Have you ever been sucked into the Netflix black hole of too-much-TV-watching? Let’s be real – who hasn’t? If you don’t watch Netflix (ok, I know a few admirable individuals who have told me, no, they don’t!), I applaud you and think you should blog about how you do it. These Netflix series are getting better and better, so my advice is… get away! Get a library book and ignore what’s being produced on Netflix so you’re not tempted.
That being said, I need to tell you about one show I recently watched because – while I do not advocate “Netflix bingeing” and think our culture (myself included) spends far too much time in front of the television – I see real value in engaging with artful media, evaluating its truth or advocated view of life, and comparing it with the truth of the gospel.
The show I’m speaking of is Jessica Jones, a Netflix original series produced in conjunction with Marvel. The show follows Daredevil in a series of shows that are leading up to a show featuring all the Defenders. It’s set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a fictional world full of superheroes in which movies like Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Captain America take place.
I’m no professional media critic, but I think you and I, and most people we know, love a good plot where good battles evil, and good wins. The Batman and Spider-Man movies, Smallville, and all of the recent releases speak to our desire for justice, our hatred of (and fascination with) villains, and our desire to see an impressive battle fought and won by somebody superhuman.
When I heard about Jessica Jones and read a little online, I wasn’t surprised it had high ratings. Having been incredibly impressed with the artful, dark, and inspiring Daredevil featuring the likable Matt Murdock, I was interested to see what the world of Jessica Jones would be like. I was tickled to find out it takes place in the same New York neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, as its predecessor does.
Jessica Jones: A dark, gritty victory over evil
Let me be the first to tell you: this show isn’t for kids. It’s crude, violent, and explicitly sexual. Because I have a hard time getting that kind of content out of my head, I fast-forwarded quite a bit.
But I found the show to be valuable because of how it got me to thinking about good, evil, and what makes a true hero.
Spoiler alert: I’m sort of giving away broad brushstrokes of the series, but you can read this and still watch and enjoy the series because with any superhero series, you sort of come into it with plotline expectations, right? But don’t read if you don’t want to super broadly know what happens. If I’m losing you for that reason, thanks and come back after you’ve watched all 13 episodes!
Like most villains, you hate Kilgrave, the star villain in this show, because he is utterly despicable. Kilgrave, a suave, well-dressed Brit, has the power of mind control. While this power could be used for good, Kilgrave uses it out of greed, to satisfy his own desires. He’s incredibly evil. He makes people do horrible things.
Like most heroes, Jessica Jones, who’s a private investigator (and hasn’t yet claimed her superhero identity), has a secret power: superhuman strength. But she’s also broken emotionally through being controlled by Kilgrave. As the show unfolds, you find Kilgrave has hurt more people than just Jessica… his power is immense, the pain he causes is unthinkable, and Jessica is out to get revenge.
The most frustrating part of the show is that in the face of the devil himself, initially no one, including Jessica, can take him down. With his ability to control minds, good has no chance…
…until Jessica ends up defeating Kilgrave because she breaks lose of his power.
So while I DON’T like Jessica’s vengeful motivations, the gritty elements of the show, or all of the violence, what I LOVE is that Jessica’s victory reminds me of another victory won at the hands of another super hero.
Except this one’s real… and he’s better.
Jessica Jones is heroic, but flawed
Ultimately Jessica’s not our ideal of a hero, and she admits it. People try to tell her she’s a hero and to thank her for what she’s doing to stop Kilgrave. But haunted by her past and her own failures, Jessica can never accept that she is indeed heroic. She stubbornly refutes every person’s claim that she is good by saying she is not good.
Because really, she’s not.
We cheer her on, but we recognize her flaws. She’s crude and hardened. She’s an alcoholic. She hurts people she loves and can’t protect them from Kilgrave. Her tactics in taking down Kilgrave are questionable at best, and revolting at the least. Her morals are often skewed.
She takes down the enemy, but it’s a long, hard series to get there.
Jesus: The ultimate defeat over evil
You don’t need me to tell you we live in a scary world, full of people who do terrible things to each other. We hate the evil we see. We long for victory.
The book of Hebrews speaks of a person who was divine (holding all the power of God himself), but entered the world as a human “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Jesus was perfect. He loved and healed people, taught them, befriended them, and ministered to their physical and spiritual needs. He got to the root of their hurt and pain by gently, but directly, pointing out that they had rebelled against God. He showed them that while they had ultimately rejected God, deserving death, there was a way to restore their relationship with God as members of his family, ultimately enjoying forgiveness, acceptance, and new purpose in life.
When Jesus died an innocent death on the cross, he paid for the sins that made us deserve death. Then he showed he had ultimate power over death by… coming back to life! Impossible, right? Nope. And his sacrifice and life not only clears our names before God Almighty, but it gives US freedom from sin and a new life as his beloved children.
Unlike the people under Kilgrave’s mind-control, we have a choice to follow the ways of our own sinful nature, and the devil, the prince of this world (John 12:31)… or surrender our lives to Jesus.
Jesus Christ trumps Jessica Jones.
I know I’m not the first to draw this parallel, but may I remind you? Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock, Spider-Man, and other superheroes may not be real, but Jesus is. And he’s the best of them all.