There has been a lot of debate recently over whether or not Marvel’s Jessica Jones is an anti-hero or not. Let’s take a look, shall we?
To begin, I cracked open a good old Marriam-Webster Dictionary and looked up “anti-hero”. According to the dictionary an anti-hero is anyone who is “a protagonist or notable figure who is lacking in heroic qualities.” The definition makes the most sense broken down into parts:
- A protagonist or notable figure: Yes, I think we can all agree that Jessica is our protagonist and/or notable figure in this show, especially when we take the word protagonist to mean the main character. This is important since so often we associate “protagonist” with “the good guy”, and Jessica isn’t necessarily good. (But that’s something for another post!)
- Heroic qualities: This really depends on how we want to define hero. To most people Superman is a hero, but so is a firefighter. Each of these heroes likely have qualities and traits that are similar, but also likely many traits that are different. Sure, each of them are courageous but only Superman can fly.
So, the next question to ask is, what are heroic qualities? After looking at numerous lists of what makes a hero, several traits appeared nearly every time. These were: courage, selflessness, determination, caring, intelligence, morality, and honesty. And since this is made by Marvel, let’s add super powers to that list as well.
- Courage: Jessica is definitely courageous in this show. After being hurt by Kilgrave and seeing those she cared about being hurt by Kilgrave, she still faced him. She struggles with PTSD from her experiences with him, but still fought against him. Jessica is definitely courageous.
- Selflessness: The idea of selflessness for Jessica is mostly entwined with two relationships. The first is with Hope, the missing girl she rescued in the first episode, “AKA Ladies Night”. She never gave up on Hope no matter how difficult it was for her to keep supporting her. The second is with Luke. She knows that she killed Luke’s wife, and eventually tells him. She does this because she knows it’s not fair to continue lying, even though she would be happier not doing so. We can say Jessica is selfless.
- Determination: Jessica struggles with PTSD, sees her friends and people she cares about being hurt by Kilgrave. About halfway through Season 1, we see Jessica almost give up fighting him. However, she keeps going. Also, we see her determination in her P.I. job, where she devotes many hours to researching and following her targets. This carries over to her looking for and finding Kilgrave. Jessica is determined.
- Caring: This one is up for debate. Outwardly, Jessica is very uncaring. She has few friends and often excludes people from her life. However, in several cases we see her genuinely care. First is Hope. Like I mentioned before, we know she cares because she refuses to give up on her. Second is Luke. Again, we know she cares because she told him the truth about his wife. Third is Patsy, her childhood friend. The reason Jessica always avoids her is because she doesn’t want to endanger her, and throughout the season we see this play out time and time agin. Lastly, we know that she fights Kilgrave because she cares about the people that he might hurt. Jessica definitely cares.
- Intelligence: We don’t have too much of a marker for this one, however, it is safe to argue that she is reasonably intelligent because she is able to start and run her own business, can research effectively, and is able to predict people’s actions. We can say that Jessica is smart.
- Morality: This one definitely requires its own definition. Running back to Webster, morality is “beliefs about what is right or wrong behaviour.” Now, this is tricky, since Jessica clearly doesn’t follow the rules about morals set forth by societal standards. However, she does still have her own set of morals. This one is a draw because generally we expect heroes to follow strict moral guides.
- Honesty: Jessica is not honest. She lies all the time.
- Super Powers: Although not as spectacular as Superman’s, Jessica’s powers do exists and are important.
Out of the eight requirements to be a hero, Jessica meets six. She is clearly not lacking the qualities that are associated with heroes… So, it seems that Jessica is not actually the anti-hero we’ve been looking for. That’s okay, though, because she’s making her own mark on what it means to be a hero.
Let me know what you think! Did I nail it or fail it? Comment below!