November 30th, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy many years ago, and I thought the company would disappear. It’s suffered an extreme case of the fate that many publishers of fiction-on-paper have suffered. Marvel’s comic business, as fiction-on-paper, is just a ghost of its former self. And yet, the company hangs on, and has become a major creative house for ideas that get turned into movies and shows.
When comics were aimed primarily at kids, they were censored to be sure they avoided mature subjects. And then kids stopped reading comics about superheroes. And Marvel went bankrupt. And then it adjusted to the new reality.
A funny thing about this is that Marvel now has the freedom to touch upon adult subjects such as sex, and the writers who adapt these subjects for film have even more such freedom. How much credit should go to Marvel and how much should go to Netflix? I don’t know. But the collaboration is producing interesting results.
Little discussion has been devoted to the question of how survivors navigate daily life following their assault, from work to school to dating and, yes, sex. Survivors’ sexuality in particular is a subject that is often treated with kid gloves, to the point where to even introduce sex into the narrative is to complicate our understanding of aggressor as aggressor, and victim as victim. As Tracy Clark-Flory wrote last year for Refinery29, “We’re too afraid to mention rape and pleasure in the same sentence. But this scared silence only makes it harder for survivors to find their way to sexual satisfaction.”
One TV show, however, is addressing this silence head-on. Jessica Jones, Netflix’s adaptation of a Marvel comic about the titular misanthropic, hard-drinking superhero (played by Krysten Ritter), has been rightfully praised for its handling of consent and sexual assault, particularly its treatment of Jones’ PTSD in the wake of being brutally, serially raped by Kilgrave (David Tennant), a dapper British psychopath with the ability to control of the minds of his victims.
Yet, what perhaps makes the show so successful and revolutionary is how it handles Jessica’s sexuality following her assault. Although both are victims of brutal assault at the hands of a male assailant, Jessica and her best friend Tricia (as played by Rachael Taylor) are aggressively, unapologetically sexual. Considering the typically one-dimensional depictions of assault survivors’ sexuality, this is nothing short of revolutionary.