Most of what I know about domestic abuse comes from media: Law & Order SVU, the coverage (not the relationship itself) of Chris Brown & Rihanna, football player headlines, and more sensationalization. Most recently (and probably realistically) I listened to a podcast in which a teenager shares the story of her multi-year abusive relationship with an older guy. She spoke about being sapped of motivation, of being controlled, of not doing what she really wanted to do.
Yes, my friends, family, and community are extremely lucky, since 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and most incidents of domestic abuse are never reported. But I couldn’t help but think of what I know of domestic abuse when watching (the most badass heroine of the year) Jessica Jones’ “relationship” with her tormenter Kilgrave play out in their twisted back and forth between hunted and hunter. Yes, Kilgrave has supernatural powers of mind control. But from what I know of abusive relationships, mind control is not “supernatural” at all. In fact, it seems like wanting to leave, or wanting to do what’s best for you, but somehow not being able to, is one of the most common marks of an abusive relationship.
Is Jessica Jones’ Kilgrave drama an allegory for abuse, or just a supernatural story? It doesn’t really matter. Surely, the Kilgrave villain speaks to viewers regardless of their relationship history. Abusive relationships are not comparable to normal relationship ups and downs. But even in a healthy relationship, partners end up doing things for the other that they don’t want to all the time. And even outside of relationships, the idea of losing control of ourselves, causing ourselves or our loved ones or even strangers harm without wanting to, is terrifying. But even that has its basis in the mundane. We do things we don’t want to do all the time. Why do we stay in a miserable job? Why do we drink to the point of sickness? Why don’t we call our grandmas more often? The fear of losing control—losing your mind—is the human nightmare second only to the fear of death.
So how else is Jessica Jones the most relatable show on TV right now, despite its basis in Marvel Comics? Jessica’s battle with her superpowers is actually the same inner struggle every 20-something I know faces. We’re all trying to figure out how to make the most of our abilities and live up to our potential. The only difference in the show is that Jessica really is “special.” So should we all calm down, try to live happy, violence-free lives, and be grateful that we’re not “blessed” with superpowers and the unwanted attention and burden they bring? Or are we all really special snowflakes? Jessica would laugh at this question, but she’s not as tough as she looks.
For the love of God, watch all of Jessica Jones right now. In addition to being ~deep~, it’s full of girl power (and female actors, creators, writers, etc.), has lots of fun sex, is super suspenseful and engrossing, and 100% worth your time. Oh ya and it’s all on Netflix.