About a week ago, I had the good fortune of happening upon a trailer for a #Netflix original movie called The Incredible Jessica James. At first glance, I thought it had something to do with the Marvel series Jessica Jones and almost dismissed it as another superhero flick. Then I realized, it’s not only a superhero flick, but a short peek into the complicated, snarky, and hilarious life of a #TallerThanUrAverage black woman. She’s the unlikely protagonist in a life not built for her head clearance.
Jessica, at six feet tall, with a head of glorious locs, and honeydew skin has the same general dreams, fears and relational issues as the next 25 year old. The difference is, that you would never have known, if not for the perfectly flawed almost “Ally McBeal-like” dream sequences that put her insecurities on a Broadway marquee before any of her plays. But the flaws and inner turmoil were not what struck me the most. What hit me was that Jessica James is the representation of what it is to be self-assured on the outside, because at 5’10 or taller, you stand out whether you want to or not. One could let that be a downfall, or a triumph. Jessica chose the latter.
We see the tenets of her personality unfold as we sit with her through two blind dates, a breakup fallout, constant rejection letters, and the fact that she is an East Coast transplant from the heart of the Midwest. She’s obviously unicorning the shit out of life on GP, because who moves from the comfortable stifling Midwest to become a playwright, yes, a playwright, in New York City?
The stark contrast between she and her younger sister, (who still lives in Ohio, married and expecting her first child), gives reference to the fact that being the oldest, and essentially the one most prone to your parent’s trial and errors and sometimes rigid expectations, makes for a quirky mix of empathic and critical that makes for a weird club of elder children with chips on their shoulders and an ax to grind amidst other cliches.
Her opening credit dance sequence and barren field of effs attitude set the stage for an understanding that it’s hard to hide when your stature and attitude are bigger than most of the hiding places people make for themselves. I myself am my own worst critic and have picked apart my energy, wishing I could be someone other than who I was. Realizing that I was special, but not necessarily embracing that and living who I was without apologizing for it.
There are no less than three scenes that amidst the turmoil of a lost relationship and the uncertainty of a new one, Jessica reminds her suitors and herself that she is quite simply, “Dope af” (dope as f**k for the text grammar illiterate). You can tell that she’s said it enough that she no longer has to convince herself; it’s a fact. That’s the type of confidence and outlook on life that I wish I’d held at 25. Ten years later, I am only just coming back into my dopeness. I’m owning who I am, flaws and all and loving it. I want t-shirts that say shit like #TallerThanUrAverage, #Dopeaf #Talentedaf #BoutThatDopeLife #ChoklateGurlWunder and #YouMustBeAtLeastThisTallToRideThisRide.
I want to raise my daughter (who will inevitably be as tall as me) in the knowledge that she is so much more than her height. Her thoughts, feelings, and character, the stuff she does when nobody is looking, is what will make her all about that DOPELIFE.
The Incredible Jessica James is simply that. Incredible. Not because she says so, but because she’s brutally honest when she doesn’t have to be, vulnerable and open when she has every right to be the opposite, and stands on her tip toes for an extra inch or two instead of shrinking in the shadows. She infused this soon to be 36 year old with enough gumption to remember a time when I felt like I was more than enough and then some. It’s okay to be afraid, but love more fiercely than you fear. Be annoyingly persistent with those things you love, and even if you’re not sure about how you will make it, teach yourself that you are too dope not to. That type of energy forces dreams to come true. Obvi.
The Incredible Jessica James is available now on Netflix.