Lets’ get this one out of the way before we get too deep, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are the two best Marvel shows on Netflix. The rest are … eh.
The reason we watch them however is because of one Jeri Hogarth. A lawyer, a not particularly great person, and yet she exists in all the shows, in some way, shape, or form.
Marvel’s experiment on Netflix began with the story of Matt Murdoch, the Daredevil. A lower class white guy who gains heightened senses and skills when blinded. The problem with Matt is that he’s not a good guy. My wife, who is neither a comic book fan nor a superhero one, looked at him and announced he looked like a serial killer. In many ways, Matt is. He’s not a nice person. He uses his friends and abuses their friendships in order to achieve his goals.
While his goal, protecting Hells Kitchen, is laudable, he does this at the cost of his humanity and his support structure. His ‘mission’ is more important than the people within, and this is played out time and again in his show. In an effort to make him more appealing, they saddled him with White Catholic Guilt ™. But all that does is make him look like every other white-guy hero.
Matt does bad things for the cause of good and feels guilty about it. Shucky darn.
Next we have the turbulant and complex Jessica Jones. Oh. Jessica. Unlike Matt, she doesn’t have a disguise or a code name. She’s a broken woman due to the abuse of Kilgrave, who used mind control to make her his girlfriend. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking. It’s exactly as horrific as you’re thinking.
Unlike pretty much every other superhero in the Marvel universes, Jessica is actually burdened by her superpowers. After all, she has super strength (and technically flying, but she’s no good at it), and she still couldn’t protect herself from one man who raped her. It’s an all too real moment that resonates with many people. And in opposition to hero like Spider-Man or Iron Man or the Hulk (or even DC’s Batman), not only can’t she live a normal life because of her powers, but she is fully aware of what she lost.
Jessica Jones drinks, she hides herself in a dark corner of a bar, deep in the bottle, because she knows she can’t protect people. Not even with all her strength. And she’s terrified of letting people in because they’ll hurt her more, and she them, so she drinks alone. She drinks and drinks and drinks and hopes she’ll forget why she’s so alone.
The only one of the shows without a lesbian (that we know of), Luke Cage is a hero for hire. Born and raised in Harlem, with all that means, Luke grew up in the heart of systemic racism. The series doesn’t shy away from the hard story either. It takes racism and the broken system and the injustice of the world and it punches it. Hard.
There are many things to love about the show, but my favorite was that there was no white savior. The story is told by the people who live in Harlem, the blacks and the latinx, and the mixed races. It’s the way the story should be told.
I should note, Luke Cage is queer inclusive, just not lezwatch levels of it. Jeri is around, but she’s only mentioned and doesn’t appear on screen.
Aaaaugh. Ugh. Ugh. Why?
Okay look. Danny Rand is the Immortal Iron Fist, a rich white boy who’s plane crashed in the mountains. Raised by monks, he learned to master his chi and became superpowered. Yay. The original character was conceived of in 1974, and sadly in 2016 he wasn’t reinvented like so many other things. Instead, they just left him as he was, and a story that was a bit paseé in the ’70s is incredibly old and moldy and bad in the 2010s.
The story of Danny Rand isn’t interesting. He’s rich, he’s white, he owns a business, and yet he takes his fight to the street. Iron Fist is an orientalist-white-man-yellow-fever narrative. Danny’s the poster child for white privilege and, much to everyone’s dismay, the show runners doubled down on the stupid. The lead actor quite twitter over the backlash and the producer complained he was just being ‘true’ to the source material.
Notice how I’m not talking about the show? I actually am. It sucked. It was boring, predictable, and racist.
The whole reason I bothered to watch Iron Fist was for this show. The combo of the previous four. And you know what? It really sucks that the plot is so heavily reliant on the flawed myth of K’un-Lun. While in the comics, Iron Fist and Luke Cage teamed up, the same event here falls flat. Danny’s world isn’t enough to retain interest.
If it wasn’t for Sigourney Weaver as the bad guy and Jessica Jones as the erstwhile angry woman make it worthwhile. Luke Cage is great for calling Danny out on his white privilege (and it actually seems to stick) but at the same time why does the black man have to tackle the obvious task of teaching empathy to a Buddhist monk?
Sadly, The Defenders is missing the mark somewhere and feels like it’s a prelude. It’s a mini-series, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to have a second season. As it stands, it’s reminding me that I don’t need to watch Iron Fist or Daredevil again.