and that’s where we find her in the first issue of Alias and in the upcoming Netflix show. Right away, we’re treated to a much darker storyline than Marvel fans are used to.
First up, small thing but we have to mention it, all the cursing.
This first appearance of Jessica Jones, aside from the quickest cameo ever in a super old Spider-Man issue, was in issue one of Alias. Alias was the first publication under the Marvel MAX line, which was a new home for adult-oriented, uncensored content. Not only was this comic the first time a Marvel book featured an f-bomb in print, but it’s literally the first issue, first page, first word. And fourth word. And sixth word. And a bunch of words after that.
Will they curse on the show?
Not looking too likely. The MCU has avoided using this word as much as possible, (they artfully bleeped it in Iron Man 2).
The Netflix produced Daredevil, while dark in tone and VERY explicit in terms of violence, actually seem to go out of their way to avoid it. Though they do allow other curse words. This probably stems from the fact that in film, you can only use the F-word once and retain a PG-13 rating, which is Marvel’s preferred rating level.
Does this suck?
Honestly, not really. The original writer of Alias, Brian Michael Bendis, admitted that he probably used the word too much in his writing and decided to leave it out for future Jessica Jones runs, which was smart on his part because it allowed her to get mixed into the main Marvel continuity and have cross-overs with other characters like Spider-Man (Peter Parker and Jessica Jones attended the same high school in the comics).
Ok, Jessica Jones has cursing? Is that it?
No. Let’s keep going through her story. Shortly after we meet her, but again, we’re talking issue one, we get a pretty intense sex scene between her and pretty well known Marvel hero, Luke Cage.
This scene is about a woman who has found herself so depressed and emotionally numb that she’s got drunk and told her friend Luke that he could do anything he wanted to her (yeah, even butt stuff) just so she could feel something. It doesn’t matter what. Pain. Humility. Anger. Just feelings.
And again, that’s issue ONE. Now, the Marvel CINEMATIC Universe has definitely not been into sex scenes at all thus far, but the sex scenes in Alias aren’t even traditional sex scenes. Each one has is exposing something dark about the character and tells us a lot about her psychological state. That seems even harder to imagine in an MCU property.
So there won’t be Sex?
Actually, while we don’t know if it’s going to be like the dark, and at times sad, sex scenes of the comics, Kristen Ritter (who’s playing Jessica on the show) has confirmed there were “love-making scenes” between her and Luke Cage. It’s doubtful they’ll change the scenes into the happiest of times, and the teaser trailer did hint at alcohol having traumatic effect on her choices, so this is something that at least to some extent Marvel may follow through on. With some creative editing, they could still imply a lot without having to show it. Expect a middle ground here. But not, say, the flashback scene where she masturbates to pictures of the Human Torch.
Is that all?
Ok, so some light cursing and some probably not-too-explicit sex. That sounds like a decent compromise. But here’s the thing: we haven’t even touched on the most messed up, dark content that is crucial to telling this story accurately.
Learn a little more about Jessica, and you discover the REAL reason she quit fighting crime.
As Jewel, Jessica was a happy go lucky hero that was a natural fit to the Marvel universe, and she even seemed to be a rising star. That is, until she encountered the villain known as The Purple Man (who also goes by Killgrave). You’ve never seen a single Marvel comic shift tone more rapidly than this moment.
You see, through his weird purple skin Killgrave secretes pheromones that allow him to control the mind of anyone near him. This guy is a villain that is unfortunately almost too realistic, because he immediately takes it to a dark and sexual place. Within the first couple of seconds of controlling Jessica, he uses his mind control to make her strip naked. But before she does, he also makes her beat the crap out of the police who are coming to arrest him because he wants to finish his steak “undisturbed.”
And while that’s already incredibly traumatic for her, she doesn’t get rescued or snap out of it. She gets kidnapped by the guy for EIGHT MONTHS. Yeah. And while Jessica is adamant that he never actually raped her, he absolutely sexually assaulted and tortured her the entire time. He used his powers not only to make her fall in love with him, but to make her sexually obsessed with him. Then he would capture college students, have sex with them in FRONT of Jessica, and make her beg, cry, and plead for it to be her instead of the college student. But he never let her, so that her wants could never be satisfied and her torture could never end.
That is messed up in at least twenty different crisscrossing ways. And again, it went on for EIGHT MONTHS.
Killgrave also made Jessica commit a bunch of crimes while under his control. Without spoiling all of the details, you can understand that after all that, plus the fact that no other superhero or family member even bothered looking for her during that time, Jessica never wants to get mixed up with superheroes or supervillains again. It’s the whole reason that we find her so broken in the Alias story, and it’s the biggest defining chapter of her life. That’s why it’s necessary to have this storyline in the show, because without it, it wouldn’t really be Jessica Jones.
But Will Netflix Do It?
Here’s the thing, despite everything about how afraid they are to go too adult, and the fact that Jeph Loeb said they wouldn’t tell an R-Rated story, it looks like there’s a plan in place. The Purple Man has been cast (it’s David Tennant), and while he may not appear purple in the set pics, he’s definitely there and this is definitely the story they would tell with him.
Also, even in casting Kristen Ritter, whom many people know as a tragic, flawed, broken figure from Breaking Bad, it seems like they want to commit to the real portrayal of this tragic character.
Fun side note, this isn’t the first graphic novel character connected to Kristen Ritter. On her Don’t Trust the B show, they actually based a hero on her, and her name was… Tall Slut, No Panties. Yep.
Will the show be good?
If we go back to Brian Michael Bendis, the guy who wrote the Alias comics, there’s something to get really, really excited about: he has seen episodes of the show and says he LOVES it. And he’s not involved with making it, so that’s a very good sign that it’s staying true to the source material.
Other Marvel Changes?
Okay, really quick, it is worth mentioning that while the themes and major stories will probably remain, not everything will make it in.
First, Jessica’s story crosses over with major superheroes very often, but the TV shows seem reluctant to do that. So instead of appearances from Captain America or her best friend being Ms. Marvel (Captain Marvel now), we’re more likely to see crossovers with Daredevil (who is a big part of her story in the comics already) and the other heroes building up to the Defenders. Also, Patsy Walker will probably be the hero that replaces Ms. Marvel as the best friend.
Peter Parker, a crush for Jessica in the comics, won’t show up because it’d be creepy considering he’ll still be a teenager in the MCU and Jessica is clearly not. Plus film rights, which are still a little sticky even though Spider-Man will be in Captain America: Civil War and a Marvel-produced standalone movie.
But, you know who we can’t rule out? Scott Lang. He’s a big part of the Jessica Jones comics, too, and something about him feels like he’s the easiest big-screen hero to have drop in on the TV shows from time to time.
More or less. Obviously a whole lot is still to be revealed, and could be before the show hits Netflix on November 20. Another teaser bit was released last week, and it would make sense to have a full-blown trailer at some point.
When it comes, we’ll be back to break it down. In the meantime, tell us what you think. Is Jessica Jones too X-rated for Nexflix to get right? How is Marvel going to get it right? Tell us in the comments!