Netflix’s Daredevil returns with its second season in just a few weeks, and they felt the need to give us two two-minute long trailers instead of one longish one to get the hype train moving. Am I onboard? I… guess so.
The great joy of geek culture—whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or superheroes—is the ability to tell grand stories. Where else can we seriously consider the end of the world, or the responsibilities of ultimate power? These are the stories that always offer an escape from mundane reality, letting complexity fall away in favor of a clear mission.
In the past decade, these stories have dominated pop culture, from the way everything from Avengers to Game of Thrones has become inescapable—perhaps the public has grown weary of the multipolar diplomacy that has characterized the post-9/11 era. But these stories are letting us down. The relief offered by the simplicity of defeating comic book villains is no longer enough; we need to ask for more.
Wilson Fisk transformed the villain’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is not an evil robot, or the head of a vast conspiracy, or an ancient god of chaos. His life story is not the tale of a festering wound inflicted by the hero. He’s not even a Nazi. Wilson Fisk is a purely human force. He has no magic, no powers, no wondrous technology—nor does he seek to acquire any. He lacks the kind of megalomania that drives others to take over the world.
He relies on human powers: money, muscle, and connections – powers which can be leveraged through his knowing white privilege. He ascends as populist dictators do, staying within the boundaries of the elite as he consolidates power.
His basic desire is chillingly simple: dominance. He aspires to wrest the chaos of Hell’s Kitchen into an orderly fiefdom, where the demolition of all opposition will mean that at last, the trains will run on time. And he’s not the only burly bald man to harbor such ambitions.
A few weeks ago I wrote about raised female warriors and their fight for autonomy. Since then I’ve been thinking on whether male characters are ever given a similar kind of tragic backstory where they‘re kidnapped, as children or even as adults, and their agency is taken away and they are forced to learn to fight and kill on the orders of their captors. I managed to find a few that could fit this trope—Matt Murdock (Netflix‘s Daredevil), Oliver Queen (Arrow), Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier (MCU), and D‘Avin Jaqobi (Killjoys). All these characters have their freedom and autonomy taken away (to differing extents) and, as such, they present a lot of opportunities for nontraditional portrayals of masculinity.
Spoilers for Arrow, Killjoys, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier below.
Daredevil, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Netflix original series, came out a few weeks ago, and it’s been pretty well received by most people (including me). While no one on this blog has written a straight review of the series yet, I imagine it’s only a matter of time; in the meantime, I’m interested in talking about Matt Murdock and Catholicism.
Comics have been doing a pretty good job lately insofar as realistic representation of religion is concerned. From Kitty Pride talking about dealing with anti-Semitism to Kamala Khan just existing, we have a variety of heroes of different religious backgrounds doing their thing on the printed page. However, this hasn’t yet translated to the MCU; save for Cap’s offhand remark about how God dresses, we haven’t seen a single reference that implies any character follows a certain faith. (Remember, I’m talking about the MCU specifically, not X-Men or other films.) And it wouldn’t be difficult, as I’ve pointed out before; anything from an offhand remark about a Hanukkah gift to a character making the sign of the cross in a stressful situation would do it. It goes without saying, then, that I tuned into Daredevil with some trepidation on the religion front. Matt Murdock is probably one of the most devoutly religious Catholic characters in comics (that I’m familiar with, at least). Would his faith make the jump to the screen?
Thankfully, yes, but in a somewhat imperfect way. Some mild spoilers for the show after the jump!
Last time I discussed how often characters with disabilities are cured of their disability. Today I will discuss a similar problem: the lack of characters born with disabilities. I first noticed this problem when watching Season 3A of Teen Wolf. Deucalion became one of my favorite characters when he first showed up as a badass blind villain. I loved him. But then I saw the flashback episode of Teen Wolf, “Visionary”. I was shocked to discover that Deucalion was only blind because Gerard had stabbed his eyes out. I was disappointed because I had been imagining Deucalion as being blind from birth, and while I have many other problems with how Deucalion’s character was handled, you’d think not being born blind wouldn’t be such a big deal. But this minor point nagged at me, and I started thinking about characters with disabilities. I realized that almost all of them have some traumatic event happen to them that leads to them being disabled.
Professor X, Oracle, Bobby Singer, Daredevil, Hiccup, Bran Stark, Jaime Lannister, and many more characters all become disabled after some tragic event and/or an occasionally heroic event. And while having characters who become disabled is important representation, especially for people who have become disabled themselves, having so few characters who are born with disabilities is a major problem. It also says something about how our society views people with disabilities.
I was surfing the internet today, as I usually do when I’m taking breaks from writing, and came across an archived forum on Comic Book Resources. In it, forum members were listing disabled characters in both the DC and Marvel universes. One post brought up Matt Murdock, otherwise known as Daredevil, mentioning that he fights crime despite being blind.
However, another poster questioned whether Daredevil’s blindness, along with several other characters’ disabilities, was actually disabilities.