No City for Fatal Women: Gender, Power, and Noir Convention in Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Conference: The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film (EuroMedia2021)
Title: No City for Fatal Women: Gender, Power, and Noir Convention in Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies, Gender and Communication
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Karen Dellinger, National Taiwan University, Taiwan


This paper aims to analyze both the employment and subversion of traditional noir convention in the web television series Jessica Jones, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. While the series is more a crime drama than a superhero story and features numerous elements that mark it as a work of neo-noir, it simultaneously subverts and reworks noir’s traditional portrayals of gender and power. Centered around a female, superpowered private investigator who suffers from PTSD due to a history of rape, violence, and manipulation, Jessica Jones presents a version of urban femininity that embodies traits previously associated with the masculine, tough-as-nails heroes of hard-boiled fiction, but also gives voice to the anxieties of contemporary womanhood. This paper will further examine how the creators of Jessica Jones successfully incorporate elements of noir fiction into the series while opening new possibilities for the genre’s representation of gender and power dynamics; it will conclude that, much as classic noir reflects the social issues and collective anxieties of mid-century America, Jessica Jones—and potentially, neo-noir—brings forth the social issues that continue to weigh on our contemporary psyche, ushering in a new form of noir fiction that embodies new complexities.

Virtual Presentation

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