The actors and writers behind “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” didn’t necessarily set out to contribute to the conversation around rape, sexual assault and consent, but on Sunday at the Television Critics Association press tour, executive producer and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg said she is glad that the show is part of that increasingly urgent dialogue.
“We never walked into the writing room going, ‘We are now going to take on rape and abuse and feminism,'” Rosenberg said at the TCA panel for the Netflix drama, which was picked up Sunday for a second season. “We walked in telling a story for this character. And by being true to her character, it was true to the issues.”
“What’s so special about how Melissa has tackled some of the issues that [the media] picked up on, is that, [she’s] never didactic with it,” said Rachael Taylor, who plays Jessica’s best friend, Trish Walker. “There’s so much conversation about some of the issues that it taps into for the women, and all of those issues are really, really important. But they were threaded so intricately into [the] writing that it didn’t become about that in a moralizing way.”
After the panel, Rosenberg said that there were discussions among the show’s writing staff about how to approach the kinds of difficult or complicated situations Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) might find herself in.
“Everyone who walks into that writers room — men and women — we’re all feminists. We bring that perspective to any story we’re telling,” Rosenberg said. “The way those conversations would often happen is, someone would pitch a story and then one of us would go, ‘Wait a minute, that’s really rape-y.’ Or ‘Wait a minute, that really goes against what she would allow or what she would consent to.’ We were all on the same page with our points of view on these issues”
Rosenberg was also very clear on TV tropes that she wanted to avoid, and one of them was the way that the assault of a woman is often shown from the point of view of a male character, whose reaction is depicted more thoroughly than that of the female character.
“It’s more often than not used as a storytelling tool to motivate the guy to go out and get revenge,” Rosenberg said. In a previous interview with Variety, she noted that she was dead-set against that kind of approach. In that interview, she said that one of her goals was to portray “the impact of rape and abuse” from Jessica’s perspective, especially from an emotional and psychological standpoint.
Rosenberg also said she was opposed to having Jessica’s private detective character dress up in an uncharacteristic way as part of any of her investigations. Rosenberg talked a bit about where season two will go on Sunday, but she told journalists after the panel that a “Honey Pot” seduction scenario is never going to happen on “Jessica Jones.”
“She is never going to put on a pair of heels and a bandage dress and go seduce the guy,” Rosenberg said. “One, that’s just not true to her character. Two, it’s just such a go-to for female characters in any kind of cop show, or any show. ‘Let’s use her sexuality… just because.'”
Rosenberg emphasized that while Kilgrave’s physical and psychological assaults are important and an ongoing source of difficulties for Jessica, they do not completely define the sardonic private investigator.
“I think the word survivor is important,” Rosenberg said. “Certainly the assault has become part of her psyche, but it has not defeated her. I think she is fiercely her own person. She is unapologetically who she is and wants what she wants unapologetically. She didn’t let Kilgrave take that.”
In “Jessica Jones'” first season, being her own person involved choosing to have a fling with Luke Cage (Mike Colter). During the panel, Colter and Ritter discussed shooting their sex scenes, which were more graphic than those found on most other superhero shows, in or out of the Marvel universe.
“I always felt really safe and protected, and it’s so choreographed. There’s really nothing sexy about it,” Ritter said.
“The awkward point is the people in the room that’s besides us. It’s not us,” Colter said. “It’s just the 20 or 30 people that are around, who are all of a sudden on set, who normally wouldn’t be on set. That’s always interesting. But I really thought that it turned out as good as it could turn out.”
“If you’re going to have to do a scene like that, it’s not terrible to do it with Mike. He’s all right looking,” Ritter deadpanned.