The Private Eye Cliche in Jessica Jones

jessica_jones_final_posterI started watching Jessica Jones recently and I’ve got to say it’s an excellent show. In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it by revealing anything big. In this post, I mainly just want to discuss the opening scene in which we see Jessica Jones taking still pictures of a cheating spouse in a parking lot. It made me wonder, is this what private investigators actually do all day?

So I did what the writers of the show should have done and spent about five minutes looking it up. True, catching cheating spouses is one of the things that private investigators do, although nowadays they take video rather than snap still pictures and they tend to work in teams of two in case one of them gets lost in traffic. Maybe Jessica Jones is so good she doesn’t need a partner and since she provides her client with physical pictures on photographic paper later on, maybe she’s just old school that way.

Of course, private investigators do much more than just catch cheating spouses. They do background checks, worker’s comp investigations, uncover scams like ponzi schemes, recover stolen property, set up security systems, assist police and attorneys in criminal cases, investigate fire and property damage, and perform bug sweeps. Jessica Jones tells someone later in the episode that all she does is catch people having sex. I guess it must be her specialty, but it would have added a nice touch of realism for her to say something like, “Being a private eye isn’t that interesting. I spend most my time sitting in front of a computer doing background checks.” At least she does end up being involved in a missing persons case later on.

Jumping back to the opening scene, what’s up with the couple she’s photographing going at it in a parking lot? Shouldn’t they be sneaking around, trying not to get caught? Shouldn’t they get a room? Of course if they did, they’d probably leave the curtains wide open like people later in the episode do. Sin City, if memory serves, also had a stereotypical private eye character, but at least he had to climb onto the roof to take pictures through the skylight, not sit back comfortably in his car while the exhibitionist couple does it in public.

I also couldn’t help thinking it would be cool to update the private eye for the modern era. Instead of snapping still pictures with an old school camera, have her take video using a drone or hack into their phone and use that as a camera to spy on them. Real private eyes, of course, don’t hack into people’s phones since this would be illegal, but this is TV, it doesn’t have to be entirely realistic.

Anyway, Jessica Jones is an awesome show and you should all watch it. I don’t know why I got stuck on such a minor point that doesn’t really have anything to do with the main story of the show. And yes, I know I started this post complaining that the show wasn’t realistic enough and ended by wishing it were less realistic. What do you want? Consistency?

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