Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jessica Jones and Comic Culture

It is important to analyze the history of the comic industry and how Jessica Jones plays into and is altering this history. In an article from Autostraddle, Heather Hogan reviews the 2015 female presence in the superhero genre:
"In 2015, three superhero TV show feature female leads (Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, Supergirl), and female-led solo titles make up only a fraction of Marvel and DC's total comic output. Only two female-fronted superhero movies have hit the big screen, the last of which was released a decade ago. And only about 15% of creative jobs at Marvel and DC are held by women." 

Hogan goes on to note that in 1954, comic books publishers adopted the Comics Code Authority (CCA), which intended to incorporate moral guidelines on their publications that included banning violence, gunplay, and glorified crime. This evolved into a way for men to assert dominance over the role of women within comics and thus comics became another tool to subjugate women. In this same article, the critic includes a quote from one of the main tenets of CCA: 
"The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage." DC Comics was even updated later to say: "The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance." 

Since the CCA was formed, it has been rejected and abandoned by many publishers, and it's notable that in 2001 (the same year Jessica Jones was published), Marvel Comics withdrew from the CCA. It seems that 2001 was a pivotal year for Marvel, and since then, the addition of Jessica Jones to the MCU has offered pivotal contributions to the "secondary in importance" position of women within the comic industry. Hogan summarizes the importance of Jessica Jones at the conclusion of her article: "Marvel and DC abandones the CCA years ago when it came to their male heroes, but Jessica Jones is the first female-centric superhero show to completely disregard its influence. She's not the hero we asked for, but it turns out she's the hero we've needed all along."

According to study done by Tim Hanley in June of 2014, only 10.1% of DC comics belonged to women and 12% of Marvel comic credits belonged to women. Of those two companies, white and male creators dominated the superhero industry and stated that "After crunching all the numbers, it looks like superhero comics are still being made primarily by white men. I'm blowing your minds, I know, but it's true." Take a look at this graph he provides in his overview of the study:
Although Jessica Jones was written by two men, it's important that the television series was created by a woman who seems to be actively attempting to challenge the negative representations of women in television and the superhero genre. Rosenberg states in an interview with Rolling Stone that "Apparently the only people who can have dark, flawed, interesting characters are white men. When will it be time for women to play those roles? When can we show women as human beings like anyone else?" Hopefully Rosenberg will continue to attempt to redefine the role of women within popular media and the ratios above will look a little less daunting. 

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