Jessica Jones, far and away the strongest Marvel Netflix property, will return to screens in 2018 once the character has made her rounds on The Defenders. Per Variety’s Maureen Ryan, Executive Producer Melissa Rosenberg revealed the directorial duties for the show’s next season would fall to an all-lady list of directors, and we couldn’t be more pleased. It’s the right show and the right character for this sort of decision up front.
I’m sure folks on both sides of this conversation are sick of dredging up the same old points ad nauseam, but to avoid any confusion of why this is a good thing, let’s recap, shall we? In a world where Wonder Woman would’ve had to wait over 75 years for a movie, and one where we’re still waiting for Marvel Studios to put out a film with a female lead (and director – both are finally happening in 2019), special care needs to be taken to make sure women’s voices and perspectives are seen and heard in genre. At least half the time would be ideal, though we’re still working on making it half as much as men, and authenticity even behind heightened portrayals of their experiences is an important factor. Jessica Jones, of course, is one such portrayal, and having a woman in charge of the whole affair yielded a show that fiercely focused on the fallout of harassment, sexual assault and male entitlement, things women deal with every day, and things most men will never have to.
More so than just perspective however, it’s about opportunity. Regardless of points made in the previous paragraph, I’m a firm believer that any artist can bring the right perspective to a property if they’re empathetic enough, but the latter is neither a guarantee nor objectively measurable. What is measurable is how the searches for these things tend to go down when looking for, what detractors from a decision like this would call, “the best person for the job.” Let alone the fact that a woman’s experiences with the subject matter might make her more qualified, the “best person” argument tends to come from an understanding of a status-quo that’s almost mythological in nature, one where people of all genders, races and backgrounds are looked at with an equal eye and have thus far been given opportunities to place them on an equal footing. If left up to a gender-blind talent search, the results tend to be clear. All thirteen Luke Cage episodes were directed by men, in addition twenty-five of Daredevil’s twenty-six, and even the first season of Jessica Jones only featured four episodes directed by women. That’s less than a third.
That seems like the kind of thing that might then counteract my initial point – how did a show mostly directed by men manage to bring women’s experiences to the forefront so well? – but like I said, it’s not an impossibility, and it all boils down to being able to empathize with a perspective. But even so, the male-heavy numbers for Daredevil and Luke Cage (and most superhero movies in existence) are indicative that this willingness to allow for people ‘outside’ an experience to bring it to the screen only extends in one direction. Ability with regards to being the "best person" isn't a fixed line in the sand, and this is a noteworthy step towards making sure larger talent pools get noticed in the long run. And, you know, it's really cool and emblematic too.
All that said, I’d like to leave you with a more general point about diversity in storytelling by Rosenberg herself, at the same panel where she broke the news:
“When I interview a writer, I’m less interested in what you’ve been doing professionally than I am in where you’re from, what your parents do, what’s your life experience, what are you bringing to the table personally? I don’t want a bunch of people who look and sound [like me] and have the experiences I have.”
Season of 2 of Jessica Jones arrives the year after next. We’ll keep you posted.