Netflix’s Jessica Jones TV Show: A Female Superhero Like No Other

The Jessica Jones TV show is another piece in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a Netflix Original that follows on from their previous Marvel foray Daredevil.

While Agent Carter is the first Marvel property to have a female lead, the Jessica Jones TV show has the distinction of being the first one with a superpowered female lead. She’s an actual female superhero. Well, sort of…

Unlike most of the Marvel Film & TV productions, this is a character that most non-comic book fans will never have heard of. It’s based on the early noughtie’s Marvel Comics series Alias (also the name of a fondly remembered JJ Abrams show) from creator Brian Michael Bendis, that centred on Jessica Jones, a former superhero and turned private investigator.

The series was part of the Marvel’s MAX comics, a line that specialised in mature content. It allowed creators to explore themes and subjects that were difficult to cover in mainstream comics, such as the mental and sexual abuse suffered by Jessica Jones in her past.

Jessica Jones Purple Man, Alias, Jessica Jones TV show, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley
From ‘Alias’ Issue 25 (2003) – Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Mark Bagley. Publisher Marvel Comics.

The Jessica Jones TV show reflects the same approach, and like Netflix’s Daredevil TV show before it, is decidedly not for kids.

The show follows Jessica in her work as a PI, slowly revealing her superpower of super strength, but also why she is such a cynical – even nihilistic – person. It wasn’t always this way. While not quite the former superhero (Jewel) of the Alias comic, she had decided to use her powers for good – until a run in with Killgrave, played with chilling intensity by former Doctor Who David Tennant.

Based on the comic book character Purple Man (see above – his look wisely adapted to a fondness for purple clothing), Killgrave is a sadistic and manipulative supervillain, whose power is to verbally control anyone who he speaks to.

Killgrave took control of Jessica, making her do things for him that she now abhors. Jessica is suffering from PTSD following this harrowing experience, and she is constantly trying to numb her overwhelming sense of guilt.

The overriding arc of the series is Jessica confronting this (unwillingly at first) both figuratively and literally as she organises against Killgrave.

A show like this lives and dies on the strength of the leading actor. Playing Jessica is Krysten Ritter, who you may recall playing a small role of a rather unfortunate character in Breaking Bad. She’s great as Jessica, a really engaging presence who pulls you through this character’s journey.

British actors have done well in Marvel films and TV shows (eg. Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, even Paul Bettany as Jarvis/Vision), and David Tennent is no exception. His Killgrave is possibly the most terrifying MCU villain of all, as he is less about pantomime theatrics than chilling and believable sadism.

Also in the mix is the popular Marvel character Luke Cage (soon to have his own Netflix show), a black superhero who has also been a supporting character in Jessica’s comic book appearances. If you’ve ever wondered how two superstrong superheroes have sex, your curiosity will be answered – the makers clearly revelling in the opportunity to film a superpowered sex-scene.

Over the 12 episodes of the Jessica Jones TV show, the ensemble cast of characters (there are many more than I have mentioned) are really allowed to shine, and the story weaves a complex web of intrigue.

I was hooked on this show from the beginning. Jessica Jones is not just a great Marvel TV show – it’s simply a great TV show.

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Electronic Chewbacca Mask with Moving Mouth review

TL:DR – this Chewbacca Mask with moving mouth is awesome!

There have been scores of Star Wars masks over the years. Those based on characters with helmets tend to be the best realised – such as Darth Vader or Stormtroopers. The detail is usually pretty accurate, and there are additional features such as voice changers in Vader or Kylo Ren that can elevate them above the usual run-of-the-mill dress up masks.

But this Chewbacca mask is probably the best Star Wars children’s one I’ve seen so far. It’s made of a hard durable plastic, has a good cartoony likeness of the lovable Wookiee, and is a comfortable fit (for a child) with secure straps.

But what really makes this so great is that is has a hinged lower jaw, so the mask’s mouth opens when the wearer’s does – and doing this triggers Chewbacca’s distinctive howls and roars.

There are a number of distinctive Chewie sounds that those familiar with the films will recognise, with different ones being triggered by how much the jaw is opened.

My daughter is really enamoured with it, and the overall effect is pretty theatrical.

Check out the Chewbacca mask with moving mouth in action:

Adorable eh? And as you can see, it’s perfectly paired with a Dorothy dress 🙂

This is a great addition to my daughter’s dress up box, and she really enjoys terrorising  friends and family with it.

As with many of the toys available in this new wave of Star Wars merchandise, I would have loved this as a kid too.

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The Star Wars The Force Awakens Chewbacca Electronic Mask has an RRP of £29.99.

  • Movie-like appearance
  • Open mouth slightly to hear Wookiee howl
  • Open it wider, and Chewbacca’s roar gets louder
  • Adjustable straps

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Disclosure: We were gifted this item free of charge for the purposes of this review.

