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Friday, November 27, 2015

Jessica Jones vs Supergirl?

Yesterday I was running through my Facebook feed and usually I know better than to get sucked into such things, but I decided to answer a question that was thrown out there asking which team was I on, Jessica Jones or Supergirl? For the uninitiated Jessica Jones is part of the Marvel comic universe (MCU) and she's a private investigator who was once a superhero. In fact, she was an Avenger, but in the MCU it's hard to find a character that wasn't at some point. It's kept the team fresh over the years. She hangs out on the same streets with Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the group of them team up eventually to form the Defenders. I like these "street" heroes. There's something appealing about a hero not trying to save the world, but just their little corner of it.

I wrote the following to answer the question: I'm not sure why I need to choose. I like having the light-hearted Supergirl and the dark and gritty Jessica Jones. Just as I like having both Daredevil and The Flash. It a great to have both The Avengers and Man of Ste... ok, that's a poor example, but it's a great time to be a geek.

As a response, someone, not the one asking the question responded: You don't need to or have to, it's just a fucking regular question dude, not a life threatening one.

Obviously, my answer annoyed this person, but hey, it's the internet. At best, the internet is as kind and forgiving as the Spanish Inquisition if the members were velociraptors with explosive diarrhea and menstrual cramps, but the question itself rubbed me the wrong way. Why exactly did I have choose between the two? Why does there have to be choice at all? Certainly there's enough space on my DVR for both. In fact, one doesn't take up space on my DVR at all. I switch over to Netflix and can binge watch until my heart's content.

For the record, I didn't answer back. I suspected it was a flame war in the making and he was looking for a fight. I worded my question carefully, there wasn't an exclamation point, anything in all caps, it contained a joke and an affirmation and I certainly didn't intend for anything to be "life threatening." I checked out his feed to see what kind of rabbit hole that would lead down and it's better to let sleeping trolls lie.

The be fair, I could have just skipped the question, or answered it with one of the choices, but there always seems to be a need to compare one thing to another. That has been especially true with the first two headlining female superheroes since Wonder Woman. I'm going to discount Dark Angel and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, while they're genre, I'm going to stick with known (mostly known) superheroes. First, I applaud both Marvel and DC for putting both characters up on screen. It's huge. It's been too long. I love the sunny, upbeat Supergirl. Just I love The Flash and Arrow. While they're on different networks, I wouldn't be surprised to see a crossover at some point. Tonally, the show is innocent, fun and certainly brings out the child-like wonder that's buried in me. I'm very happy with what the DCU has brought to TV. If I were a kid watching it, I'd lose my shit. As an adult watching it, I think it's a refreshing change from the hard drama that fills my DVR to the brim. Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are amazing, but there isn't much joy in them. I like DC for bringing the traditional superhero to my living room. I will never not love watching superheroes. I've been a fan as long as I've been able to read comic books. Props to Agents of Shield, I don't want to forget a shoutout to you. Jessica Jones on the other hand fits into the latter and is a hard hitting drama. It's dark, gritty and very much set on the same streets with Daredevil. Both shows hit me on very different levels. To me it's like comparing The Beatles to the Rolling Stones, or Elvis to Frank Sinatra, Star Wars and Star Trek. You can but why would you?

That brings me to the first show, Supergirl. She's part of the DC universe (DCU) and she's Superman's cousin and was sent to Earth to protect him as a baby, but her ship was stuck in the phantom zone for a while. When she eventually arrives on Earth Supes has been saving the planet for a while and she's the hero that has something to learn. She's often in her cousin's shadow, but very much a hero in her own right and she's trying very hard to prove it.

Melissa Benoist plays her with a gee-shucks kind of charm that's both adorable and fun to watch. The character is struggles with cute everyday problems and much deeper ones about identity, living up to expectations and trying to fit in to world that doesn't always under her and she's trying to understand. The show is kind and light-hearted and very watchable. They did a great job of folding in a lot of the Superman lore into the show and the show has been great. I think the exception was an episode they undercut Supergirl and seriously dropped the ball. *Editorial Opinion Alert* It was an episode Kara needed a rescue from her cousin with a nuclear powered villain Superman had never beaten. I think it was a poor choice and if Superman isn't available for the show, then please don't bring him in. Superman has left Earth more than once. Let your character breathe! *End* Fortunately, they followed up that episode with one called Live Wire, who is a great villain with the best use of electrical powers I'd ever seen. It was the best episode to date.

On the other hand Jessica Jones is dark, gritty and has a hardboiled, noir style that appeals to my love of Mike Hammer, Phillip Marlowe, Archie Goodwin. She's a hard-drinking, self-loathing and down-and-out detective, battling personal demons with a seriously sick antagonist who made her do things that haunt her very soul. She suffers from PTSD, she doesn't think she's a good person, she feels incapable of love, while she has sex in the series, there's nothing romantic about it. It's need and to help her feel something. The repercussions of it come later and it's heartbreaking. She has super strength and can jump into something that resembles flight. She's tough, but not invulnerable and she has no idea where her powers came from. Her protagonist is the sick and perverted Kilgrave acted with twisted glee by the former 10th Doctor, David Tennant. Kilgrave is mad, delusional and played to note perfection. This may be Marvel's finest villain after Tom Hiddleston's Loki.

Krysten Ritter plays Jessica from a place of pain and loss. She's lost her identity and she would like to shuck it off entirely and find a deep hole to crawl into and pull the darkness in behind her. The character keeps coming in contact with people that need help and if she doesn't there are dire consequences. She has to make hard choices and for her it's about survival. It's a marvelous role.

The two shows couldn't be further apart in narrative. It's a miracle that we have one strong female superhero on the screen, let alone two. What I find distressing is article after article pitting the two against one another. The internet is fine in doing that on it's own, just pick up any twitter feed with #JessicaJones or #Supergirl. This article from shows the point perfectly:

There has been several articles that contain some backlash. For instance:

I'm trying really hard not to be preachy and there will always be those who need to choose between Kirk and Picard. Discussion is fine, but one doesn't negate the other. Jessica Jones certainly doesn't mean the end of Supergirl, or vice-versa. It means we finally have something that propels a very underserved demographic into the forefront. I roll this back to the original question. Are you team Supergirl or Team Jessica Jones? And for the life of me, I can choose one over the other in terms of writing and production, but that isn't the question. I think I need them both. I think both serve a crucial role in terms of storytelling, in introducing good, powerful female characters into the TV landscape, into the public consciousness and into the our hearts.

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