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Gender and Trauma in Jessica Jones

by Sarah Feeney

As context for this clip, Jessica has been set up by a couple posing as clients for her PI service who intend to murder her as a sort of revenge for the destruction that occurred in New York City during the events of The Avengers. In her rage, Jessica reveals part of the trauma she has undergone in the past and the extent to which she represses her emotions. I find this clip particularly interesting for the way it both subverts and upholds conventions of stereotypical depictions of women. Her extreme physical strength and aggression embody the typical “masculine,” particularly when contrasted with the woman who is trying to kill Jessica, who has used trickery and deception to accomplish her goals. When confronted with this deception, Jessica responds with straightforward violence. In simple terms, she throws a temper tantrum. The wrath-filled rage fit carried out by a character unable to manage their emotions has been often seen in men as seen in films as varied as Inside Out (Anger), Star Wars (Kylo Ren), and Scarface (Tony Montana). Jessica’s inability to manage her grief and her resort to violence reflect the repression of emotion more often seen in men in our society, in which women are viewed as more interested in “talking about their feelings.” However, unlike the silent Kylo Ren in Star Wars, Jessica provides the audience with insight into her past and the reasons for her behavior. While she still fails to process her emotions in a healthy way (“keep your goddamn feelings to yourself”), some of the reasons for her behavior are revealed through her. She talks about her feelings - sort of. In many narratives, if a male character has a “dark and tortured past,” the audience will find out the details through another character or from subtext, rather than through the character himself voicing it. As a female character, it seems that Jessica is actually given more voice than a male character would be in a similar situation.

Gender Tropes in Jessica Jones

Marvel's original Netflix series starring Krysten Ritter as a superpowered private eye.

from Marvel's Jessica Jones (2015)
Creator: Melissa Rosenberg
Distributor: Netflix
Posted by Sarah Feeney