Joe Corallo: Jessica Jones’ Sexuality
Hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a nice one. I used some of the time off from the work I had to finish up Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I’ve read articles like this one about how the show is queer-inclusive, and have seen that term being thrown around elsewhere since. I’m using my column this week to make what I feel is an important point: Jessica Jones is in absolutely no way queer-inclusive.
Please be advised that there are SPOILERS ahead for both Jessica Jones and Daredevil.
Prior to Jessica Jones premiering, speculation was abound that she may end up being Marvel’s first queer lead. She is not. The speculation was based on her close relationship with Trish (Patsy) Walker. Trish and Jessica are sisters through adoption. They do tell each other they love each other. That’s because they are sisters. No other reason. This isn’t opening the door to a queer relationship later on. They both have a very full and active sex life with exclusively cis male partners in the show.
The fact that this caused speculation of any kind shows just how starved audiences are for queer representation in comic book properties, and I hope that Marvel takes note. That being said, let’s please end any continued speculation on Jessica Jones’ sexuality until we have a real reason to think of her as anything but straight.
Jessica Jones features one important queer character, Jeri. In the comics the character of Jeri was a man, so in the show they gender swapped that character while keeping the sexuality of that character the same. You could make the argument that she could easily be swapped with a man and it would have had no impact on the show at all outside of reducing the queer representation.
Jeri is a cis white lesbian, or at least an assumed lesbian since we don’t know about her sexual history beyond her ex and her current lover. Her lovers are also cis white and assumed lesbians. Unlike Jeri, they’re both blondes. We even get a “steamy” fully clothed almost sex scene in Jeri’s office with her assistant that goes out of its way to make sure we don’t see anything too scandalous, despite the show being described as “sex positive.” Wow, that’s some extensive queer representation there! Seriously though, one of those characters couldn’t have been openly bi, nonwhite, or something else to be even a little more inclusive?
Making Jeri an assumed lesbian in the show was a smart move for Marvel. It allows for two additional, albeit minor characters, to also be queer, thus upping the level of perceived queerness in the show. However, that’s not how being queer-inclusive works. This is New York City in 2015. Even more so, this is Hell’s Kitchen.
This is a place in New York City that currently has a fairly large and well known queer population. Largely cis white gay or bi men, but still very much a queer population. By not showing queer characters in the background, active queer bars or clubs that Jessica could have gone into, a case someone can try to hire her for involving a queer character, even openly queer people living in her building, Marvel is hetero-washing New York City. Whether this is intentional or not, it’s something that needs to stop happening and we can and should demand better. This isn’t a demand for more representation than we deserve. It’s a demand for accurate representation of the world as it is now, and without that I can’t consider this show queer-inclusive and you shouldn’t either.
Getting back to Jeri, she’s also not a particularly good person in the show. She’s shown as more likely than not being unfair to her ex and trying to keep her ex from money that she’s entitled to herself. Jeri also seemingly manipulates her current lover into killing Jeri’s ex. That’s right, one of the minor lesbians kills the only other minor lesbian. This all occurs while Jeri thoroughly betrays Jessica in a way that results in people getting killed and Kilgrave gaining the upper hand.
So not only do we have little queer representation, the representation we get drops from three characters total to two. One of them winds up in prison and the other one continues being a cutthroat lawyer and an untrustworthy friend of Jessica’s. Clearly queer viewers got some strong characters in this show to look up to!
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is not queer-inclusive. If anything, it hetero-washes its setting, just as Daredevil did. I’m not discouraging anyone from watching and enjoying this show, but I am discouraging people from spreading around the notion that this show is queer-inclusive.
That’s not the only diversity related issue Marvel’s Netflix shows have been lacking in, like how both shows feature only one older black man in a senior position helping our heroes that gets killed towards the end. What’s up with that? But that’s another story for another column.
Maybe it’s just because I like Carrie Ann Moss so much but I actually thought that Jeri was a complex character, defined by much more than her sexuality (or her shitty way of dealing with relationships). Inclusiveness is meaningless (IMO, obviously) if it doesn’t involve a variety of personalities as well as demographics.
I certainly don’t begrudge Carrie Ann Moss for her acting chops. She’s very well acted in the show. The problem being that the implication of being queer-inclusive, or any kind of inclusive, is that people of a certain background feel welcomed.
The only queerness in the show resulting from white cisgender women who are assumed lesbians, in addition to hetero-washing and well known and arguably the most trendy lgbtq neighborhood in the five boroughs right now doesn’t make me feel very welcome.
Additionally, only representing one very specific demographic in the queer community despite having three queer characters with speaking roles plays into your point of inclusiveness being meaningless if we don’t involve a variety.
I’m not upset by the level of representation in this show so much as this is not enough to call it a queer-inclusive show, and we won’t make any progress or go any farther if we don’t point these things out and make sure the powers at be are aware that it’s too early to be patting themselves on the back.