English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #ReviewTopic4

The Battle Between Evil and Lesser Evil

After having watched the finale of Jessica Jones, it feels like all the scattered pieces of thematic conflict have come together, and a coherent message emerged. In fact, it’s explicitly brought up by the nurse as she talks to Jessica about her superpowered friend. And in this conversation, we get a better explanation of why Jessica can’t be anyone’s hero: she doesn’t know if what she’s doing is right or wrong. We’ve seen her struggle with guilt all season long as Kilgrave kills innocent people around them as a way to threaten her to act a certain way. The recurrence of this makes her feel like she leaves a trail of death behind her, making her question if killing Kilgrave is worth all the innocent people that may die because of it. This hesitation suggests to the audience that the line between good and bad is not always so clear-cut, and I think this is the main theme of the show. Sometimes, doing the right thing means putting a lot of people in danger.

In the conversation with the nurse, Jessica asks her, “How is he so sure he’s the good guy?”, referring to the nurse’s friend. In that moment, we get to see the question she’s been asking herself all this time, is she even the good guy? With all that blood seemingly on her hands, it’s understandable why she has moments of self-doubt. In fact, in the final battle, she must first pass through a crowd of people ordered to kill each other, to then defeat him by putting the person she cares about most in danger. This is what made Kilgrave so powerful: he could control Jessica by manipulating her guilt. As long as she felt guilty, he was untouchable. So, in a very un-glorious fashion, she must ignore the innocent lives in danger to finally kill Kilgrave. No wonder she doesn’t feel like a hero, even after terminating such a monster. As season 1 rolls to a close and Jessica deletes the messages of people asking for her help, we see that even after everything, she doesn’t see herself as the good guy everyone else does.

Above: Here, Jessica must hand over the most important person to her, her adoptive sister Trish, in order to kill Kilgrave.

Not all Heroes Wear Capes…Or Smiles: Exploration of a Common Theme in Jessica Jones

The last episode of the first season of Jessica Jones, titled “AKA Smile”, was quite a packed one, from Luke Cage’s revival from Jessica’s reluctant gunshot on him while he was under control of the mind-controlling Kilgrave to the astonishing death of Kilgrave from Jessica’s bare hands. This sudden death of who has been the show’s main antagonist raises several interesting points, from putting the plots of coming episodes in question as the show has suddenly lost a focal character, to the shift in general perceptions of the townspeople of Jessica. From the beginning of the season till the moment she snaps Kilgrave’s neck to his death, it could easily be seen how the general surrounding around Jessica, excluding those who have genuinely gotten to know her over time, such as her step-sister Trish, neighbor Malcolm, and “love” Luke Cage, viewed and treated her much like her own personality: sassily and rather harshly. Even the people supposedly representing the law who she had to testify her innocence to multiple times throughout the episodes, including those who questioned her following her “unlawful murder” of Kilgrave after him taking control over multiple people throughout his life and unlawfully murdering many of them, treated her similarly to her personality and her possession of superpowers rather than her actions. This show therefore presents Jessica Jones as an ideal example of someone who is constantly judged based on most any other factor than her actions and the overall benefit she is truly providing to the people around her and many more, and argues that though they do not contain superpowers like Jessica, there are many people in our society whose positive actions also go unnoticed since they are judged based on other less important factors.

In addition to her actions and physical powers, the show also presents multiple instances where Jessica displays immense mental strength, the most common one being her withstanding the trials, questions, and often going about unnoticed or even looked down upon. The last episode of the first season itself displays many of the other instances of her mental strength, such as the way she kept herself from breaking down consistently as she witnessed Luke Cage being transported to the ER after she shot him and as the nurses tried but failed to perform many medical procedures on his indestructible skin. But perhaps the strongest instance will have to be the moments before Jessica succeeded in her mission of Kilgrave’s death, which included her having to pretend to be under his control and listen to him as he falsely declares his love for her step-sister and promises to torture her until he thought she was actually under his control and let his guard down. In the end, the only people who actually witnessed Jessica’s actions and strengths, such as Trish in the scene above, over time grew to support her along the way, a recurring theme in the show that closely mirrors the real world.

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Jessica pretending to be under Kilgrave’s influence.

Being Different in an “Accepting” World

Each passing year introduces new technologies to the world around us. Seen also as time continues are the advances towards acceptance of all people, no matter their gender, race, culture, religion, etc. However, even in this progressive age, there are still many instances of prejudice.

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Adena El-Amin


The character portrayal of Adena El-Amin within Freeform’s The Bold Type brings attention to the prejudice that is is still prevalent within the United States. Not only is Adena treated unfairly for being a Muslim woman, she is also scrutinized for her choice in sexuality. In one episode, in particular, Adena is walking with her friend, Kat, when her mom calls. Seeing as Adena’s mother speaks their native language, Adena answers in Arabic. Though, as she is walking and speaking on the phone a man rudely yells at her to “…speak English!”, and then goes on to call her a “towel head” when Kat begins to speak out for Adena. In this portion of the episode, the viewer not only sees the harsh treatment Adena receives for simply being herself, but we also witness her fear of authority in the United States when she runs instead of telling the police what actually happened.

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Kat calling for Adena after she realizes that she ran away.

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Adena explaining she had to leave.

Kat is baffled by her friend’s decision to run but later comes to realize that Adena does not really have the same choices as her. All though both women were only defending themselves, because of who Adena is (a lesbian Muslim woman) being right would not have been enough and there was a very real possibility that she would be deported.

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Kat’s Boss telling her that sadly, being in the right isn’t always enough.



The Bold Type is a show that says what needs to be said. It talks on topics that many people would rather sweep under the rug. Topics like the prejudice that many women still face and how that bias is spread within all social circles, whether that be a man walking past who yells a hurtful phrase, or a policeman who doesn’t believe a woman simply because she is another color. The Bold Type shows viewers the real deal… It is hard to be different and it shouldn’t have to be.



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