On Thursday, March 8, Netflix released the second season of the Peabody award-winning Jessica Jones, arguably the best part of the Marvel television universe. It’s also the best place for queer representation—if only because of the character of Jeri Hogarth played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Unfortunately, there were some problematic elements to this character and the personal drama that played out over the course of S01. So here's a quick rundown for anyone who might be looking for better representation than what the MCU has provided so far.
Each episode is rated Good, None, or Problematic according to at least one queer geek's standards. For example, the scene in S01 of Jeri and her secretary scheming while having sex in her office might seem Problematic for reinforcing negative stereotypes, but it was a steamy scene that moved the plot forward and was brimming with chemistry. Also, if it were a straight couple, no one would worry about how it might make one character look bad. For this reason, I’d upgrade it to Good. But of course, feel free to disagree in the comments!
E01: AKA Start at the Beginning
We don’t waste any time, as the third scene features Kyle and Ash, a gay couple who have hired Trish to sing “It’s Patsy” at their daughter’s birthday party. They’re very sweet, and clearly more interested in Patsy than the birthday girl. It turns out Trish isn’t doing this for free, but for some extralegal help from Kyle in her investigation of Jessica’s powers. Ash does get the funniest line of the episode, commenting on “Patsy’s” attitude after she leaves. Finally, Hogarth receives an award from New York Women in Law, and gives a nice speech, but also participates in some questionable victim blaming to shrug off her relationship with her secretary, who apparently sued the firm in between seasons.
Verdict: Good, if only because of Ash.
E02: AKA Freak Accident
Hogarth got some bad news from her doctor last episode and copes with three prostitutes, drugs, and alcohol. She performs a very unsexy strip tease, and the look on her face is pure numb denial. She eventually throws them out and breaks down crying. Despite this maybe having problematic elements, I’m upgrading it because of the emotions involved. Also, Malcolm (Eka Darville) is in his underwear in one scene. I felt that worth mentioning.
E03: AKA Sole Survivor
Hogarth has a few good scenes, but nothing that references her sexuality. Jessica’s landlord, whom she has described as an “entitled prick of a slumlord,” is an old, gay white guy with a Cambodian boyfriend who objectifies Malcolm and is involved in a criminal conspiracy with Jessica’s new super who is threatening to evict her. Finally, Trish’s boyfriend utters a homophobic slur about how “karma sucks the biggest dick.” That makes karma a good thing, Griffin! Someone needs to teach that character or the writer that.
E04: AKA God Help the Hobo
RuPaul appears on the wall of fame in a high-end wig shop. Hogarth contemplates the future of her disease in a plot development that gets dangerously close to the worst trope of gay characters, but it’s unrelated to her sexuality, so I’m dropping it.
E05: AKA The Octopus
Thankfully, the plot development from last episode gets walked back as Hogarth starts trying to come up with ways to beat her diagnosis. Not much else going on here, representation-wise.
E06: AKA Facetime
The contents of Hogarth’s bedside table are revealed as Inez goes in search of stuff to steal, including a dog-eared copy of Wet Velvet and a vibrator. Good for her. I’m putting this down as positive. My notes also read, “Malcolm’s ass, 38:58,” which I think is the only nudity for the entire season.
E07: AKA I Want Your Cray Cray
This is the requisite flashback episode. Were you dying to know how Jessica got her leather jacket? Congratulations, you’re satisfied. I didn’t even notice anything queer in the background extras.
E08: AKA Ain’t We Got Fun
Whoo, boy. Where to begin with this one? My first note reads, “Malcolm in a towel,” which is as good as anywhere, I guess. He tracks down Hogarth’s partner Benowitz to Whiskers, a “gay-owned and operated, but cis-friendly” bar that advertises “Chocolate Bar” with a black, male torso, making me feel worse for objectifying Malcolm. He is objectified by the characters for the second time in eight episodes, although this time he’s sort of volunteering for it, so…progress? Malcolm assures Benowitz he won’t be blackmailed and gives him a nice speech about how he should come out to his wife and family, which is immediately undercut by three guys shouting homophobic slurs at them. As if this isn’t bad enough, they attack Malcolm, and he’s saved by Trish on drugs. Because the pretty white blonde needs to be the savior. Finally, Hogarth seduces Inez over scars and champagne, making what I feared would happen come true; Hogarth is just another old, rich gay preying on the younger person in need of charity.
E09: AKA Shark in the Bathtub, Monster in the Bed
Hogarth and Inez enjoy some sweet scenes together of pillow talk and domestic bliss, somewhat redeeming what’s come before. Hogarth has found a healer who asks to stop at Chick-fil-A, which I can’t tell is deliberate or not.
E10: AKA Pork Chop
Another wrinkle is added in the Hogarth-Inez relationship, which kind of subverts the “predatory lesbian” trope I was complaining about two episodes ago.
E11: AKA Three Lives and Counting
Look, I don’t need every gay character to be a pillar of the community or a paragon of virtue. Those characters are boring and unrealistic, and this is a complex show with mature themes that requires certain moral gray areas. I also recognize that it’s essentially a crime show with superheroes, which necessitates the characters being involved in shady business. Heck, I like Hogarth a lot! She’s a conniving, greedy, amoral lawyer, but she has vulnerability, and Carrie-Anne Moss gives an amazing performance. But in addition to her this season, we’ve had a criminal slumlord, a bisexual con artist, and a felonious security guard. At least we’ll always have Ash. Anyway, in the interest of fairness to those who read my documenting of Malcolm’s states of undress, Jessica is in her underwear in one scene this episode, but the circumstances make it as unsexy as the striptease in E02.
E12: AKA Pray for My Patsy
Hogarth trades her Cartier watch with the engraving “All my love, W” to a pawn shop operator for information on the healer. She mentions that it was from her wife. Not much else there, and I’m not sure if the circumstances are enough to make this problematic.
Verdict: Good, I guess?
E13: AKA Playland
Hogarth checks out her yoga instructor from behind with enough of a leer to make me uncomfortable. She blackmails her partners and encourages Benowitz to come out of the closet to be less “vulnerable.” Because the real reason anyone comes out is to shut down potential blackmailers.
Jessica Jones S02 was good, although it still suffers from the same thing most Marvel Netflix shows do: eight great episodes stretched across a 13-episode season. As far as the queer representation went, I’d say the good outweighed the bad, but the bad is very discomforting and drags the whole thing down. For that reason, I can’t be entirely positive.