“Jessica Jones”, the Baffling Second Season & Lack of Diversity

By Stephanie Teasley  |  04/06/2018

The many Marvel series on Netflix are popular although not all of them are winners (Hello Iron Fist). And when dealing with comic book fans, they will be vocal about their likes and dislikes, regardless whether it's justified or not. Such is the case of the second season of Jessica Jones.

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The second season, which debuted last month, picks up with Jones still working as a private investigator, but more recognized around the city as a vigilante after killing Kilgrave. She’s still holding everyone but Trish at an arm’s length, still walking around with an IDGAF attitude and still not completely comfortable in her skin... and with her powers. To make a very long story short, Jessica discovers that her mother, Alisa, is alive and that she has the same powers that Jessica has, only she’s a thousand times stronger than Jessica and tends to Hulk-out in murderous rages. When Jessica and her family got into that car accident 17 years ago, she and her mother were chosen by a doctor, Karl Malus, to experiment on and become physically enhanced (don’t worry, Malus just wanted to save the world and make it a better place.) But, he didn’t know that a physically-altered Alisa would be severely triggered by everything and go on killing sprees as a side effect of the experiments. In a flashback, we see that she kills Jessica’s boyfriend, escapes before she’s found and watches a forever broken Jessica sob over his bloodied body. Alisa realizes she needs to be locked up because she’s a danger to society, but then a decade later, she starts killing again and with police on her trail, she reveals her true self to Jessica.

Now, mother and daughter relationships can be so very complicated, and the show does explore this, but they do it in such frustrating way that it really drives home the point that so many have made about this series: it showcases how white feminism and privilege work.

Alisa goes berserk mode when her blood pressure raises up just a little bit and by the time she reveals who she really is to her daughter, she already has a string of murders under her belt. So what does Jessica do? She hides her mother in her apartment while she contemplates on whether or not to go to the police. She also lies to the police (actually her buddy the cop, who appreciates what Jessica did to Kilgrave after he took the police station hostage) about whether she’s seen her mother, multiple times, and gets arrested a couple times for assault. Then a heavily-conflicted Jessica, who is now being escorted around by the police because they don’t trust her, lies to the police again and manages to sneak away from already angry NYC policemen and goes to find her mother. Jessica’s plan was to kill her, but she can’t pull the trigger, so she decides to help aid and abed her mother across the border before deciding to go for broke and join her mother.

Mother and daughter steal a giant RV and head north, all while managing not to get pulled over, but Jessica decides to meet her love interest, Oscar, in a diner full of cops and successfully escapes. Jessica’s world spirals even more when she receives a phone call from her cop buddy, who pleads with her to do the right thing and turn in her mother before it’s too late. Alisa realizes she’s doing Jessica more harm than good and tells her to go back before a bullet meets her brain compliments of Trish, who’s literally on a sick one. Jessica tells Trish to run away and then she balls up next to her mother’s dead body, is found by her cop buddy and then the next scene is her just walking around NYC as a private investigator again.

Was there no crime scene investigation?? If you want to overlook the rest of the facts, like they were driving around for a least a day in a stolen vehicle and didn’t flagged, fine, but those of us that watch Law and Order: SVU know that forensics would have been all over Jessica for not having any gun residue on her or that her blood splat pattern did not match up with someone who just killed another person point blank.

Oh yeah, apparently Jessica took the fall for Trish and they let her go! Pretty much said, "She’s been through enough and even though she did just kill someone, it was her mother and that’s gotta be hard. So let’s call it a day boys!" I mean what? Imagine if Jessica was Muslim. Or Black. Or any dark-skinned person of color.

Speaking of which, the show is getting dragged for pulling a Friends and having a serious lack of diversity. Showrunner, Melissa Rosenberg, gave an interview where she said that despite it being in New York City, a giant melting pot and the year 2018, it just didn’t "occur"to her. That seems to be the ancient proverb that white people say when people of color ask why they aren’t represented. It’s old and tired and shouldn’t be accepted as an excuse anymore.

Rosenberg is probably taking her cue from Marvel, who has been criticized by many for their lack of diversity. Marvel once blamed lack of sales on the fact that there was more diversity in the comics, despite evidence showing that wasn’t the case.

Most of the characters of color were one-dimensional (an angry Black woman, an angry Latina, a Black prostitute, a Black prison guard, who was more of a Mammy stereotype in that she provided comfort for Alisa before being discarded) and that the other people of color, like Malcolm and Oscar, were used and treated horribly by Jessica and Trish. But, Jessica and Trish represent white feminism and white privilege in how they view their world. Like when Oscar, the newly paroled Latino supervisor, in a nasty custody battle with his ex-wife, decides to evict Jessica because she’s constantly on the police’s radar, she rants and raves about what a bigot he is and how he’s prejudice. Or, the fact that she asks Oscar to meet her at a diner, while she’s on the run and then makes a scene as she escapes. She knows Oscar’s story and I’m pretty sure in the real world, Oscar would have been questioned, most likely arrested since Jessica is a fugitive and he would have lost custody of his son.

Likewise, Trish’s desperation for powers and to be seen as a serious adult causes her to take the performance-enhancing drug from the first season and she goes crazy. Malcolm tries to talk some sense into her, she uses sex to shut him up, then forces him to take the drug and he runs off high and disgusted. Yes, Trish forced a recovering addict to take drugs and then shrugged it off when Malcolm yelled at her about it. Trish was just a mess this season, so worried about getting powers, leaving her past behind and becoming a relevant status in her world that she didn’t even seem bothered or worried that she might one day get arrested for murder.

A lot of these problems would take care of themselves if they had more diversity in the writing room, which is what made Black Panther and Luke Cage such a success. Representation matters. Hopefully, Rosenberg figures that out.