In anticipation of season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil, which comes out on Friday, March 18th, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts on the first season. If you haven’t read them yet, I’d recommend checking out Part 1 & Part 2 of my blog series first.
As with most reviews, the following may (read: definitely does) contain spoilers – consider yourself adequately warned.
At its core, Daredevil has always been a story about redemption and damnation, deeply imbued with Christic imagery. Christianity aside, though, Daredevil is really a story about a fighter (literally and figuratively) trying to right wrongs in his world. Unfortunately, too often this bends the story right into the inspiration porn-y disability storylines, in which we are meant to fawn over poor little Matty who bravely overcomes the tragedy of his childhood to become a literal hero. In the movie version of Daredevil, it is outright stated that the loss of sight lead to Matt gaining other abilities, entrenching the belief that with the loss of one ability will lead to the heightening/super-powering of others to compensate. While attempting to validate/celebrate the success of disabled individuals to survive despite their limitations, these restorative stories hurt the broader accessibility movement by blunting the need for universal design — we don’t need to worry about making spaces accessible because people will just rise to the challenge of disablement.
Netflix’s Daredevil largely resists this claim, couching Matt’s bravery and resilience not in his disability but in his heritage. Throughout the show, we are reminded that Matt truly is his father’s son: a stubborn man who always comes out swinging and refuses to stay down for the count. This is a refreshing shift from the all-too-common “disability brought the best out of him” storyline, making this story about the Murdocks’ resilience and desire for justice instead of merely overcoming adversity. Murdock’s response to blindness, to fight back and become a hero, has nothing to do with disability and everything to do with his character. Murdock is not a plucky overcomer, he comes from a long line of fighters. It is in his genes to stubbornly attack every problem with brute force. In fact, Matt’s disability plays a relatively small role in the show as a whole, avoiding a lot (but not all…) of the “But I’m blind!” schtick that plagued the early comics and Affleck movie adaptation. Instead, being blind is woven into the backdrop of the story, allowed to exist without constantly drawing attention to it.
On a personal note, I’m a bit disappointed the series returned Matt’s father’s boxing name to “Battlin’ Jack Murdock,” from the comic book, instead of the movie adaptation which simplified his name to Jack “The Devil” Murdock. While this renaming plays into the idea that Matt, like all Murdocks before him, is a battler, the Netflix series misses out on an easy way of explaining why Matt starts using the moniker “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” (and Daredevil later on) without being able to lean on this piece of origin story. Of course, the movie adaptation beat us over the head with this concept in a clunky scene where some neighbourhood bullies “dare” a young Matt to fight back. Perhaps that’s why Netflix preferred to keep it a bit less obvious. At the same time, I enjoyed that symmetry the movie brought to the hero name.
This is officially the last time you will hear (see?) me say something positive about the Baffleck movie. I promise.
Next up, I’ll be talking about my spirit animal, Stick!