Purple is not my favorite color (black is, but that’s another story), but it is a significant color for me, for complicated reasons I shall try to explain here. In some regards, this blog-post can be seen as a review of Netflix’s new series, Jessica Jones. My opinion of the series, in brief: five stars — watch it!
Do not expect watching this show to be easy, though. Like Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, it plumbs the depth of human depravity, through the character of Killgrave, also known as The Purple Man, a character who has existed in comic books since 1964, when he appeared in issue #4 of Daredevil.
[Art by Tom Grummett; image found here, and from a comic book cover other than Daredevil #4.]
Killgrave’s skin is not purple in the new TV series, but he’s every bit as horrible a person as in comic book stories. He has one superpower, but it’s a nearly-impossible one to overcome: when he tells people to do things, they immediately do what he says, even to the point of killing themselves or others.
I was interested in Killgrave (and Jessica Jones) from the first time I saw either of them in a comic book, long before this TV series was planned. However, about halfway through the first season, I suddenly realized why Killgrave held such personal fascination for me as a truly horrible character — and why I hated him so intensely. It’s the fact that he controls the minds of other people, using his voice.
My father did the same thing, although he certainly did not have purple skin, and never, to my knowledge, killed anyone (but he did leave a string of damaged people in his wake). His voice had a hypnotic quality. There are people, to this day, who will claim to have seen him float straight up into the air — because they were told to see him levitate. I never saw that, but I do have faint memories, from a very early age, of seeing other unreal things, at his verbal suggestion, such as four or five finger-to-finger “ribbons of energy” called “orgone” connecting my hands, held in front of me, at night. Other children my age were with me; they saw these “orgone energy ribbons,” and more. I got away from this insanity as quickly, and as often, as I was able to do. Avoiding my father became my habit early, and often.
Many people have had horrible things done to them, due to abuse of this ability. In fiction, Killgrave, The Purple Man, is the best example of such a monster using his voice as a mind-control weapon. In reality, my father (and others with a similar ability, such as leaders of religious cults, a role my father did play, more than once) is another example.
When I realized the similarity between Killgrave and my now-deceased father, I had to stop watching Jessica Jones for about 24 hours. Having been a survivor of mind control left me (in real life) and Jessica Jones (in fiction) with PTSD, and I had to have a break from watching the show for this reason.
During this 24 hours, I remembered something about my father (who died in 2010) and my mother (who died less than two weeks ago): a story my mother told me, many years later.
Apparently my father hated the color purple, although I have no idea why. She was under his voice-control for years. So was I. We broke completely free of this manipulative monster at about the same time, in the mid-1980s. She left, and then divorced, him. I came up with my own way to “divorce” him as a parent, myself: I legally changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name. These things I knew already; the new thing Mom told me was what she did to celebrate her breaking free of his influence: buying a purple dress, and going out, wearing it, to celebrate her freedom.
After remembering this, I was able to watch the rest of the first season of Jessica Jones. I will not leave specific spoilers here, but I will say this: watching the rest of it helped with the ongoing process of recovering from my own “purple trauma.”