The Reality of Jessica Jones (spoilers ahead)

I had never been a fan of superhero television shows. There had been something inherently fantastical about them, indestructible, unbreakable heroes with powers that would guarantee them success and glory. The villains, horrendously, exaggeratedly monstrous, were too farcical to be believable.

Yet, in the new Marvel Comic Universe’s Jessica Jones, both hero and villain merge fiction and reality with themes of sexual abuse and victimhood that are truly terrifying. In Jessica Jones, villain Kilgrave (played by David Tennant), has a power to control the minds of his victims, not in the way they think, but in the way they do. And perhaps, that is the worst. Hope Schultman, one of thousands of Kilgrave’s victims, consciously, aggressively fights the urge to kill her parents but is forced by the physical actions, like that of an automaton, to carry out Kilgrave’s command. These are actions which victims have to face, the guilt and responsibility of what they have done, after the effect of Kilgrave’s mind control has worn off. In this way, Kilgrave’s mind control is akin to rape, both physically and psychologically invasive.

This is how Kilgrave has left protagonist and former victim, Jessica (played by Krysten Ritter) to suffer. In an incident that resulted in a woman’s death and Kilgrave’s own apparent death, we presume Jessica has escaped Kilgrave for good. But; Kilgrave has defied death and returned with a delusional, twisted devotion to the woman that was able to walk away from him, the one woman seemingly immune to his mind control. Kilgrave, in his sadistic assault of civilians and Jessica’s friends, displays his actions as a form of affection for Jessica, an affirmation of his twisted belief that Jessica will eventually love him back. He does not grasp the issue of consent, because he does not ever have to. This highlights the tension between true consent, and what can often be interpreted as merely allowing something to happen. Kilgrave can command outward appearances of obedience, seen in his fixation for victims to “smile,” but he will never be able to elicit true desire, true subjective belief and love by the victim. It is never more evident in Jessica’s meticulous memory of every act she did under the control of Kilgrave.

Her scars, literally and figuratively, are a reminder of what she did not want to do, but was forced to do. The pervasiveness of Kilgrave’s abuse, in Jessica’s imaginings of the silhouetted shadows of her abuser, in coping mechanisms of stress (“Birch Street, Higgins Drive, Cobalt Lane,” she rattles off on loop), in the outburst, disclosed to her best friend Patsy (whose relationship needs a whole other analysis) that “I don’t know what I’ll meet when I turn the corner” shows the complexities of Posttraumatic stress disorder that those emotionally, sexually and physically abused face.

This is what makes Kilgrave a truly horrific villain. It is the reality of his power, of monstrosities and abuses that is not detached from reality, but entrenched in the very world we live in. The dark, film noir cinematography may distance Hell’s Kitchen, the Marvel Universe in which Jessica Jones takes place, from reality. But not for one second are the horrors of emotional manipulation, rape and abuse detached from reality. Those who are all too familiar with David Tenant, would be aware of his boyish charm in his role as the charismatic Doctor Who. This is ingeniously portrayed in his role as Kilgrave. Kilgrave is not an outwardly heinous, inhuman monster, because rapists and abusive boyfriends don’t appear to be. They can be charismatic, charming and conventionally attractive but abusive, violent, manipulative people. We are repulsed by what Kilgrave does, but unable to negotiate it with the man who oozes charm, who manipulates and twists our emotions so that we too, fall victim to Kilgrave. There are many who have romanticised Kilgrave, who see his actions as ‘sympathetic’. Tenant said of Kilgrave, “we can all sympathise with that sense of wanting what you can never have (Jessica’s true affection.)” But Kilgrave has manipulated people, then blamed them.

He has forced people to do things they didn’t want to do. He killed his parents, despite their efforts to save him. In a society which condones rape culture, who blames the victim as opposed to the abuser, it is unsettling to see the romanticisation of an abuser as the ‘nice guy.’ Jessica Jones has shown us the most realistic monsters, of those who emotionally, sexually and physically abuse, and also how these perpetrators are tolerated in society.




Book Review: 'Unlabel' by Marc Ecko

Before reading this book, I’d never really heard of Marc Ecko – I’d seen the Rhino symbol around but not being in the ‘street’ scene, I’d never known what it symbolised nor who the person was behind the tusk.

While reading the book though, I began to see Marc’s influence everywhere – not just in the Rhino emblazoned tee shirts but in music, fashion, art, popular culture – all these things I’d seen and heard but never knew they came from one person.

In this book, Marc tells his tale very bluntly and honestly, not glossing over his set-backs or pretending he was always at the helm of a successful business. He tells us honestly about his issues with trademarks after a similarly named brand filed a lawsuit, he tells us about every single roadblock and success he encountered, financial wins and dramatic losses, his story is the epitome of authenticity, which is exactly what this book is about.

From airbrushing t-shirts in his parent’s garage as a kid to his rampant successes with Ecko Unltd and Complex Media, Marc empowers the reader to defy convention and create an authentic brand. It’s an easy read, written more as a memoir than a traditional business book with visual blueprints depicting his teachings in infographic form to keep you focused and engaged.

He teaches the importance of delivering what you say you will, how to understand your product or service’s effect on people and why failure is actually a great thing.

Marc says it best in the blurb of the book:

“Unlabel explores the anatomy of a brand. And it uses the Authenticity Formula to explain the cross sections of that anatomy.

