Comic Book Representation: 2015 Review
How did our favorite comics change the game this year? We've talked a lot about representation and why it matters to us here on Vingle, and our discussions have become one of my favorite things in this community. So for starters, we all deserve a round of applause. Even though the year is over, it seems like a good time to look back and see what good things happened, and start being hopeful for next year too! Alysia Yeoh's wedding She's not the first openly transgender character in comics, but Alysia is one of the major ones (she came out in 2013). This year, Barbara Gordon's roommate got married- which is definitely a first for mainstream comics. DC (with writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher) have done an amazing job with this character. I for one am really happy for her! The All-New, All-Different Avengers Marvel's new lineup for their headline team is definitely something worth celebrating. Captain America is now Sam Wilson, Spider-Man is Miles Morales, and Nova is Sam Alexander. Kamala Khan and Jane Foster are there as Ms. Marvel and Thor respectively. The team is totally different and completely awesome. Squirrel Girl is (almost) realistic-looking You know, minus the tail. Lots of fans were very critical of the way her body was drawn, because even though the art above features a fairly average figure, comic books tend to draw women as extremely skinny and often hyper sexualized. Which brings me to... Faith Herbert got her own mini-series Valiant comics definitely led the way with this one. Obviously weight is a touchy subject right now, so it's really encouraging to see a hero that's big. Turns out you can kick butt and be awesome no matter what you weigh. Who knew? Marvel might be listening When they released some (granted, awesome) hip-hop variant covers this year but announced zero nonwhite writers, fans knew something was up. It's not cool to reap the benefits of the African-American community's talents without actually supporting that community. Fans said so, and it does feel like they're (slowly but surely) making changes. Hiring Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the Black Panther series seems like a small improvement. And it is. But like I'm sure we all know, change happens slowly. Which is why it's important to celebrate even the little victories.
NEW! Set Photos From Luke Cage
For those of you already done with Jessica Jones... We're all looking forward to this, right? Luke Cage was one of my favorite characters in Jessica Jones. I'm so ready for him to star in a series of his own. And thought it's not coming out until some time next year, these set photos promise that there's something good in store. If you live in NYC, you definitely know storefronts like these. They're a big part of the culture. One of the complaints fans had about Daredevil was that it didn't seem like it took place in the New York of today. Hopefully Luke Cage will do better! Rosario Dawson aka Claire Temple. So glad to keep seeing her- she was great in Daredevil so it was kind of sad she wasn't a major part of Jessica Jones. It would be awesome if her role was bigger in Luke Cage. Looks like they'll get to spend time together without one of them being unconscious. The question here is: What stopped that car? Could it have been Luke, or is there something (else) superhuman going on here? Okay so it looks like it was probably Luke. I don't want to say much about Cornell Stokes right now just in case people haven't read the comics, and it seems like Marvel feels the same way. But here's Alfre Woodard who will be playing his cousin Mariah Dillard. This series has a lot of expectations ahead of it. Despite the rising number of nonwhite fans, so far Marvel's universe has been overwhelmingly white. The Black Panther film release date has been pushed forward multiple times, and is not expected until 2018. Which means that Luke Cage will be Marvel's first nonwhite hero to get a live-action title. Seems a bit overdue. But that doesn't take away from the facts: He's a great character, with a loyal fanbase, and Mike Colter is an amazing actor. And I will say this: The hoodie symbolism is pretty brilliant.
