An Ode to Madness

Six days ago, on March 8th (not a coincidence), Netflix viewers were treated to another binge fest opportunity in the form of the second season of Jessica Jones, based on the Marvel heroine of the same name. Created by a woman (Melissa Rosenberg), and directed mostly by women (12 out of 13 episodes), it was a testament to girl power but also a visual treat for us men who could enjoy Krysten Ritter's doe-eyed beauty in portraying the emotionally fragile protagonist, or Rachael Taylor's fierce and sexual good looks comparable only to that of a lioness, in her role as Trish.

Whereas the first season of the show was marked by a compelling and intelligently written story, terrifying villain, a chilling horror atmosphere and a masterful exploration of the theme of rape, thus making it, in my opinion, the best out of all the Marvel shows aired on Netflix, it also raised the bar pretty high. So high in fact that it was pretty unrealistic to expect a repeat. Instead, we got 13 hours of quality program with enough room for some underlying philosophy to stick out just enough to catch our eye and be subjected to analysis.

The main concepts explored in the second season are power and insanity. The heroine, Jessica, is blessed, or cursed we should rather say, with exceptional strength and a healing factor, as a result of an experiment she never agreed to. She is in a position to use her gifts for helping those in need, but instead she wallows in depression and alcoholism accompanied by violent mood swings and a cynical outlook on life. She is an empowered woman but is far from deriving happiness out of it. This is a subversive take on the classical optimistic depiction of a hero (in the comic books Jessica is happily married to Luke Cage and they have a child together).

Her adopted sister Trish is miserable precisely because she does not possess Jessica's powers. Her obsession with them goes so far that she refuses to get engaged with Griffin, a perfect man. Because that would reinforce the white knight stereotype. Instead, she goes on a ridiculous crusade of 'getting justice' that bizarrely gives birth to the whole season two plot. She brings about the ruin of her career and causes the death of many people in the process, thus echoing the want for craziness present in a song that she made.

If female empowerment originates from feminism then the celebration of madness or schizophrenia comes from postmodern/neo-Marxist philosophy. It, madness, is also present in the show's villain and is the result of genetic tampering, something that person has no control over but that is, along with being endowed with great power, one of her most defining characteristics. The show seems to play with these ideas, ideas of a (modern) woman becoming crazy due to gaining empowerment, but also becoming powerful on account of being hysterical or obsessive. There is also the traditional idea of a woman finding her purpose in love for a man, a choice that is put before both Jessica and Trish. Trish refuses due to her being cray cray, Jessica out of necessity and due to external factors.

Another female character in the show, Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss - Trinity from The Matrix), a ruthless lawyer and self-made woman, also a lesbian, is one more example of the subversion of traditional Western values in favor of a highly cynical outcome. Struck by a devastating illness, she is on the verge of losing everything she ever worked for in her life. At one point she comes across a miraculous healer who she believes cures her of her disease. She is ready to become a humanist and start helping others, turn a new leaf and stop being self-centered and manipulative. It turns out the healer was a fraud and a grifter. There is no change of ways and opening yourself up for altruism after all, just revenge on the scammers and a return to Machiavellianism.

The season ends on a bitter sweet note, with something of a reactionary ending, that didn't come about as a result of a conscious choice. It seems to eat its cake and have it too, with 'I'm crazy, moody and single but that's okay' philosophy on the one hand and 'Maybe forgetting all this feminist crap and settling down with a guy isn't such a bad idea after all' on the other, in a sort of reluctant acceptance of the Sex and the City scenario.


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