Something superpowers can’t fix.
There are SPOILERS ahead for the latter half of Jessica Jones season 2. You’ve been warned.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a show about trauma. Season 1 featured the unimaginable, PTSD-like trauma Jones incurred after being controlled for an extended period of time by the repulsive Zebediah Killgrave, AKA Purple Man. Season 2, which debuted on Netflix last month, focuses on a different kind of disturbing event — Jones discovers that her supposedly dead mother is still alive, and a rage-filled murderer, no less, and has to decide what to do about that.
Additionally this season, Jeri Hogarth, Jones’ sort-of friend and high-priced lawyer, experiences some serious trauma of her own. She’s diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is itself a brutal condition. ALS is characterized by the death of motor neurons, causing the loss of voluntary muscle control. Patients usually only live a few years after being diagnosed, there is no cure and the only available medication extends life by just a couple months. If you can call that living.
Where that kind of deep desperation exists, the predators take notice.
Tricks of the Trade
After Hogarth’s diagnosis, Inez Greene, the currently homeless former nurse for the nefarious IGH, tips her off that in addition to giving Jones and her unstable mother super-strength, the group also created a healer, the now-incarcerated Shane Ryback. Ryback makes it seem like he doesn’t want to help, but the wily Hogarth finds a way to spring him, anyway.
Seemingly blackmailed by Hogarth with potential additional charges, Ryback agrees to use his gift on her in episode 9, “AKAShark in the Bathtub, Monster in the Bed.” It’s an emotional scene that depicts Ryback moving his hands over Hogarth’s body, much like a reiki or therapeutic touch practitioner might. He ultimately clasps Hogarth’s hand, shaking slightly, opening the floodgates of relief from the normally stoic professional.
Hogarth believes she’s cured, but of course, the super-sleuthing and super-cynical Jones understands what really happened. In episode 10, “AKA Pork Chop,” Jones has to break it to her that IGH never made a healer and that her experience must have been misleading, something Hogarth can’t accept.
“I felt something when he touched me.”
“Because you wanted to feel something,” Jones retorts. People fall down when touched by faith healers, too, because they expect something to happen, they want something to happen and the pageantry of it all can be very influential.
I’m not some ignorant, trailer park hick.
Neither was Steve Jobs. When he was diagnosed with (an unusually curable form of) pancreatic cancer in 2003, the Apple founder spurned medicine and instead sought treatment through acupuncture, supplements and “juices.” When none of that worked, he finally got the procedures he needed, but it was too late. Jobs ultimately regretted his decision, but no one would ever question his intelligence. There’s no shame in being taken; it happens to the best of us.
I’ve had no symptoms.
“In what, two days?” It took Jobs a long time to figure out his treatments weren’t working. Motivated reasoning is powerful; it can make us ignore what’s really there. And just thinking you’re better can make you feel better. It sadly doesn’t change the actual condition, though.
“They can’t test for ALS, right?” Jones further asks. “So they can’t confirm the results?” These people knew what they were doing. They picked their target and picked her clean, leaving her hopes as empty as her apartment.
These people are scum.
You said it, Jessica.
Sadder than Fiction
Tragically, the charlatans in Jessica Jones are much more real than the superpowers. As pointed out, these things happen every day, even to people at the highest stations in society. That’s why “try all the options” is such a canard; it separates the ill from their money and gives them the worst possible thing in return — false hope.
There are even people who claim that ALS can be prevented, or that there are “natural” cures (I will NOT link to that one). When talking about a complex disorder the cause of which is not understood, you can see why people would want to fill that uncertainty with whatever they can.
But it’s not just ALS. The world is full of people ready to take advantage of any disease (or even a made-up disease) to sell you something that’s not proven to work, or worse, proven to not work (like, for example, reiki and therapeutic touch). Each of us has to be vigilant when considering any non-standard medical practice because, as Jessica says,
We don’t know what these people are capable of.