Jessica Jones and Relationship Violence
"All you gave me was shame!" [Content warning for discussion of rape and domestic violence]. [Not SPOILER free]. Jessica Jones has been getting a lot of (well-earned) acclaim for being gritty, well-designed, and compelling. Frankly, it's one of the best things Marvel has done. But this show deserves credit for something else. Honestly, I was nervous going in. I was familiar with the comics, and I knew that one of the crimes The Purple Man/Kilgrave committed was sexual assault. And unfortunately that's not a subject that our media handles well. We victim-blame. We sympathize with attackers. In the court of public opinion, we often absolve them of any crime. According to RAINN, only 3 out of every 100 rapists ever spend a day in prison. The majority still go unreported, and victims often state that they don't come forward because they're scared. They're shamed into silence. Or they're dismissed, told that they're wrong about what they experienced. Told they're lying, or blowing it out of proportion. Jessica Jones shut that right down. Just in case the images won't load, here's the text of that scene: Kilgrave: We used to do a lot more than just touch hands. Jessica: Yeah, it's called rape. Kilgrave: What? Which part of staying in five-star hotels, eating in all the best places, doing whatever the hell you wanted, is rape? Jessica: The part where I didn't want any of it! Not only did you physically rape me, but you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head. Kilgrave: That is not what I was trying to do. Jessica: It doesn't matter what you were trying to do! You raped me. Again and again and again. Something horrific happened to this woman. Kilgrave used his powers to force her to do whatever he wanted. He brainwashed her, and while most abusers don't have powers, they often use manipulative tactics to force their victims to stay with them. Kilgrave is a monster and he used his powers to control her. And then he convinced himself that he was the victim, that he had done nothing wrong. Which is what makes him the villain of this story. And what's amazing is that he reads just like a textbook case of an abuser. He's self-centered, he's obsessed with her, stalks her, he's convinced that they're in love and "meant to be", so sure that he's in the right and that she's just "acting crazy", that they're in a "rough patch". And when he finally realizes she doesn't want him... "Or maybe I'll just kill her." For most victims of domestic violence, the times when they try to leave their partners are the most dangerous. Abusers adopt the mentality of "if I can't have her, no one can", the most extreme iteration of a repeating pattern of abuse: treating their partners like objects or possessions. Jessica Jones is a hero. And not just because she's powerful, or because she tracks down bad guys. It's because this show faced the horror of rape and relationship violence head on. Something that 1 in 3 American women face at one point in their lives. Jessica Jones stood up for all of those women and said no, this isn't love. This is torture. This is abuse. Her struggle to provide evidence in the courtroom, her own self-doubt and trauma, even her attempts to save him are all battles that victims often have to face. She faced the demons, and maybe someone else will see her and find the courage to do the same. "Abuse thrives only in silence." If you want more information on the subject, this TED talk by survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner is a little more grounded in reality. However, I've found that sometimes fiction can be just as effective. It can be easier to examine fictional villains to see patterns that can lead to violence, and it can be empowering to look up to fictional heroes when we need courage. Which is why Jessica Jones has my deepest gratitude.
Jessica Jones: PTSD and Mind Control
Do not worry, I will do my best to avoid major spoilers. I want to discuss some of the topics in Jessica Jones, not the story itself. ****Potential trigger warning**** Jessica Jones could be one of the most beneficial shows to come to fruition. The new Netflix series is about a private detective, endowed with superpowers, who lives with post traumatic stress disorder after having been under the influence of superhuman mind control. Kilgrave, the man who held her under his mind control for over a month, forced her to do terrible things that were not in her nature, but he made her *feel* like they were things she *wanted* to do. Although it has a fictional basis, this show will offer a level of awareness, of some pretty taboo topics, not seen before. What I want to talk about is the approach this show takes to the subjects of PTSD and mind control. PTSD is not handled with kid gloves, it is not just mentioned and then hinted at here and there. It is the skeletal structure, the muscle, the skin. Jessica Jones lives, eats, breathes, dreams, and secretes PTSD. Because that IS what it is like living with PTSD. Mind control...well, I'll get to that. PTSD With PTSD, fear becomes a real thing, not just some little twisting in your stomach or a dry clenched throat. It becomes this looming monster, standing in your shadow, waiting to pounce the moment you are feeling vulnerable. And it does pounce...every. single. time. People handle that differently...some people do not handle it at all and just try to keep ahead of it. That is basically Jessica Jones' approach. Although she is self-aware, she also drowns herself in her work, rarely even taking the time to sleep. (Sleep is the enemy, anyway. It is a time when one is most vulnerable to creeping thoughts and fears.) But the past catches up to her during an investigation, and there is a very real moment when the fear suffocates her, drowns her thoughts in the terror. She panics, she runs. And this is where the show starts hitting on some very hard truths. 