Don’t Hate on Hellcat!

Don’t Hate on Hellcat: The Averted Eyes and Disproportionate Penalties Piled on Patsy “Trish” Walker for Her Core Community Transgressions within Marvel Comics and Netflix’s Jessica Jones

A presentation I gave to the Comics Studies Society.

The abstract:

I will focus on the way superhero community norms led to the atypical treatment of Patsy Walker/Hellcat in both the comics and Netflix’s Jessica Jones.

In the comics, Walker committed suicide, then was later resurrected. However, until this year, the psychological effects of her decision to kill herself were rarely discussed. I will argue that this is due to superheroes’ community norms, for whom “giving up,” as suicide is often interpreted, is the ultimate violation of heroism, making its existence impossible to discuss. This seems somewhat parallel to how some people have treated Simone Biles as having “given up” for taking a mental health break from the Olympics. However, in the current Iron Man, Patsy finally talks about her suicide, thereby opening up the possibility for superheroes to enter the wider mental health community, where mental and emotional difficulties (beyond the classic “oh no my girlfriend/planet is dead!”) are allowed to exist, not as flaws but as part of one’s self.

On Netflix, Walker killed a few people (all murderers). This is by no means unusual according to normal Netflix superhero community standards. However, she was held responsible for these deaths with a severity from both the criminal justice system and her own superhero community that was clearly disproportionate to the penalties suffered by others, from Jessica Jones to the Punisher. I believe this is in part because of her own desire to be a superhero, unlike every other Netflix hero, and that this was held against her upon her fall from that state. I will compare her treatment to that of Jones and others, focusing especially on her exile from the hero community.

This is a PDF of the straight-up PowerPoint. I will upload an extended version in a few weeks.

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