April 6-7, 2024
Written By Leah Williams
Jessica Rabbit, who first appeared in Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, and then in Robert Zemeckis’ classic 1988 adaptation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has become a Disney icon over the years since her stunning debut. Her sultry and charismatic ways, aided by the voice talent of “Supa-Star” Kathleen Turner, charmed a whole generation of moviegoers. Jessica Rabbit proves to be far more than the sum of her parts and should be remembered for more than just her good looks.
“You’ve got the wrong idea about me, Mr. Valiant,” Jessica says when she first meets hardboiled detective Eddie Valiant in his office. She gazes at herself in the mirror, and fixes her lipstick, seeming every bit the vapid and superficial femme fatale that the movie paints a picture of. But it’s not only Valiant that has the wrong idea about Jessica. Her introduction, as a sultry and wildly proportioned jazz singer flirting with her audience does little to reveal her true nature.
It’s important to note Jessica’s origin within the pages of Wolf’s original book, as she was initially depicted as an immoral, shallow object of Roger Rabbit’s obsession. In fact, their marriage is revealed to be a loveless sham, brought about by a vengeful Genie and Roger’s desperate wishes. By reimagining Jessica’s character as an empowered, beautiful and intelligent force, Zemeckis and Turner created an enduring, feminist icon.
Not only is Jessica gorgeous, she’s intelligent and cunning, using every tool in her arsenal to free her husband, Roger Rabbit, from suspicion of murder. While Jessica initially appears to be a classic depiction of this femme fatale stereotype, after she’s caught sidling up to gadget inventor Marvin, Jessica vows to uncover the truth. Caught in a conspiracy of blackmail and murder she is driven by her strong sense of morality and her commitment to her husband.
Working with the headstrong Detective Valiant, Jessica is a key part of uncovering the dastardly plans of Judge Doom, revealing him to be the murderer of Acme. Not only that, but as the caretaker of Acme’s final will and testament, Jessica is instrumental in unveiling Doom’s character. When she comes up against Doom’s weasel henchmen, she even has the forethought to lay a hilarious and literal ‘booby’ trap when one of the henchmen attempts to extract the will by force.
It’s Jessica’s crafty nature and her love for husband Roger that drives the action of the film. The power that Jessica holds over men is frequently referenced throughout the film, and yet we never see her waver in her support for her husband. Despite her attractiveness, it’s her love for Roger and his quirky humour that she’s interested in, and not the wooing and flirtation of better-endowed men. When asked what she sees in Roger, Jessica simply says, “He makes me laugh.” This lack of superficiality is both refreshing and endearing, revealing the loving nature of their relationship.
Earlier in the film, Jessica states to Valiant, “You don’t know how hard it is, being a woman, looking the way I do.” This is a key moment for her character, underlining her treatment as a ‘pretty face’ working in a man’s world. The fact that Jessica is a beautiful woman is even more important in her context, as the power she holds over men is rarely exploited over the course of the film. She’s a character with strong morals and a dedication to the truth, using her wiles and intelligence on her quest to exonerate Roger.
Jessica Rabbit is a game-changing character because, despite the expectations placed upon her, she defied her chauvinistic femme fatale roots and remained her own woman. As a feminist icon, Jessica Rabbit defied the intentions of her creators, carving out her own path and remaining true to her morals and her heart. Jessica is a strong, empowered and intelligent character who proved just how strong women can be.