On the surface, it would seem like Jessica Jones, the new Netflix series premiering November 20th, would just appear to be more of the same. It’s one more peg in the board of Marvel’s ever expanding cinematic universe and the second of Netflix’s series of Hell’s Kitchen superheroes coming hot off the critical success of Daredevil earlier this year.
So what’s so important about a character most people have never heard of and doesn’t have a cool identity or costume to associate with? Because, Jessica Jones is a superhero series about a woman, written by a women, produced by women and directed by women.
With the amount of attention that’s given these days to almost necessity token crewing on large superhero projects, it’s almost amazing that this slid by so unnoticed, but here it is. Showrunner and writer Melissa Rosenberg has been developing this series for a long time, originally for network TV, before it got moved to the Netflix slate of shows. Liz Friedman who produced a large bulk of Xena is producing here and S.J. Clarkson is directing the first two episodes. In an age where people are still debating about which woman should direct Wonder Woman or lamenting that we don’t have a Black Widow movie, Jessica Jones quietly came along and did everything that every creative woman wanted to have happen — have a genre piece made by women for everyone.
There’s a cruel numbers game that gets played in Hollywood where there’s enough demand for a female driven property to throw a little bit of money at it to see if it sticks, but even greater benefit to the horribly gender disparaged industry to let it crash and burn. Executive producers still love to cite Catwoman and Elektra as examples why female led properties simply cannot work. And female creative professionals often find themselves bumping up against the same barriers with only 16% of working writers, producers and directors being women. So often the attitude is baldly presented that women are incapable of successfully creating genre fare or that women simply lack the desire to.
But Netflix doesn’t have to worry about things like box office or advertisers. Like HBO, it’s beholden only to subscribers and listens to internal viewer metrics and critical response. There is no crash and burn for Jessica Jones, and judging from early critical response, it’s unlikely it will be received as anything other than an unbridled hit by fans and reviewers alike.
So this show is going to be a win in a lot of ways, not just for the fans who get a terrific, adult, inclusive superhero genre series, or even the women who helped make it happen, but for all the rest of us who will be able to point to Jessica Jones as a measure of success that yes — female led genre stories told by women are absolutely viable and that there is an interested audience of all genders.