Great Power, Great Responsibility

I’m a big fan of superheroes. I watch Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I love all of the Avengers. When I was little, I had an obsession with Spider-Man. So I was very excited to watch the new Netflix series Jessica Jones. I’m three episodes in so far, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Except for one small thing.

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Not ten minutes into the first episode, we’re treated to a scene of Jessica, a private investigator, perched on a fire escape and watching a building across the street. Because no one does anything with their curtains closed, Jessica spies a woman working out. A fat woman. Cue Jessica’s voice over:

“Two minutes on a treadmill, twenty minutes on a quarter-pounder.”

And sure enough, we cut back to see the fat woman literally stopping to eat a cheeseburger in the middle of her workout. For added laughs, she even gets back on the treadmill and eats while she’s moving.

I almost turned the show off right then. Truthfully, though, I wanted to keep watching. And that’s the dilemma I face so much of the time: Not wanting to support shows and people that fat shame, but also wanting to watch them because they entertain me (in non-fat-shaming ways, of course). I decided to compromise by continuing to watch the show, but also being vocal in my disappointment. (I actually struggle to think of a show I watch that hasn’t fat shamed in some way. Lovely.)

Just like Peter Parker learned, with great power comes great responsibility. The media and the entertainment industry are pretty pervasive in our lives. There’s the great power. I would like to hold them to task to take on the great responsibility. To stop using fat bodies and fat stereotypes for cheap, easy laughs. To stop perpetuating the idea that all fat people are lazy, gluttonous, stupid, to be made fun of. There’s absolutely nothing creative or clever about that scene. It’s offensive, plain and simple. If you saw it and laughed at it, I hope you’ll take a moment to think of the fat people in your life, and how they would react to seeing it.

There are two other Jessica Jones things to talk about that relate to BFD – two things that the show does right. First up, Carrie-Anne Moss. You probably best remember her as Trinity from the Matrix movies. Now, take a moment to realize the first of those flicks came out sixteen years ago (I know, right?!). Carrie-Anne Moss is now 48 years old. And while it’s unfair (and untrue) to say there is a “typical” way that a 48-year-old woman’s body should look, I was pleasantly surprised to see that hers more closely resembles a real-life (that is, not Hollywood) middle-aged body. Don’t get me wrong, I think she looks stunning. I just can’t get over that she is actually allowed to look her age!

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Second, meet Luke Cage. He’s handsome. He’s tough. He’s very muscular. And if you look closely in the scenes where he has his shirt off? He has stretch marks on his shoulder. A lot of viewers probably didn’t notice this, but I did – immediately. How often are we ever allowed to see a body with a “flaw” like a stretch mark, much less on a man? (Answer: Pretty much never.) We are told (by people who desperately want our money) that things like stretch marks and cellulite are not natural, and should be eliminated at any cost (even though they can’t actually, you know, be eliminated), and most certainly should not be seen. I don’t think the show intentionally showed us Mike Colter’s stretch marks, but I’m glad they did, and I hope they made other people feel better about their own stretch marks.

I couldn't find a shirtless pic, so here's Mike Colter in a cardigan!
I couldn’t find a shirtless pic, so here’s Mike Colter in a cardigan!

We can’t all be superheroes, but we all have the power to make the world a safer, kinder, better place for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors – “flaws” and all. And, I would argue, with that power comes the responsibility to do so. Speak your mind to @JessicaJones and @netflix.