Melissa Rosenberg has worked quietly and successfully as a writer and producer for over two decades. She has progressed steadily from writing episodes of shows such as The Outer Limits and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman, to writing the adapted screenplays for the entire Twilight saga – which earned, in total, over $3.3 billion dollars at the box office. Screenwriters who can boast the same level of profit generation are few and far between, which is why, when she was announced as creator, writer, producer and showrunner of Marvel’s Jessica Jones series on Netflix, things got very exciting indeed.
Unsurprisingly, Rosenberg did not disappoint – far from it. She has, in fact, achieved something that networks and studios have been routinely failing at since the advent of the moving image – she has delivered a near-perfect female-led superhero television drama, using a creative team made up of both men and women.
Consisting of 13 episodes, season one of Jessica Jones boasts four female directors, and a writing team of which two of the five members are women. That this type of production team is such a notable rarity is among the greatest of shames for modern TV and film – not least with such critically acclaimed dramas as Bloodline and Fargo apparently continuing to use all-male directing and writing rosters.
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The importance of this behind-the-scenes gender balance is evident in every frame of every episode, and is summed up by Rosenberg herself as she described her approach to the character of Jessica Jones in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I don’t want to see some buxom chick in a unitard with her boobs hanging out and a size 8 waist – a sort of unrealistic model for women. I didn’t feel the need to sexualise her character. Or, because her character is actually very sexual, I think objectify is the word I’m looking for. When you look at comic books, that’s what you’re seeing is these unrealistic manifestations of women. Men too, frankly.
“One of the things I said out from the beginning is, ‘I never need to see Jessica Jones in high heels and a miniskirt, using her feminine wiles to get information out of a suspect.’ Any time you have a woman in the role of cop, detective, or something to that effect, one of the first things they do is put her in heels and a nice, tight black dress, and send her out to get the information. Again, it’s just frickin’ lazy. Jessica Jones is just not someone who would ever do that. She’d beat it out of them first, that’s actually a much more effective method.”
This approach is bolstered by writing that includes a realistic female perspective, and directing from women who are more than qualified for the job. In fact, anyone doubting the validity of the argument that more women should be directing franchise action movies need only watch the first two episodes of Jessica Jones, directed by the supremely talented S.J. Clarkson. All this makes some aspects of the following comments from Rosenberg – about her role in planning for the future of Jessica Jones – a little disturbing.
“There certainly is [scope for a second season] storytelling wise. The question becomes, is there actual time? There are logistics involved, because Defenders has to shoot by a certain time, contractually. Actually, I’m not sure; I’m not at all involved in those conversations, much to my dismay. The first question is whether or not we will even get a second season. The second question is, if so, when? Will it be before The Defenders, or after? I’d certainly love it to be before, but there are things that play into that – time, availability.
“I’m a complete control freak when it comes to this character. I will do everything in my power to protect the character in whatever forms. They’ll have to throw me, kicking and screaming, out of that building. But they own the property. They’ve been really inclusive thus far, so I’m not really worried about it.”
Make no mistake – Marvel needs Melissa Rosenberg to be involved in those conversations. Melissa Rosenberg should be leading those conversations. In fact, on the combined strength of her resume and the achievement that is Jessica Jones, Marvel should be handing the keys to the MCU over to Rosenberg and director S.J. Clarkson, and then just let them do their thing – after a second season of Jessica Jones, of course. That’s the only way we will truly see a new ‘phase’ in Marvel movies.