My brand started in my parents’ garage in Lakewood, New Jersey, where I spray-painted T shirts and sold them for $10 a pop. By understanding how to harness my fear and separating perception from reality, I grew that brand to the tune of a billion-dollar retail business.

I’ve built skate brands, hip-hop brands, magazine and video game brands. I’ve built brands that people literally tattoo on their bodies, which is “branding” in the truest sense. But the most important brand that I built was me, the personal brand that’s from my guts to the skin.

My philosophy is simple: unlabel. Not “un” as in the nihilist or negative sense of the prefix, but in the “refuse” sense of the meaning.

Refuse to be labeled. Fight their labels. Ignore their labels. Peel off their labels. Unlabel—and create your brand.”

It’s a very easy read, written for the average Joe start-up with big ideas but it’s also written for business owners who are looking to refine their brand, to expand and empower their business, authentically.

Marc’s words and enthusiasm are palpable and really grab and hold your attention from start to finish. The book itself is beautifully presented in hardcover form with its thick pages, vibrant content and illustrations and quality business branding acumen on each page. We definitely recommend it, whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur looking to expand or rebrand or a new start-up looking to build an authentic brand right from the start. We'd also recommend it to people wanting to build a personal brand ie personalities, bloggers and speakers.

Open Letter to the Braff Bros. on "Wish I Was Here"

Gentlemen, what you have created here, is nothing short of a masterpiece. You have an inimitable way with words and ideas that when strung together in the manner you have, create an astounding and inspiring work of art. From your take on religion for the non-religious, to your ability to convey meaning and gratitude in the smallest of things; the wealth in 'family'; the honesty in parenting and the beauty in sincerity and simplicity; you have succeeded in inciting emotion in even the most unemotional person. 

In this film, it isn't just your main protagonist who is looking for answers, it shows that everyone, everywhere and in every walk of life is searching for more, everyone is afraid of never being enough, never living up to expectations, being confined to the monotony of working to survive rather than following their passion or moreover, never finding it. 

While the focus may be on Aidan, chased by death and expectation throughout the journey, fearful of what lies ahead, every character is battling the same war. Grace (Joey King) is seemingly searching for herself in religion yet it's clear throughout that she is the strongest of them all - her fervour for education and knowledge, her envelopment in Judaism and her sense of conviction about what is right and moral and what is kind and just, cements her as the strongest, most confident of all the characters, whether the rest of them choose to realise it or not. It is Grace that is able to get through to even the most closed-off characters in a manner that astounds even them.

Sarah (Kate Hudson) is trying to be an attentive mother, a supportive partner, a hard working employee and struggling to find where she fits in to it all, other than being the one solid thread tying everything together and becoming increasingly frightened as she feels herself starting to fray . 

Noah (Josh Gad) is trying to escape responsibility, escape emotion and connection and yet he craves it, needs it and in that, he is fearful.  Even Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) is trying to work out what is right among the stories he's told in school and the lessons he's learning every day of his life.

The film is shot so beautifully, every shot, no matter the content, is carefully planned and executed, mindful of the light, the most minute expression, the most expansive landscape. When we go on vacation, we say "Wish you were here" even though we don't, it's really a self-promoting, show of our good fortune but in "Wish I Was Here", it's an existential plea for wanting to live in one's own life. 

No question is silly, no answer ever patronising and while this film asks some vast questions, the answers - or rather, ideas of answers, are insightful and profound. Some go wildly against what we've been inculcated to believe and in breaking through those barriers, lends us a freedom that this film advocates in spades. 

It's an examination of contentment, an exploration of language and thought; of knowledge and meaning; passion and confidence, of lessons learned from the smallest being, the most mundane object or the most seemingly ineffectual moment in time, all enveloped in language from what will likely be the most quoted script, of yourselves as writers, or the late greats the likes of T.S Eliot, Robert Frost and Shakespeare and in the serene and complementary soundtrack that delicately draws you further into each scene. 

"Wish I was Here'  is a spectacular film and I'm so proud of the work you have done to irk out a small slice of profundity in an industry of predominantly nonsensical projects dedicated solely to mass entertainment. In this film, you've not only asked the big questions and have tried to answer them with profound resolve, but you've given even seemingly mundane items like contact lenses, grand importance and life, through all the things they've seen. 

The lessons learned are not only about passion and contentment, about simplicity and growth but that in not getting too caught up in where we think we need to look for spirituality or meaning but rather an expanse the likes of the infinite universe and imagining what that force may be trying to guide you through in the most challenging part of your life, no matter what form that guide may take, no matter what direction it may lead, just in accepting what comes, driving yourself forward and believing in the sense of self and in the pursuit of passion.

Congratulations on this grand accomplishment

Book Review: The Roadside MBA

Business books are either an utter waste of the paper they're printed on or insightful. No business book is going to lay out your path for you, that's something you need to do for yourself. What worked for one company won't necessarily work for yours but what is important in a book on business is that it excites you, it causes you to spark ideas and insight applicable to your own business, and as you read, you become increasingly excited about how your business can evolve and grow, you discover the new tactics you can apply to your strategy and the application of the knowledge gained of how other small businesses function either similarly or conversely to your own. This is one such example. They're rare examples nowadays, lost in a sea of the aforementioned wasted trees but this book is insightful, funny and written in a casual manner that makes the reader the Sal Paradise to the trio's theories and research on the road.

Good work fellas!