Originally written by me on January 10, 2016 (posting here from another blog, because I’ll be writing a follow-up shortly).
Yes, I went that far. I said Jessica Jones and Rey are life-changing characters. And while part of me wants to back off on that and say it’s an exaggeration, a bigger part of me is yelling, “No, you leave that title right there, it’s exactly right!”
Let me explain.
I am currently re-watching the full season of Jessica Jones and, on Friday, I will see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the third time and I already have tentative plans to see it a fourth time, and that’s a pretty big deal.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am basically a pop culture failure. For all intents and purposes, I know nothing about television or movies. Every now and then, I can pull out a reference, but mostly, I am told that when people around me start talking about anything pop culture, a look comes over my face like I’ve just been dropped into a room full of aliens.
I’m trying to follow the conversation. I want to follow the conversation. But I just have no idea what they’re talking about.
And I don’t even have a lot of interest in remedying this great failure of life. It has not compelled me to watch more television or make time for more movies. Rather, I just get on with the raising of my spawn, working, working out, and lots and lots of reading.
A couple of months ago, a male friend started telling me about Jessica Jones. I should watch it.
Meh. I don’t watch TV.
But he went on and on
A week or so later, talking to another male friend at a dinner, I told him that the show had been recommended, and he adamantly agreed that I should watch it.
So, I did.
I binge-watched that show.
Then, a few weeks ago, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened. Now, I was probably going to see it anyway, because nostalgia. The original Star Wars movies were something I enjoyed. I couldn’t recite any parts of the movies from memory like so many of my male friends can, but I had good childhood memories about them. So, yes, I was probably going to see it anyway. (I’ve barely seen the prequels, because meh.)
But, then, oh my gawd!
Rey is this bad ass female character who can totally hold her own (“Stop taking my hand!”), but is also (in my opinion) appropriately vulnerable.
So, we now have Jessica Jones and Rey. We have female characters that I am excited about. We have female characters to whom I can relate. We have female characters who don’t need the men to save them. We have female characters who deal with serious issues (Jessica Jones confronts both rape and abortion) in a way that neither minimizes nor contributes further to stigma or outright dishonesty about women’s thoughts and feelings on those issues.
We have female characters who I cheer for.
And I can barely contain myself.
Growing up, I didn’t feel this way about any movies or television, which – I’m sure – led to my apathy toward both media. There was nothing about any television show or movie that was compelling to me, so why waste my time?
There are plenty of MRAs throwing temper tantrums about Jessica Jones and Rey (and Furiosa, but I’ve yet to see the most recent Mad Max film), and that’s because they’ve become so used to seeing themselves in every single frigging thing; seeing themselves represented in everything that they feel they are entitled to it. Heaven forbid that women and POC get the occasional starring role. Heaven forbid that women and POC occasionally see themselves represented.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Representation matters. That girls and women are seeing themselves represented in Jessica Jones and Star Wars is an enormous thing. I cannot overstate the significance of this. And we wouldn’t be so excited about it if it was a regular thing.
Both characters are as believable as their male counterparts in these same types of shows/movies. Both characters have their unique strengths and flaws. Both characters, to one degree or another, speak to all kinds of women in a way that no male character ever could.
And that’s life changing.