Hero worship | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Aug 07, 2017

After binge-watching Marvel Comic’s “Jessica Jones” on Netflix, I can officially say I am infatuated – a full-on, intellectual adoration for a fictional experiment gone wrong.

Jessica Jones has super-human strength and, more importantly, the brains to match. The imagery established in the first scene complies with old TV stereotypes, a private investigator behind an empty desk, in a barren room, cheap bourbon nearby.

The familiarity ends there, however, as this PI is a diminutive “she,” an alternative beauty, with long black hair, torn jeans, heavy black boots, tank top, and often a black leather jacket.

Jessica Jones is broken, having lost her whole family, completely unaware of how she gained her strength (corporate big wigs), mistrustful, and trapped by both having power and not having power. Despite the general setting of despair, I took consolation in the fact that although isolated, Jessica trusts and covets her best friend.

The central struggle is with the violent chaos created by a psychotic, mind-controlling murderer, Kilgrave, but what intrigued me about this series and upped the hero ante was how Jessica is living with a complete lack of privacy and autonomy because the villain watches (or uses others to watch) her every move.

Although it is fantastical in the show, at its base, it is about a man with an obsession to control. (SPOILER ALERT: it is eventually his undoing).

Coincidentally, I also just finished a book, “Swing Time,” about best friends and how the promise in a little girl can wither under the constant gaze of expectations. Set within the stark contrasts of extreme poverty and wealth, the relationships with a best friend (a talented dancer), her mother (an activist), her boss (a diva performer), and even a teacher in a small village in Africa (a woman trapped by tradition), demonstrate the challenge to overcome the societal lens, and it is weaved fearlessly (and astutely) into the stories of everyday life.

Each of the women in the story repeatedly hear what reinforces already present doubts: “The division he claimed he could see inside of me I understood very well, nothing was easier for me to grasp than the idea that I was born half right and half wrong.”

It is by no means a heroic tale, but in this story, two young women try to overcome what is supposed to be possible for girls who look a certain way or grow up under certain conditions. The extraordinary is in each line, each paragraph, as the writing is awe-inspiring.

Author Zadie Smith writes like some sort of wizard, crafting phrases that seem so simple and natural but at the same time complex and brilliant.

Life under a watchful or judgmental eye is one that many women can relate to, and we are seeing and reading more of these stories.

Growing up, my hero worship took different forms, including great storytellers, but never a superhero, with the minor exception of a Saturday-morning cartoon fondness for the sister of the Wonder Twins.

Wonder Woman seemed too, well, cheerful and under control. (Note: I hear the new movie changes this perception, but I have not seen it.) My new-found respect for a crusader with kohl-rimmed eyes makes me happy that girls have more complicated women to look up to, women who defy expectations.

But true to my childhood self, as much as I adore Jessica Jones, when I read an author like Zadie Smith, a superhero of words, I realize not much is more heroic to me than that.

Author’s note: Neither the show nor the book are light-hearted. I had to watch “Jessica Jones” with eyes covered for the first few episodes.

 

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