This is nowhere near as articulate as I want to be, but perfectionist procrastination: it don't otherwise get done.

I, like many other people, have done exactly what Netflix knew we would and watched the entire Jessica Jones release back-to-back-to-back. I loved elements of it, specific scenes and relationships, and I think I like what it's doing in terms of themes and ethical-political orientation? But aspects of it made me really uncomfortable, and/because right now I trust Fandom (the abstract entity comprised of people I don't know and uncomfortably a handful I do) about half as far as I can headbutt it not to respond to things in ways that make me want to whack them with a mallet (please believe that nothing in this post is meant as indictment of any individual fan, just exasperation at the ubiquity and predictability of certain patterns of behaviour).

To summarize my current relationship with Marvel Studios and to steal once again from [personal profile] recessional: I think it's a great tragedy they were wiped out by that meteorite. I still haven't seen AoU because I know it'll piss me off and I haven't watched Agents of SHIELD since the first episode of the second season. I only gave JJ a shot because it looked to be arm's-length enough from the rest of it to have caught minimal backsplash from the Whedonspooge tidal wave and in that regard I was thankfully correct.

To summarize my problems with JJ and specifically Fandom response: David Tennant as Kilgrave.



I understand and respect the decision to put the Kilgrave plotline up front in establishing (this incarnation of) Jessica's backstory, and I'm glad they got it out of the way rather than leaving it looming in the uncertain future, and I like where this season ends and am optimistic about the next one. I think the show itself did an admirable job of using Kilgrave to explore and open conversations about consent and gaslighting/manipulative behaviour and the sharp hooks of guilt and self-doubt that kind of trauma sinks into the people who survive it, and of holding it up alongside examples of other kinds of (always complicated) abusive relationships. Thumbs and big toes all the way up.

On the other pan of the scale, my enjoyment of each episode was directly negatively correlated to the amount of attention and screentime given to David Tennant as Kilgrave. The reasons for this are numerous and intersectional. Partly it's because I hate Doctor Who so much that I "eugh" involuntarily at the face or voice of people I associate strongly with it (until something else overwrites the association, like with Sense8). I don't want to react this way, it's bloody inconvenient, but I never claimed my brain wasn't fucked up. I know other people have the opposite reaction and the production literally banked on that to make people watch the show.

That's another part of the problem, and my main point of connection to the horrorblogging project via Crimson Peak: when media fans adopt specific creator-celebrities as "faves" we predispose ourselves positively towards other properties they're involved with, even if we don't actively seek out same (myself enthusiastically included up to this point, more reluctantly hereafter). Getting really fannish about someone means getting protective about them the way we might about close friends, partners, or pets (in a monkeysphere/social brain hypothesis way that's kinda what they are), and reacting accordingly--leaping to their defense, for example, when they're accused of something bad (or carrying on in denial, or flipping out and rejecting them because we feel that hurt and betrayed). With performers I think this bleeds through into characters, and is part of why fans twist into such knots trying to rationalize and justify and exculpate the actions of characters whose faces or voices we've self-programmed to like (and often though not necessarily find sexually attractive).

Possibly my strongest take-away from Crimson Peak, apart from the intense degree to which it is exactly what it is (i.e. high church Gothic Horror in the hands and distinctive aesthetic style of Guillermo del Toro), was that Thomas Sharpe is what some Marvel fans want or even genuinely believe Loki to be. To an almost uncanny degree, as it happens: Thomas was unambiguously abused by both parents, grew up in unhealthy isolation, has compelling reasons for taking up con artistry, wasn't the one actually murdering people, did not repeatedly attempt to commit genocide, is ultimately ~Redeemed by Love~ to the degree that circumstances allow that, and for bonus points has a longstanding sexual relationship with his only sibling. Hiddlestans naturally grabbed onto this with suffocating force and ran with it, right over the edge of the balcony. Fanon Thomas is a woobie cinnamon roll too good for this world--which is fine, you do you, although I will roll my eyes if you ignore Thomas and Lucille's co-dependence and his complicity in the murders that facilitate and cap off his own active manipulation and exploitation of women including Edith and glare if you make him a cowering victim of That Crazy Bitch Lucille (conflation of madness and murderiness and madonna/whore problems being issues for another essay).

I don't even need to look to know that there are people out there in Fandom defending Kilgrave, whether his potential for future redemption or his present innocence on grounds of nobody wuvs him, and here I do have to shake my head. Why this compulsion? Because he's a white male villain with a tragic-ish history meeting some definition of "cute", and Fandom are basically habituated to accept and even expect him eventually coming around to join the Good Guys. "Britishness" (Tennant's actually Scottish, if not politically so, though doing an English accent here, but it'll take a flock of flying pigs to make some non-British Isles fans notice the difference), thinness, and being familiar from something else glaze this particular cinnamon roll, but basically any white man can Do No Wrong if fans only click their heels together and blame someone else, most popularly a woman or person of colour.

Thing is, in this case? The show doesn't want you to. They're actually actively dissecting this trope. In presenting and then undermining his parents' evil, for example, they're illustrating subjectivity of experience and questioning narrative reliability. Same with the flashbacks to Jessica not leaving the roof. The show is full of conversations and object lessons about ends vs. means, about intention, about responsibility for others' actions, and about whether good or altruistic actions can "balance out" bad or selfish ones, and it leaves those questions open. There's a whole episode devoted to the question of whether Kilgrave can be saved or redeemed, and the conclusion is that it's not impossible but it won't happen on its own and it's not Jessica's responsibility to torture herself or hand over her entire life trying to fix or ground him--just like it's not your responsibility to suffer trying to heal somebody who demands it of you (that's another reason the show made me uncomfortable but one I consider a point in its favour: it stings because it's working, depicting varied messy experiences of survivors of trauma and abusive relationships realistically). The show examines all the usual arguments for Kilgrave's innocence or rehabilitative potential and finds them inadequate, and we see the corpse (this being a comic book universe that doesn't necessarily mean he won't be back, but for now at least it's a degree of closure real life generally doesn't offer). Am I saying Fandom should stop asking "what if?" and just accept the canon as it is? Absolutely not! I'm saying that in this instance, on this issue, retreading this ground to exonerate Kilgrave is reactionary and conservative, and those are things fans don't like to be called.

. . . I could say more about other characters and relationships on JJ and what I think Fandom is going to do (wrong) with them, but I was supposed to accomplish other things tonight and I doubt more than two people will read this anyway, so I'll stop.



P.S.: One of many tracks iTunes shuffled at me while I was writing this, felt appropriate at the time:
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