Genre-wise Jessica Jones is a mashup between the superhero and noir genres. When time came to choose between the conventions and traditions of the two, the first season ended up leaning more towards its superhero influences. Despite the hero’s bad choices and the show’s moral complexity, season one had Kilgrave as a clearcut villain – the season’s final arc followed the traditional superhero structure of climbing towards an action set piece.
Season two goes the other way, with morality never being so clearly defined as the final episodes of season one. Some viewers may find this disappointing – while there are compelling villains in season two, none of them are as overtly and undeniably villainous as Kilgrave. Instead the second season has more of a focus on moral complexity.
The goal with this blogpost is to build on the post I wrote the other day about the importance of themes in fiction. I’ll be exploring the themes and thematic importance of characters a particular work of fiction and their relation to the real world, in this case the first season of Netflix’s Jessica Jones.
Jessica Jones is the story of a superpowered private investigator in the superheroic world of the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ – the world of The Avengers. The scale of the story is smaller, making the tone more grounded and noirish. The first season covers Jessica fighting against her abusive ex-boyfriend Kilgrave.
For the purpose of this analysis I’ll be focusing on the following key themes:
Entitlement and abuse of power
Trauma, PTSD and guilt
Female solidarity and empowerment
Male allies and ‘nice guys’
and the following key characters:
Jessica Jones – a superpowered private investigator
Kilgrave – her superpowered, abusive ex-boyfriend
Trish Walker – Jessica’s closest friend
Jeri Hogarth – Jessica’s lawyer and employer
Hope Shlottman – Jessica’s client and a fellow victim of Kilgrave
Will Simpson – Trish’s love interest, a cop and an ally to Jessica and Trish
Luke Cage – Jessica’s on-off lover and ally
Dorothy Walker – Trish’s mother, a TV executive
Albert and Louise Thompson – Kilgrave’s parents
Malcolm Ducasse – Jessica’s neighbour
Dr Wendy Hogarth-Ross – Jeri’s wife
Pam the Secretary – Jeri’s secretary and girlfriend
This is going to be just about the geekiest post I’ve written on the blog, so feel free to mock me in the comments. I won’t be offended if you do.
Despite the majority of my writing in the last year and a half being on other subjects (football, television, film and book reviews, analysis and rants mainly) my ultimate aim as a writer is to be a professional writer of fiction.
I prefer the blank canvas, the ability to create my own characters and tell my own stories, to the non-fiction writing I’ve mainly wrote and linked to in the year and a half writing this blog.
I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve got a lot of half-started fiction, things I started with a huge sense of ambition, excited about what I could do, and then more or less gave up, convinced that my story, for whatever reason, didn’t work.
It’s for that reason that I’ve started writing fan-fiction, using characters taken fro the Marvel Comics universe. (Though my interpretations of the characters are mainly based on those that have appeared in the recent films and 1990s cartoons.) Essentially, the idea is that, by using characters and scenarios created by others, I’ll have guidelines of sorts.
For instance, in the early chapters of what I’ve been writing, I felt like I wasn’t quite capturing the personality of Peter Parker the way I wanted. I was able to look up some old episodes online, to have a definite idea of how I wanted the character to speak – the sense of both humility and sarcasm. (My favourite version of the character is the one in the 90s cartoon series. While Toby McGuire and Andrew Garfield’s performances are decent, both are a little too geeky for me.)
Nothing is created in a vacuum – every writer who’s ever lifted a pen has been inspired by something. There’s a space opera short story concept I’ve picked up and abandoned many times over the years. Essentially what I thought for this would be the moral metaphors of Star Trek, in a darker and grimier world, more like Alien or Battlestar Galactica.
I’ve a hero that I wanted to be similar but different to common ideas of how a dynamic leader should behave… and it’s difficult working out the precise characterisation.
But with fanfiction, there’s something to consult, something solid that’s been made, to look at as an example of how a particular character should behave, what their home should look like, the kind of stories that work with that character.
My first plan was an episode by episode rewrite of Star Trek Voyager, which seems to have been a slightly ambitious idea.
My second project, which I think is more sensible, is to write a series of 500 – 1000 word chapters telling stories of Marvel Comics superheroes. (Spiderman, the X-Men and The Avengers are some of Marvel’s more popular characters, if you’re not aware which is which.)
I’m not a big comic reader – in fact the only Marvel comic I think I’ve ever bought was a Spiderman comic where he fought a guy on gigantic stripey stilts. For some reason I fail to comprehend, that villain hasn’t made it into the movies yet.
But I’m a fan of the movies, and grew up watching the 90s Spiderman, X-Men and Fantastic Four cartoon series.
What’s more, looking around various wikipedias – the Marvel Wiki, and of course, Wikipedia itself – it’s fascinating to see different incarnations of the same characters, the different ways the same stories have been told. Thousands of years ago, people will have gathered around campfires, reinterpretting and reimagining cool stories they’ve heard before, and I think comic stories are the modern equivalent of this.
I’m using the fanfiction essentially as a way of getting myself into motion, getting myself to write, to stay in motion and keep my instincts sharp. I’ve written recently about a story I’ve submitted for publication, and I don’t think I’d have written that if it weren’t for the fanfiction.
As I said, I’ve started putting chapters up at Fanfiction.net. I’ve enjoyed writing it, and you may enjoy reading it. Stranger things have happened…