Two years ago, Netflix released its series Jessica Jones, inspired by the famous Marvel comic book. Jessica Jones, a super-heroine, was involved in a relationship with Kilgrave (David Tennant), a villain who can mentally manipulate people in order to get what he wants from them. David Tennant gives a unique touch of madness to this character and his performance was indeed excellent. However, Kilgrave is definitely not a simple character that does not exist and entertain people when they’re “Netflix and chilling”. There are hundreds and hundreds of Kilgrave destroying the minds of men and women every day – and there are no Jessica Jones to save them. The “Kilgrave Syndrome” has a real name: these are manipulators.
In France, we call them “les pervers manipulateurs”, but there is no official term in English to talk about this kind of people. However, “manipulators” seems to be a perfect word to describe their methods. According to Isabelle Nazare-Aga, author of Manipulateurs parmi nous (Manipulators among us, 1997), they represent 3% out of the population. Like Kilgrave, they master the art of perversion and mental abuse by powerfully controlling their victims in the name of love. That is why Kilgrave pretends to love Jessica Jones more than anything to justify his murders, numerous acts of violence and mental torture particularly when he forced her to kill Luke Cage’s wife, which explains why our favourite super-heroine lost confidence in herself. They want their victims to self-doubt so that their power takes over the person’s mind successfully. They become more and more dependent of manipulators and think they only exist in their gaze. No matter what Jessica Jones does, she cannot help being constantly afraid of facing Kilgrave and to share her life with him again. It is also important to add that manipulators can take different forms: parents, lovers, friends, teachers, boss… Conversely, manipulators are extremely versatile – the most important criteria remains to have built a close relationship with the victim.
It is understandable: manipulators always choose the same type of person such as someone looking for affection and love, nice and generous souls or people in a difficult situation. Jessica Jones had lost her parents in a car accident and Kilgrave appeared as the stereotypical rich and sexy man that could save her from her fears. Why? Probably because they are extremely easy to manipulate. Above all, manipulators are cowards. Remember how Kilgrave is terrified by Jessica’s rebellion at the end of the TV show? They won’t fight against a strong personality. Once you’ll discover that their kryptonite is your freedom, they’ll just run away – escaping again and again their own responsibilities and will probably ghost their partner.
However, most people do not perceive that they are prisoners of manipulators. The pressure of love, friendship, parenthood and work make them forget that they are victims of a psychological phenomenon that is rather common. When they realize the problem, they understand how much the relationship was toxic and unhealthy. But sometimes, it’s too late – and victims suffer all their lives and feel guilty. And if he was right ? And if I was truly mad ? Truly stupid ? Maybe I’m mean. I’m bad. It shows manipulators still have a strong power on their victims – even after a potential break-up. In France, manipulators are today more and more recognized by the law and can be punished for what they do such as harassing text messages or suspicious attitudes.
Like Jessica Jones, the only way to fight against manipulators is to be free again. That is why it is essential to talk about it, to express what we feel if we are developing this kind of relationship with someone – a therapist, a member of the family, friends. So be a super-heroine/super-hero and have your say about this cause. Some words are even sometimes better than magic powers, aren’t they?