For TueNight.com by Amy Vernon
(Photo credit: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix)
Netflix is trying to kill me.
Releasing an entire season of TV all at once sounds great on paper. You don't have to wait week after week for the next episode. You can see it all in a row, as a long story, rather than be tortured by trying to figure out what's going to happen next.
Fact is, I've caught up on many shows doing the binge watch -- Alias, Supernatural, Game of Thrones. If you didn't get on board in the first season, you can still catch up to everyone else and be part of the cultural conversation.
I've also binge-watched some old favorites. I re-watched the entire Battlestar Galactica series one winter, staying up until the wee hours and getting annoyed at Netflix when it would ask me if I was still watching. "OF COURSE I'M STILL WATCHING; IT'S BATTLESTAR!" I'd exclaim at the TV. If TVs could be startled, mine would have been.
It all came crumbling down around me on November 20th when Netflix dropped season one of Jessica Jones and Amazon Prime dropped season one of The Man in the High Castle.
The latter was based on one of my favorite books by my favorite author, Philip K. Dick. The former was a kickass female superhero, a perfect fixation for my feminist self. Plus, Marvel has had a pretty good track record lately. What would I watch first?
Hell, forget about deciding which I was gonna watch first. How would I avoid spoilers, either way?
I'm in a group on Facebook for those of us who are TV addicts and like to talk about it in depth without being judged. There are a lot of people who like to give you the side-eye and be all Judgey McJudgerson when you talk about how much TV you watch. But I'm a child of the '80s. I can't help it.
More importantly, I won't apologize for it.
But back to The Decision: High Castle or JJ? My husband leaned toward Jessica Jones, as he grew up a huge Marvel fan. Still, he was okay either way. In the end, it was up to me.
Ultimately, I knew I would be more upset at encountering spoilers for High Castle than I would be with Jessica Jones. And I'd been waiting for this story to come to film or TV or anything (heck, I probably would have listened to it if it'd been serialized on radio) for a long time. No one writes science fiction like Philip K. Dick. No one. And as a Gen X Jewish girl who grew up on Long Island, the Holocaust has lurked around the fringes of my entire life. The story was too compelling, too immediate for me to wait any longer.
The show is about an alternate history where the Nazis developed the atom bomb before the U.S., dropped it on Washington, D.C. and then split America with the Japanese, the Nazis in the East and the Japanese in the West. The titular Man is a mysterious figure who may or may not be responsible for films that circulate and show various versions of reality, including those that show the U.S. winning World War II.
I'd never read any Jessica Jones comics (as Jewel or as JJ), nor had I encountered her appearances in any other comic storylines. Even if I stumbled upon a spoiler, it wouldn't bother me as much.
It took us about three days to watch High Castle. We have kids and couldn't spend the entire weekend watching TV, much as I'd have liked to. I was happy with my decision, and it's easier to stay offline on weekends, so I wasn't spoiled. I stayed out of that Facebook group.
But now the week was beginning. There was Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr. Three social media platforms I spend a not inconsiderable amount of time on. I knew many people -- friends and strangers alike - would be posting gifs and screencaps and analyses of Jessica Jones. Would I have enough willpower to avoid the spoilers?
A young woman with superhuman strength, Jessica Jones has pretty much hung up her superhero cape (she did actually wear one as "Jewel," both in the series' backstory and in the comics) after the Purple Man mind-controls her.
Jessica's story is at turns familiar and unfamiliar to many women in their 20s. While we've never been turned superhuman in a car accident that killed the rest of our family members (okay, speaking for myself, at least), we have struggled with our identity in similar ways.
Jessica is finding her way in the aftermath of an emotionally brutal relationship. Her journey is to figure out how to move forward and forgive herself. Jessica's superhuman strength simply gives her a way to put up a wall between herself and everyone else -- friends, romantic partners, neighbors. She keeps her best friend at arm's length, except when she needs that emotional support only a best friend can give or when her best friend truly needs her protection.
SLIGHT SPOILER, but not really: In the end, Jessica realizes she holds the power. Not just physically, but mentally. She is the master of her domain, of her mind, of her life. If she wants to take responsibility for the actions she took while being mind-controlled, she needs to grab the reins and actually be in control.
Fortunately, Marvel made the show nuanced enough that any spoilers I saw were generic enough and usually of Jessica throwing someone across a room or out a window. Or having sex with Luke Cage. I would quickly look away when I saw someone mention JJ on social media. My friends knew better than to tease me.
But Netflix, Amazon, Hulu -- everyone! Stop the insanity. When Arrested Development dropped one Friday night two summers ago, I was working on a project and interrupted myself a few too many times to sit down and watch three episodes in a row. We have work to do. We have lives to lead. And the era of social media means it's ever-so-easy to be spoiled.
At least try to coordinate with one another so you don't drop two series on the same night at the same time. I swear, I thought you were trying to kill me. I can't take that kind of stress.
TueNight is a weekly storytelling publication for women in life's middle. www.tuenight.com