Monday, November 28, 2016

The Fractured Hero - High Functioning Super-Alcoholic

So, I finished Jessica Jones this week. Rather than binge, I dined on an episode or two each night: chewing each morsel of the show’s twisted diversity, savoring the experience. And what an experience it was. Not since Penny Dreadful, and recently Daredevil, has a show so thoroughly engrossed me with its themes, characters and script. I’m sure that you’ve heard a lot about the content of the show, or formed your own opinions: it’s an examination of rape culture, it’s about substance abuse more than super heroes, it’s not your typical “origin” story. I’d agree with most of the aforementioned opinions to an extent and with caveats. Here’s my take. (Note: I’m going to talk as if you’re already familiar with the show and have watched it to completion—spoilers abound and will not be flagged.)

It’s about rape culture. Indeed, the discussion of sexual assault arises, repeatedly, throughout the show. Including a few powerful lines where Jessica insists to her nemesis—the whingeing and waifish Killgrave—that he raped her again and again. The message is pretty clear that she was abused, sexually and otherwise, during her months of imprisonment with Killgrave. We never see any of this abuse, though it’s often referenced. We see plenty of Killgrave’s current atrocities, however, which paints a strong enough picture of what sort of villain he is. Still, and perhaps the show’s biggest failing, was that it didn’t really set up that backstory of abuse enough—not even with a hazy flashback. We don’t need another Sansa GoT moment; Mr. Martin’s characters are all mostly reprehensible and hard to commiserate for anyway. However, a stronger barb between Jessica and Killgrave would’ve been nice.

There was one fantastic flashback, where Jessica has a moment of freedom from Killgrave’s control and contemplates leaping off a building to either death or freedom. She hesitates, though, and Killgrave re-enslaves her will before she does anything rash. The consequences of her near-rebellion are chilling, and he commands her into an act of self-harm. I wish we’d seen a little more of that tasteful yet heinous, sexual tension and torment that he’d inflicted upon her. Nonetheless, even without a fully established foil, the dynamic between Jessica and Killgrave is electric. Killgrave’s comeuppance, too, and that final send-off-to-Jesus-line (well, Satan, for him) that Jessica gives him, left me fist-pumping and hooting-and-hollering at the screen. An utterly satisfying conclusion.

All that said, one of the most powerful scenes in the show for me, was when Jessica revealed to the man with whom she’d developed a sexual relationship (Luke Cage) that she’d killed his wife. Wow. Even though Killgrave had commanded her to do it, and she was under the effect of his mind-mojo at the time, her guilt and culpability were palpable. “I was inside you,” Luke—the victim in this case—said to her, with horror. And Jessica had no reply for him, for she realized the cruelty of what she’d done, which was similar to what Killgrave did to her. That scene was an astoundingly clever and subversive switch of the jargon and stereotypes commonly associated with rape. All throughout the show, really, you see a lot of this mutability in expectations and roles: from swapping cannon character genders (Hogarth, who’s a man in the comics), to the example I cited a moment ago. The show proves that motivations and trauma aren’t tied to gender.

It’s about substance abuse. Sure, this is another prevalent element to the series. I mean, Jessica is basically a high-functioning alcoholic—driven to the bottle by what she’d endured. Her neighbor Malcolm is a junkie, and also a sometimes willing spy for Killgrave; work that gives him a steady stream of narcotics. Luke is addicted to the memories of his departed wife. Hogarth is addicted to power. Trish is addicted to helping people. In one scene, where the survivors of Killgrave’s influence have gathered to discuss their trauma, the now ex-junkie poses the question of whether Killgrave’s suggestions are entirely propelled by the mutant’s power and not also by an individual’s latent weakness—Malcolm’s want to be high and to forget, in this case. The complexity of personal darkness and its effect on addiction is rarely explored so profoundly in shows, let alone what’s supposed to be a gumshoe, superhero drama (admittedly, I don’t have many of those with which to compare Jessica Jones).

