Warning: Spoilers ahead for Jessica Jones season 2.
Jessica Jones has the very laudable habit of figuring out where our discussions of misogyny and sexism will go long before society at large even sees the iceberg lurking in the cultural water. Earlier this week, I examined how the superhero drama’s debut season looks through the lens of #MeToo, a movement whose resurgence the Netflix comic book series preceded by well over two years. The results revealed a chilling mirror to the real-life stories uncovered about alleged predators like Harvey Weinstein and producer Brett Ratner over the last few months.
Well, Jones continues its near-psychic streak with its brand-new sophomore season, which grapples with another seer-like storyline. Throughout the first episodes of the Marvel series' return to Netflix, former teen actress Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is forced to face the much-older director who raped her years ago. By peeling apart the layers of Trish’s own unexpected #MeToo journey, Jessica Jones shows us how important it is to listen to, and believe, women’s stories.
We first hear of Trish’s assault in episode 2, “AKA Freak Accident,” as she goes to very politely ask the man who abused her, director Max Tatum (James McCaffrey), if he would help her get hospital records about IGH, the shadowy medical corporation at the heart of Jessica Jones’ season 2 mystery. When the filmmaker says no, Trish threatens to expose him for sexually exploiting her at just 15 years old. Everything Max says is unsettlingly similar to the real-life tales out of Hollywood. First, Max claims his victim was “16 going on 30,” so it wasn't really rape, then he says Trish was cast in his movie merely because she “wanted it more than anyone” he had ever met. Lastly, the director complains, “I was the one who was used.” In a later episode he cries of teen Trish, “I loved her.”
Although Trish gives Max a deadline for when to respond to her demands, he ignores her because the Hollywood power player knows no one will listen her. In “AKA God Help the Hobo,” Trish takes best friend and titular superhero Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) to confront Max over the files. Rather than show a bit of remorse, Max spits, “You know what? Go public. See if you can handle the scrutiny.” He clearly believes Trish will be raked over the coals for being sexually manipulated as a literal child before a powerful director will experience any real consequences for doing the manipulating. You can already hear the talking head cable questions of “Wasn’t she taking drugs at that time — what can she really remember?” and “Doesn’t it sound like she started things?,” as if a 40-year-old man is powerless to stop a high school sophomore.
It seems Trish knew this is the kind of future that awaited her if she ever chose to tell her story, since she has Jessica's right-hand man Malcolm Ducasse (Eka Darville) record her original conversation with Max, where he defended himself for raping a teenager. Although no one would believe a woman like Trish about her own assault, they would listen to the words out of a man's mouth.
Trish’s portrayer Rachael Taylor has an explanation for this uncannily on-the-mark depiction of what #MeToo and the Time’s Up initiative is trying to end: the magic of creator Melissa Rosenberg. “She puts story first and our characters first, but she has a knack for tapping into real social issues in a way that is very grounded,” the Australian actress, flanked by TV BFF and co-star Krysten Ritter, explained to Refinery29 during an interview in New York City. “She’s not deliberately moralizing or making a political point, but naturally in the way she talks about the female experience, she tends to tack on social issues that are real and relevant and prevalent.”
Even the cast was surprised to see the exact subject they’re tackling on screen become a national conversation. “I remember we were all like, ‘How is this happening?” Ritter explained of their reaction to the Harvey Weinstein exposé and resulting flood of unmasked, widespread predation in the entertainment industry. “We were texting each other, ‘We’re doing this exact storyline in our show.’”
However, the Jessica Jones team was actually ahead of the curve. The #MeToo movement was revived in late 2017, Jessica Jones filmed episodes like “Freak Accident” and “Help The Hobo” months earlier between April and June, Ritter and Taylor confirmed.
But, the addition of Max's depravity isn’t the only way Jessica Jones shows the mountains women need to climb to be believed. Throughout the first five episodes of season 2, the only ones given to journalists for review, Jessica is assaulted in various fashions by different men three times. Each time, she is blamed for the violence, despite the fact she was defending herself.
The first time arrives in season-opener “AKA Start at the Beginning,” when rival P.I. Price Chang (Terry Chen) aggressively blocks Jessica from leaving his office because he’s enraged a woman one-upped him. Since Price made the encounter physical, Jess pushes the man out of the way, and he responds by hitting her with a high-powered stun gun. This means Price legitimately tried to electrocute Jessica. Of course, being Jessica, the powered person responds with extreme force, nearly killing Price. That's not great, but police never ask what began the altercation or what part the male P.I. played in it. Instead, Jessica is simply hauled off to jail.
Similarly, as Jessica is searching a late IGH doctor’s office during his funeral in “Freak Accident," a former patient, who happens to be paralyzed, comes in to ask how she knows the deceased. Unsatisfied by her answer, the vet flicks out a baton from an unknowable hiding spot and hits Jessica in the legs, sending her crashing to the ground. When she tries to take the weapon from him, he further attacks her. Eventually a rabbi comes in and sees the man violently grabbing at Jessica’s leg. But, nobody asks why he’s doing that. Instead, the old man yells at Jessica, demanding to know what’s wrong with her.
In the last instance, a man nicknamed Whizzer (Jay Klaitz), who also has IGH-created powers, holds Jessica at gunpoint in her own apartment. Sadly, he’s under the influence of dangerous prescription drugs forced upon him by IGH. When he is murdered, police want to blame an innocent Jessica for the death, despite the fact she was the one who was almost killed by poor Whizzer, not the other way around.
The way the world around Jessica completely ignores the actuals detail of her story for the ones it wants to foist upon her may explain why she bristles so quickly during her bathroom sex scene with a stranger in “Freak Accident.” Jessica abruptly ends the quickie when the unnamed jerk calls her a “freak,” a name she hates. At this point, it would be nice if one person other than Trish saw Jessica for who she actually is, and she can’t even get that during something as intimate and revealing as sex.
If only that walking Sperry Top-Sider had listened to Jessica when she told him to stop talking.
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