Ask: "What would Jessica do?" And summon Jessica Jones-like strength to combat this evil.
I confess: I binge-watched the Marvel / Netflix superhero series, Jessica Jones. This is out of character for me. I barely know what Marvel is, cannot stand watching violence, and I'm disinterested in most television.
It's because of the villain, Kilgrave, whose 'special power' is absolute mind-control.
Okay, it's not just that. The character, Jessica Jones, is compelling and indomitable, and the show is a brilliant, surprising, addictive, super cool series, which has given me a touch of PTSD, just by watching.
But here's the more lofty excuse I'm claiming, for watching the entire series in two days:
Kilgrave, the narcissistic arch-villain, is not a mere caricature. He's an archetype of a force that is present, potent, utterly destructive, and all-too-real in our world. We should be studying the show, asking ourselves "What would Jessica do?" and desperately summoning our own super Jessica Jones-like strength to combat this evil.
Consider online bullies, who 'suggest' their targets hate themselves, even commit suicide, and who succeed in pushing their victims to do so. They are Kilgrave, at work in our world.
A single example: An extraordinary and very real young woman, Lizzie Velasques, was born with a rare syndrome. She discovered online comments referring to her as a "monster" and "the world's ugliest woman". She read directives such as "Kill it with fire", and "Do everyone a favor and kill yourself"; very much the sort of orders routinely issued by the villain, Kilgrave.
Lizzie, however, with some Jessica Jones-like strength of her own, prevailed and thrived, on her own terms.
But masses of Kilgravian bullies succeed in extracting a vicious toll upon their targets. In the face of evil trolls, who take pleasure in destroying others, many victims cannot summon enough strength to live, and to love themselves.
Then consider other arch-bullies and genocidal despots, throughout history; Kilgraves, all. They commit mass murder through controlling multitudes they turn into zombie-like killing brigades. What is their 'special power', other than twisting minds to conform to their desires and destructive bidding? Mobs, set in motion, take on a life of their own, and cannot be reined back in.
In the TV show, those whom Kilgrave commands, are powerless to resist his horrific orders, although they violate their own inherent natures, ethics and consciences. Kilgrave doesn't play "follow-the-leader". He makes his minions commit atrocities he, himself, would not dirty his hands with, or face consequences for. After they become his creatures, they are, later, horrified and racked by guilt over what they did, while under his 'influence'.
To see a whole culture displaying such contrition, visit Berlin. Note the many memorials, large and small, that indicate mass atonement for the Holocaust; memorials erected by those, who, after being so entranced by Hitler's demagoguery, came to eventually realize the utter and unspeakable horror they had enacted.
If contrition could be distilled and bottled, and people could sip the bitter brew of lessons learned--from Cambodia, Rwanda, the genocide of indigenous peoples, American slavery, Jim Crow America, the Holocaust, and so many other examples--you would think, by now, we would have acquired strength and wisdom to not succumb to Kilgraves among us.
Instead, we are continually seduced by their slick power, their shrill and strident voices telling us what, and whom, to hate and destroy. We are all-too-susceptible.
The villain-Kilgrave can induce people to slit their own throats. Kilgraves among us use media to manipulate us into varieties of destructive insanity. Kilgrave-ish advertising can move us to view ourselves as defective, to willingly pay fortunes for products which actually harm us; comparable to the evil power which convinced myriads of Chinese to tortuously bind, disfigure and cripple the feet of girls, for a span of a thousand years. Kilgraves can convince us to starve ourselves to death, while believing we are achieving a requisite standard of beauty.
Kilgraves can convince us to accept fashionable attitudes, as readily as we buy whatever is touted as fashion.
Stereotyping is one essential tool for Kilgraves throughout history; disseminated and amplified via the media, pounding out a message; no matter how destructive, absurd, or horrible it may be. The message can sound seductive, reasonable and even academic.
Kilgraves can convince us to wage war, breezily dismissing any and all so-called "collateral damage" to innocents. Kilgraves can tell us to defile our own 'home', the only earth we have, and we comply. Kilgraves can convince us that it is acceptable to drink poisoned water, breathe polluted air, desecrate our oceans, deplete our sources of food and of oxygen. Kilgraves can make a presumably convincingly argued case for whom we should hate; including entire swaths of human population.
This truly terrifying force lives among us. We hear it in the voices of screaming demagogues, who sound so chillingly like those who have controlled other puppet-like masses to commit such evil, stupid devastation; to wreck entire civilizations, peoples and cultures.
While Donald Trump is not the only Kilgrave among us, he is a prime example. Like Kilgrave, he doesn't bother with even a pretense of civility. He glories in his ruthlessness, and he pushes followers to mimic him.
If those falling under Trump's sway are reading this, and feel compelled to echo his views on why we should suspect all Muslims and Mexicans, why we should accuse the Pope, should demean women, etc.--because he says to--please take a deep breath. Then sit and watch thirteen hours of Jessica Jones.
Please also read "Islamophobia; Why Care or Take a Stand?" and Huffington Post's running list of Islamophobic acts. Follow Trump's pronouncements to their logical conclusions. Ask yourself, whether--just because he claims he is "fantastic", and our savior--he can command rising tides, enslave a country to build a wall, has a track record of affording women any dignity whatsoever, or can do anything other than hypnotize masses into believing he, alone, can make our country great?
Spoiler alert: TV's Kilgrave is eventually imprisoned in a soundproof cage, so his words and commands are inaudible. He is temporarily rendered impotent, pathetic and powerless, until someone who has fallen under his sway enables him to escape, to do infinite damage.
We have to summon our united strength, our full intelligence, our own super power. We have to prevail over Trump, as Jessica Jones ultimately does over Kilgrave. She works damn hard to do it, and so should we.
We have to muffle and marginalize his bullying and horrible voice, calling us to chant, robot-like, whatever words and ideas he plants in our mouths, bidding us to give him ever more power. The media, falling for his click-bait, have to stop finding him amusing, have to stop normalizing his diabolical 'suggestions' via repetition, thereby draining our outrage and resistance to his worst notions; with some of us shrugging and rolling our eyes, and far too many others taking his cues as direct orders; to adopt his views, to hate those he hates, to vote for him, to hand him almost limitless power.
If we fail to rally our own super-power, then our metropolis--our culture--will be devastated. And later we will be standing--shocked and contrite--but too late...in the ruins we allowed ourselves to manifest, the evil we allowed to flourish.
Not a good ending.
Anya Cordell is a speaker, writer, activist. She is a recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Award, bestowed by The Anne Frank Center USA, and author of RACE: An OPEN & SHUT Case which unravels presumptions of what we call "race"; named among the "books to change your life" by N'Digo Magazine.
She has passionately countered post-9/11 hate-backlash against Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and others. Articles include "Would You Let a Muslim Save Your Life?", "Sikhs Bearing Pizza", and "Hate Speech Against Muslims Incites Violence".
Her programs for children through adults tackle "appearance-ism", racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all stereotyping. See www.Appearance-ism.com