What The Incredible Jessica James Gets Right About Millennials

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Jessica Williams just debuted her latest project, The Incredible Jessica James, on Netflix. It’s a familiar story about a 20-something millennial woman in New York who is angsty about her ex and the fact that her career isn’t exactly where she wants it to be. But there were a few subtle nuances that made this film a game-changer. For example, I never expect to shed any tears during a comedy film about a millennial in New York, but I did watching this. And while I think unexpected love stories are often overdone, the one in The Incredible Jessica James was actually really sweet and made me question my own views on falling in love. But really, it’s the way Jessica James’ career ambitions evolve during the show that struck me the most.
We all see the tropes about young women and work on television. From Girls to Broad City, the overarching theme is that none of us have our shit together. Whether we’re Ilanas who are completely complacent with the funemployed life, or Shoshannas who spend every waking moment in a state of anxiety about what the future holds, the bottom line is that there’s target we have yet to hit. And Jessica James is on that train at the beginning of the film. She hangs rejection letters from theater companies on her apartment wall and teaches theater to public school students through a non-profit program. When she meets one of her idols, Tony-winning playwright Sarah Jones (yes, the real Sarah Jones), Jessica wants to know how she’ll know when she’s made it.
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Jones’ answer to this question creates a paradigm shift for Jessica. It takes the knowledge that Jones still takes the subway and that playwrights don’t make that much money for Jessica to appreciate what she has in front of her. She writes plays. She teaches theater. She’s in it. And for Jones, “there’s kind of not more to it than that.” Suddenly, Jessica is filled with the peace that she thought would only come from getting into a good theater program. And when she gets an offer to teach one of her plays to kids in London, she is grateful and open to the opportunity.
In a moment where millennial misery is all the rage, it feels radical to see Jessica come into the realization that she’s actually ok. She didn’t create tumblr or write Hamilton, but Jessica is doing the thing she loves most. A lot of millennials are. And that counts for something, even if it’s not a prized one-bedroom apartment in Midtown.