I had no idea who Jessica Jones was when her show was first announced. Still, I knew I loved Krysten Ritter and David Tennant, so I planned on watching the show. It was around that same time that we started hearing about Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist. Where Jessica Jones is dark and twisty, Kara Danvers/Kara Zor-El/Supergirl is much more upbeat and positive. If you put the two together, Kara could almost look like an airhead when compared to Jessica. So much so that people starting saying the show’s first trailer looked eerily similar to the SNL Black Widow movie trailer–even though they were totally wrong–because I guess the only female superheroes that count are the ones who are the brooding types.
Regardless, I knew that Supergirl could very well become that overly campy, SNL Black Widow spoof once it aired–happily, I don’t think it did. However, I’ve heard some folks I follow online gripe about Supergirl, pitting it against Jessica Jones or saying flat out that Jessica would save what Kara is ruining. I’ve heard a lot of positives about both shows, but I haven’t been able to shake those who praise Jessica Jones and poo-poo Supergirl for being too lighthearted.
Now that both show are out and I’ve been able to see solid chunks of both shows (I’ve not finished Jessica Jones just yet, I’m trying to pace myself), I have to say that I’m so incredibly stoked that we have both women on TV today. Is Supergirl perfect? Not at all! The tone is pretty lighthearted nature which can draw fans away, it’s got occasional cheesy lines, and their use of worn tropes like the love triangle is a bit tired. However, I think we’d seriously be missing out if we only had Jessica Jones to watch.
Both Jessica and Kara are survivors of personal tragedies of different natures, Kara losing her home planet and her entire family (save her cousin, of course), and Jessica being taken by Kilgrave and forced to do horrible things for him for months on end. Both women suffered from very different forms of pain, both women have processed it and are continuing to process it differently, both women need different things from life, friends, and family, and both women have a very different outlook on life in general.
Jessica is tortured by her past, and is trying desperately to move past it. She’s not the most social…like, at all. She’s got blood on her hands (often literally), she’s a functional alcoholic, she’s not great at relationships (romantic and friendship), she’s sarcastic, she can be mean, but ultimately she is fiercely loyal, wants to do something worthwhile and make a positive difference in the world, and help put an end to a man who she feels has ruined her life.
Kara, on the other hand, is pretty well adjusted–especially after losing her home and her family. She loves her foster family, has a supportive relationship with her foster sister, she’s generally optimistic, she can be a bit awkward (especially around guys she likes and her boss), she was a bit naive when she jumped face first into protecting National City, but she loves fiercely, ultimately wants to do great things, make her parents proud, and help people with the gifts she’s been given.
I get that some people will be more drawn to Supergirl and some will be more drawn to Jessica Jones, and that’s okay. However, I think that if we make ourselves pick Jessica or Kara, or if we pit these two heroes against each other, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. I love watching Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and I’d like to think that when push came to shove I’d have that steel resolve, intense bravery in the face of my enemies, and general badassery, but it’s not me. I love watching Jessica do her thing, but I don’t relate to her.
I’ve known Jessicas in my life, but regardless of how many emo, goth, or hardcore phases I went through growing up, I was never a Jessica.
I’ve always been a Kara. I can be naive when I try to do something that I think will bring positive change into the world, and sometimes that naivete and ill-preparedness brings on more harm than good. I’ve always been intensely award around guys I like, and I’m very awkward around my bosses. I’m not always the paragon of confidence and boardroom ownership, and I definitely put my foot in my mouth on the regular.
But I’m doing the best I can and working each day to make a positive difference with the gifts I’ve been given. I identify with Kara, and I know several Karas, too.
I think it’s great that we have two vastly different female superheroes on TV. It’s okay to have Jessica on one end, shotgunning whiskey, battling her PTSD, fighting desperately to keep people safe, and generally being grisly but awesome while Kara is over in National City getting her boss coffee by day and snorting around her crush (true story: thanks to my massive orthodontic work, I once actually drooled in front of my crush* and his mom, #sexy), and by night she can train with her sister, fight to protect the city from aliens seeking revenge, and fight to honor her family’s name. Just like every guy doesn’t identify with Steve Rogers and Wade Wilson, every girl doesn’t have to identify with Jessica Jones and Kara Danvers.
We’ve got a huge universe of male superheroes out there to cater to all sorts of superhero fans. Not everyone understands Steve Rogers, not everyone likes Tony Stark, not everyone understands Bruce Banner, and not everyone gets Wade Wilson, but the fact is they don’t have to. The point of superheroes is to show fans that whoever you are, whatever your backstory, you can do great things. It bums me out when I hear people pitting Kara and Jessica against each other when this is the first time we’ve had two live action female-led superhero shows on television ever. We need Kara and we need Jessica just like we need the Karas and the Jessicas of real life. Just because one of the heroes is a bit more brooding, hardcore, and serious than the other does not make her more valid, just like a more brooding, hardcore, and serious woman wouldn’t be more valid than her lighthearted counterpart.
Jessica shows women that they can overcome trauma, abuse, and whatever other horrors lie in their past. Jessica shows women strength in overwhelming odds, and Jessica shows women that even though she’s not always perfect she’s still able to do good–just like they can. Kara shows women that it’s okay to be lighthearted, and that being awkward or goofy doesn’t somehow lessen your worth as a woman. She shows women that you can dress girly, be upbeat and silly, occasionally act like a moron in front of your boss, and still be strong, brave, and go on to do amazing things.
I’m so happy that we have both of these women on TV, because we’re getting to see women portrayed as strong characters without turning them into the strong female character/Action Girl trope. We’re seeing two incredibly different types of women step up, be strong, and save lives. I think that’s awesome, and I can’t wait to see how Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman add to the space. If nothing else, the amount of little girls that I’ve seen swooning over Supergirl tells me that we’re doing something right.
What do you think of Jessica Jones and Supergirl? Do you like that there are two incredibly different superheroes shows out, or do you wish one would go away? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
*I ended up marrying him, so alls well that drools well, I guess…