1. PTSD affects relationships. It doesn't matter how hard you try to hide your PTSD or how well you handle your PTSD, it always affects every one of your relationships. Sometimes, it can draw you closer to someone, but usually it creates a difficult distance. You want to protect them from your pain or they don't know how to relate to you try to avoid situations or conversations or other events that may trigger memories or flashbacks or panic attack or they do not know what it is safe to say or do around you and so they feel uncomfortable around feel on guard all the time (irritable, defensive, anxious) or they are put off by your inability to be intimate, taking it as a personal offense rather than symptomatic of your PTSD. People around you want you to recover faster than you may be capable of, because they want the old you and cannot usually understand that you are forever changed. You can improve, but it takes time. 2. Coping mechanisms are not always positive. As I said before, Jessica Jones is a workaholic. She also has other vices, sex, sarcasm, and alcohol. (Her avoidance of meaningful relationships is another detrimental coping mechanism.) This is where outside perspective and internal perspective become very contradictory. On the outside, coping mechanisms can make someone seem strong, unflinching, unbreakable. On the inside, that person is a terrified, confused mess. When people know of you as a "survivor", they often tell you things like, "You are so strong!" and "I don't think I could have made it through that!" People tell you that you are strong and amazing, but you don't believe it. You are just trying to hold on to the forward momentum so that you don't get gobbled up by the things that are gnawing at your insides. And because you are avoiding the memories and the emotions of the trauma, you avoid seeking avoid family and avoid sleep and you don't take care of yourself like you should. 3. Even if you cannot see it yourself, PTSD gives you a strength and perspective that others cannot have. Because of what Jessica Jones has experienced, she has a certain insight that allows her to sympathize with Kilgrave's other victims and a drive to help people (even though she doesn't see herself as a "hero"). She emphasizes that it's not their fault (while still trying to convince herself that her own actions were not her fault). She encourages group therapy amongst the surviving victims. She does what she can to save the victims from themselves because she knows from experience that they are not acting of their own volition. MIND CONTROL Kilgrave is a fictional, exaggerated monster of a man. But mind control and monsters are very real. The most potent aspect of the show is its hyper-focus on this one character. He has so deeply engraved himself into Jessica's sense of self that all of her attempts to scrub and scrape him away have been mostly ineffective. I can tell you what it's like...I've been there. Mind control...or psychological manipulation...can be described as "an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations." It doesn't take much really; peer pressure can be seen as a form of mind control. The kind of mind control that gives birth to PTSD, though...that takes time, patience, and calculation (unless you have super powers, of course). Abusers are generally quite skilled at coercive control and at many other forms of psychological warfare. Outwardly, a victim of psychological manipulation just appears to have made some really bad decisions. A battered spouse doesn't *choose* to stay with their significant other-- they stay because there appears to be no other option. A kidnapped teen that doesn't attempt to escape and engages in illegal activity may be too frightened of their kidnapper to put up any resistance. A molested child may not speak up because they fear or feel sympathy for their abuser. Something that Jessica Jones gets so perfectly is that the effects of psychological manipulation persist, if residually...even long, long after the actual abuse ends. Once someone is inside your head--controlling your actions, your thoughts, even *what you think you want*--they somehow leave little tendrils of themselves in there. If an abuser manages to slink back into the survivor's life, all of the progress that they have made can be brought crashing down by these little tendrils, these little worms of self-doubt, of the old coercion and shame and terror. This is something that is very difficult for survivors to discuss, because it means admitting that their trauma is still a part of them. I look forward to watching the rest of the season. I am quite impressed with the tact and level of responsibility and awareness that Jessica Jones is broaching these topics. I would suggest that if you are sensitive to the above topics and wish to watch Jessica Jones, do so with someone you trust and can talk to. (At this point, I would like to say that I have the best, most wonderful, supportive husband in the world, for staying up and talking with me until 5 am this morning after watching the first 6 episodes!)