While Marvel’s blockbuster movies are still relegating female characters to love interests and sidekicks, they are changing the narrative on their Netflix show The Defenders. You would think a series about a team that is three-fourths male would play out like the Avengers franchise (with the one woman forced into a romantic subplot while the men save the day), however, in The Defenders, the women are more than just love interests and pretty faces: they’re actually shown as complex, relatable, and badass people.
Let’s start with Jessica Jones, who is played by the formidable Krysten Ritter. Jessica, as seen in her own, self-titled Netflix show, is an ass-kicking, name-taking superhero who really doesn’t want to be labeled a hero. She’s sharp, fierce, and has her own agenda that doesn’t involve heroism. She wants to carry on with her life of being a mostly-retired private investigator, but when the sole case she takes on leads her to the rest of the Defenders, she can’t step away. What really drags her into the hero business is that, no matter how much she denies it, she does care if people get hurt.
The main antagonist of the series is Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra Reid, who is one of the five fingers of the Hand. Though at times she is afraid and her leadership is questioned, she asserts her dominance and continues to ruthlessly out-smart the Defenders.
Even though it’s her fifth season in the Marvel-Netflix world, Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple never gets old. She saves lives and saves the day with her own brand of heroism. Instead of being relegated to Luke’s girlfriend, she steps up, fiercely loyal as always, and assists the traditional heroes.
Right at Claire’s side is Colleen Wing, a remarkable action girl who breaks away from being the person she was always trained to be. Though she sometimes feels quite lost, she always ends up stronger than ever before. Instead of finding someone stable to hold onto, she becomes that foundation for herself.
Fierce detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) demonstrates incredible loyalty in a different, yet very similar way than the four main heroes. She’s determined to do her job and do it right, no matter the cost. She’s the stickler of the series until it comes to the final battle, where she risks her job and a whole lot more to help the Defenders.
Rachael Taylor’s Trish Walker is Jessica’s steadfast best friend, who spends her screen time supporting Jessica and researching what’s really going on in New York City. When someone calls into Trish Talk and disproves the mayor’s statements on what’s going on, the call is immediately dropped, but Trish probes further into the problem.
The last of the Defenders’ female characters is Karen Page, Deborah Ann Woll’s determined reporter. In Daredevil, we saw her relying on her intellect and grit to score her one of the best reporting jobs in the city with no prior experience. In The Defenders, she battles with Matt Murdock over what’s best for the city and takes the opportunity of being locked in a police precinct to investigate the truth of the tremors.
In The Defenders, we see women at their strongest and weakest. We see women who are dedicated, loyal, determined, smart, tough, fierce and brave. We see women who are heroes, they don’t all have powers, but all show more courage than a certain despised Defender does in the entire series. Often, in action and adventure movies, women are relegated to be damsels in distress and femme fatales, but the women of the Defenders transcend stereotypes and are the true heroes of the series.