It’s not your typical hero origin story. Well, it’s not the sort of Hollywood pap that we’re used to, that’s for sure. In Jessica Jones, there’s no clear cut sense of good and evil. Many of Jessica’s actions are questionable, and wouldn’t survive moral scrutiny. The plot progression is messy: plans fall apart, things fail—just like the people in the tale. Jessica Jones portrays a world filled with broken, struggling people. Persons who aren’t heroes, and yet, who will be defined by perceived selfless actions that have a root in trauma. I write characters like this. I know people like this. I am a flawed and aspiring-to-be-better human, myself. That’s why the show struck such a chord in me.

Brilliantly acted, meaty, complex and brutally beautiful, Jessica Jones is a show that can’t be missed.

Feast of Chaos
Four Feasts till Darkness
Book Three
Christian A. Brown                 

Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Literary/ Romance

Publisher: Forsythia Press

Date of Publication: September 23rd, 2016

ISBN: 978-0994014429

Number of pages: 698
Word Count: 250K

Cover Artist: Dane at Ebookcoverlaunch

Book Description:

Menos has been destroyed. No corner of the realm of Geadhain is safe from the Black Queen’s hunger. Zionae—or the Great Dreamer, as she has been called in ancient tongues—has a thirst that cannot be quenched until all of Geadhain burns and bleeds. She preys on the minds of weak men and exploits human folly for an unhuman end. She cannot be defeated in her current state, but the answer to her downfall may lie in the land of her past.

It is with this aim that a Daughter of Fate, Morigan, and her brave and true companions venture to the mysterious Pandemonia, the land of chaos itself. Ancient secrets and even older power lurk in its swamps and deserts. Life itself becomes uncertain, but the Hunters of Fate have no choice: Pandemonia must give up its secrets if they want to find the Black Queen’s weakness.

Elsewhere in the realm, alliances form and break. Dead men rise and heroes fall. Eod prepares for war. In hiding, Lila, the bearer of its destruction, will be given a chance to atone and answer for her sins. Will her actions save Eod, or has she damned it with her crimes?

Heathsholme was quaint—Central Geadhain’s darling, as the locals proclaimed. Looking down upon it, passengers on skycarriages were often struck by the fact that the realm possessed the look of a joyfully made quilt. Red-leafed orchards, yellow fields of flax and corn, patches of blue brocade that were swimming pools and watering holes…all threaded with brown branching roads. Sweet winds blew down from the North year-round, bearing only cool and refreshing properties until winter rose to claim the throne of seasons. When the North wind came, it froze Heathsholme’s pools into skating circles and decorated the large trees with grand chandeliers of ice. In the depths of that season, the staunch apple trees finally died. Their fruits fell to the ground and were collected. Their blossoms broke from their branches and filled the air like flocks of migrating winter birds. During this season, families came from the West, South, and East to visit Heathsholme and enjoy great outdoor festivals of food, music, mulled cider, and wine—for which the region was also famed.
Partly on account of the season’s coolness, these celebrations happened around great bonfires. At night, when the happily drunk howled at the moon, a primal spirit took hold, and effigies of nameless spirits were burned in the pyres. No one could remember why or how the Vallistheim tradition had been born, only that it was a remnant of the customs once imposed by Taroch. The ancient warlord had been fascinated by the Northmen’s rites, and had introduced many of them to Central Geadhain. Vallistheim—the winter festival—was believed to bring bounty and luck in the New Year. Over time, polite society had done away with many of the less pleasant sacrificial details to make the ritual friendlier to outsiders. Now only one cow from each of the barns and byres that rose on rings in the hilled highlands around the heart of the township was cooked in a great feast, without having been ritually slaughtered first.
In the uncultivated grasses past the city proper and its farmlands, a dedicated explorer could find the remains of crumbled churches that had been built to honor the now vanished religion of Taroch’s fancies. Runes that the sages had translated into such names as Freyallah, Odric, and Helhayr were found chiseled in the mossy arches of these grounds. These sites of an ancient religion were thought by modern minds to be haunted or perhaps protected by the ancient spirits or warriors mentioned in the stones. It was the sort of refuge where a monster, fearful of being seen, could find sanctuary.

About the Author:

Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.

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