 

Family Fever

REVIEW: LEGO Star Wars – Rey’s Speeder

Appearing early on in the very first trailer for The Force Awakens, Rey’s Speeder was one of the first new vehicles to be revealed.

Rey's Speeder, Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley

Its blocky, lo-fi, junkyard style design quickly became a fan favourite.

This LEGO version is a lovely little set to construct.

LEGO Star Wars 75099 Rey's Speeder

This was one of my favourite looking ones from The Force Awakens line (admittedly, the iconic , far larger, and more expensive Millennium Falcon – also featuring Rey – just edged it). The suggested age is 7-12, but my 3-year-old daughter put it together with minimal supervision.

Rey is clearly a central character to the new saga, so it is great to have a minifigure of her. My daughter also loves the fact that she is another female Star Wars character to play with.

Rey LEGO Star Wars minifigure

The minifigure has the usual two faces, though the expressions are a fairly subtle ‘wry smile’ and ‘displeased frown’. The freckles are a nice detail. She also has a mask with goggles, as seen in the introduction to the character in the film.

Rey wearing mask and goggles, Star Wars, The Force Awakens

The set also comes with a second mini figure, the hooded and mysteriously named Unkar’s Thug.

Rey’s Speeder is already one of the more iconic new vehicles of the new saga and is a great addition to our LEGO Star Wars collection, that that my daughter frequently plays with already.

The fact that it features the character that is basically the lead role in the new saga makes this an essential set for any young LEGO Star Wars fan to own. All she needs is the addition of one particular accessory (not included).

😉
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Star Wars © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

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Family Fever

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Bringing Gender Balance to the Force

**This is a spoiler free Star Wars: The Force Awakens review, that reveals nothing new about the plot other than anything officially released prior to my seeing the finished film**

Continue reading Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Bringing Gender Balance to the Force

The Kano Computer Kit Makes Coding Cool

The Kano computer kit for kids offers much more than merely building your own computer. It’s a gateway for your child – and the whole family – into the mysterious world of coding and a key to unlock the creativity of computing.

It was my top pick in my recent gift guide for girls, and I repeat – if your family get only one present for your child, I urge you to make it this one.

Girls and STEM

Ever since having a daughter, I’ve been aware of the stats around girls and STEM subjects – that girls are far less likely to pursue further and higher education in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Manufacturing (STEM).

The reasons are far from clear but everyone has a theory – ranging from girls brains being unsuitable for these subjects, to a range of social and developmental factors driving them away from a very early age.

We have always been keenly aware of the need to inspire an interest and connection with STEM subjects and principles in our daughter. We don’t want to push her into a a life in any of these fields – I merely don’t want her to be put off anything simply because she is a girl.

This has taken many forms, from passing on my love of ‘geek culture’ (people in tech tend to also like sci-fi and superheroes), encouraging an interest in maths and problem solving (which can be as simple as playing with LEGO and jigsaw puzzles), and trying to highlight female role models where we spot them.

For instance, my daughter is keenly interested in Batgirl of Burnside. When I read it to her, I tend to emphasise the fact that Batgirl’s ‘powers’ include a keen scientific mind and incredible computer coding skills.

Batgirl is a programmer, girls in STEM
The latest version of Batgirl has a super-powered mind for coding. From ‘Batgirl of Burnside’ by Cameron Fletcher and Babs Tarr. © DC Comics.

 

Batgirl actually needs these special abilities to defeat that most modern of super villains – a computer algorithm.

‘Coding’, aka ‘programming’, is something we know our kids are supposed to be learning. It has been included in the national curriculum for a couple of years, part of a concerted effort to fill a perceived/projected skills gap in the UK tech sector.

The aim is that instead of simply teaching our children how to use programs, we need them to learn how to make programs. Software, apps, and algorithms govern our lives, and will likely continue to do so. It’s in everyone’s best interests that we understand how they are written.

The implication is clear – if you want to keep your kid’s options open for the future, coding is key.

The Kano computer is a brilliant way to bring a greater awareness of computer science into your home. My daughter is enthralled with hers…

Girl coding using a Kano computer for kids

Coding for kids – not such a new idea

When I was a child, there was the groundbreaking Computer Literacy Project (CLP), which led to the BBC micro computer being a fixture in schools and homes across the country.

While the programming language was it’s very own (BBC Basic), the principles were the same – lines of code that created a program, whether a game, application, or something else entirely. I once created a version of Hal 9000 (from the film 2001), my very own attempt at AI. I like to think he became self aware and still out there in the digital white noise somewhere.

This 1980’s explosion of kids (and adults) learning how to code has been credited in part with the success and depth of knowledge within the UK tech sector. Only, it didn’t last.

The BBC Micro found no place out of UK homes and schools, and the advent of Macs, PCs, and gaming consoles saw home computing move in a different direction.

