I recently finished watching season three of the Marvel TV series "Jessica Jones" -- one of the very few superhero shows with a female lead, Jessica Jones, who wields remarkable super strength and practices effective investigative skills as a P.I. Beyond that, what makes this show particularly unique is that Jessica constantly struggles with labeling herself as a superhero, which is the focus of season three.
At the beginning of the third season, Jessica encounters a serial killer in her line of private investigatory work and Jessica's sister, Trish, wants to help catch him.
Trish and Jessica have always had a complicated relationship, where Trish envies Jessica's super strength and constantly berates Jessica for not being more of a typical superhero.
For Trish, being a superhero means knowing the difference between good and evil -- and snuffing out the evil at any cost with the extraordinary powers you've been given. Trish has always harbored moral righteousness, and when she finally gets powers at the end of season two, she is more than ready to use them for her snuffing purposes.
However, Jessica has always resisted the label of "hero," unable to fathom how she could fit the mold. But I think what makes Jessica a real hero -- one that people in today's polarized world need -- is that she is truly humble and consistently resists the prevalent temptation to assume a black and white interpretation.
Because Jessica does not see herself as a perfect hero, she is able to accept and understand the imperfections in other people.
Season three is riddled with examples of Jessica's humility saving and changing people's lives for the better, so here are just a few people Jessica extends her empathy to.
At the end of season two, Malcolm agrees to work for Jeryn "Jeri" Hogarth, a senior partner at an invincible law firm. In season three, the audience sees how Malcolm's below-the-belt work for Jeri has reoriented his moral compass. Instead of embracing the heroic role he sported in season two, Malcolm has become willing to perform unethical tasks in order to get what the firm wants. And rather than jumping to judgment, Jessica Jones gives Malcolm another chance when he quits the firm and asks to work for Jessica's P.I. business again. Not only does she give Malcolm a chance to redeem himself, but she also sees that his willingness to admit his wrongs has humbled him, and in her words, makes him "less of a sanctimonious asshole."
Jessica's sister, Trish Walker
Throughout the season, Trish darkens as she becomes obsessed with ending the serial killer Gregory Sallinger, who eventually murders Trish's mother. This murder puts Trish over the edge, as she embarks on a rampage to rid the city of people who have committed horrible crimes -- by killing them. Even despite Trish's horrific and murderous quest, Jessica is able to understand where this came from, as Jess tells Trish, "It's Dorothy [Trish's mother] who beat this self-righteous resolve into you." Of course, Jess still knows Trish must be stopped so she won't kill anyone else, but she also has empathy for Trish and the impact her harmful upbringing had on her.
"Jessica Jones" season three is all about complicating the black and white narrative, communicating that no one is perfectly evil and no one is perfectly good. And Jessica is a hero for seeing that, and having the power of empathy -- to see the good and innocence in a person who in every other way seems completely evil. Jessica recognizes the humanity in everyone, and it's her humility that allows her that perspective. This is a message people in today's polarized climate need to see and hear: we might be wrong and that's okay because we're human beings.