Since then, computers have rarely invited home users peek behind the curtain in the same way. User interfaces have become increasingly sophisticated to make home computing so infantilised that babies can literally do it. Gone is the exploration and creativity that learning to code inspired.

Computers have become passive tools. We are more likely to use them to consume rather than create. We rely on software and algorithms to navigate our digital landscape.

Our experience with the Kano so far reminded of my wonderful childhood days of learning and exploring via programming.

Building your own computer

Kano Computer kit boxed

The Kano is attractively packaged. A bright orange slipcase reveals a sturdy board case with all the component parts. The case has a magnetic clasp, so it is designed to store and/or transport the Kano as required.

My wife and I were as excited as our daughter was about putting this together. Out of the box, you construct it in almost LEGO fashion – following instructions to slot and snap bits together. This underlines the most appealing aspect of the concept behind Kano, to shed light on the mysteries of the digital devices that are integral to our lives.

The enclosed booklet takes you step by easy step through the construction and initial set up of the computer. When assembled, the ‘computer’ bit of Kano is the renowned Rasperry Pi B+ – themselves doing great work in trying to engage children in programming – in a Kano housing, with a speaker, memory card, and wifi dongle. There are also stickers for your child to customise their Kano.

When fired up, it looks like something you’d find in classic Doctor Who or Blake’s 7, which is a wonderful change from the slick looking tech we surround ourselves with.

kano computer, kano computer review, building your own computer, computer kits, girls in STEM
The Kano all fired up and ready to go (Totoro not to scale)

You will need a compatible screen with an HDMI input, and we used our wall mounted TV. This works ok, but if you have one that’s lower or desktop that would be best. At a later stage you will be able to connect it wirelessly to a tablet or phone screen. The keyboard with mousepad is also wireless – which is great to help fidgety children remain engaged.

Using your Kano computer

In a fashion not dissimilar to my aforementioned 1980’s HAL 9000 program, the Kano screen starts with:

“Hello! I’m KANO. Thanks for bringing me to life.”
(Image from the Kano instruction booklet)

I’m assuming it’s not self aware just yet.

What follows are various set up aspects, such as username, connecting wifi, software updates and the like. The first really fun bit that my daughter enjoyed was creating her Kano avatar character, with different face, colour, and costume options.

This all takes you to the end of the Kano book 1 (make a computer). We’re now ready for book 2 – code powers. Here you will learn about programming languages, binary code, open source, and more.

Now, I don’t know if the following statement is true, but it feels like it is – I learned more about contemporary coding from reading a few pages of this Kano booklet than I had since I left school. So while Kano may be intended for kids age 6-12, it’s perfect for anyone that wants to learn more about computers, which frankly should be all of us.

This also harks back to the CLP of my youth – it was intended for adults as much as children.

Creativity through coding

The Kano computer comes loaded with programmes such as Snake, Pong, and even Minecraft – but with the ability to manipulate the code in all of them. There is also a music generator and apps. You can go online and download more. While coding is at the heart of activities, the theme remains that coding is a skill to unlock creativity.

Kano is a wonderful example of going forward by looking backwards. It embraces the great aims and principles of the CLP, but using tech that deserves as much of a place in your home as a console, laptop, or tablet. Perhaps even more.

This is socially conscious technology that is also a great product. There are plenty of so called computers on the market for children, but for the same price as a potentially crappy kiddy tablet you can get yourselves one of these far more useful and versatile devices.

The Kano offers a way for relative luddites like my wife and I to engage in coding and bring this open source tech into our family home. We can introduce the principles of coding to our daughter while learning about them ourselves. As our knowledge increases, we are better placed to support her in her learning journey whether at school or home.

Despite my early amateur experience with programming, I never pursed it into adulthood. I studied Information Technology at school, and signed up for a Computer Science A level. But I ditched it after a term – because the class had a crappy teacher and no girls. I hope for my daughter’s sake that neither of those things will happen now.

My daughter is 3-years-old, has helped build a computer, and is already engaging in simple coding tasks. She calls her Kano ‘Orange Progress’. That’s as good a nickname as any for this marvellous machine.

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The Kano computer has a RRP of £119.99 ($149.99 USD) – but you can get it for a special holiday price of £89.99 ($99.99) until 31 December 2015. 

It’s available from the Kano website.

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The Kano computer kit:

Kano computer kit, Coding for kids, coding for girls, girls in stem,

 

  • Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, ARM 900MHz Quad-Core CPU and 1GB RAM
  • 8GB micro-SD Card preloaded with the latest Kano OS full of projects and games
  • Kano books, illustrated and intuitive
  • Wireless Kano Keyboard and mouse (USB RF & Bluetooth)
  • DIY speaker
  • Custom case, stencils and stickers!
  • HDMI cable
  • Wifi dongle
  • Mini-USB power supply (UK plug)

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Disclosure: We received the Kano computer free of charge for the purposes of this review.

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