I can’t begin a discussion about a superhero without first asking a simple yet powerful question: why do we have or need superheroes to begin with? I can’t speak for everyone and that’s not really ever my goal. I speak for myself, from my own perspective, so that’s where I’ll start here.
When I was a child I felt alone and weak. I felt like I didn’t fit in, not in some commercially exploitable way because places like Spencer’s Gifts didn’t exist, and if it did, I didn’t live close enough to a mall to shop there.
When I finally did discover Spencer’s I found it’s antisocial statements cliche to the point of being trite and dismissive. Sure, it expressed what I felt, but because my feelings were being mass-produced, the statement felt less potent.
So, yeah. I felt alone, weak, and isolated.
Saturday morning cartoons kept me company; shows like MASK, GI Joe, and The Incredible Hulk… watching those I identified with the Hulk. I may not have had power, but Hulk did. He was a physical manifestation of a deep rage at my own perceived helplessness. Hulk was unstoppable.
When people try to manipulate Hulk, the best they can do is point his rage and hope he doesn’t turn around. That’s the rage and power I wanted, not the helplessness of my learning disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia (trouble with fine-motor-functions like writing with a pencil).
The dyslexia stopped me from reading books until I was about 20. Then, my friend Ian bought me David Eddings’s Pawn of Prophecy. I was hooked. From then on I’ve been devouring books.
For years I gravitated toward super-hero movies and books, Sci-fi/Fantasy books that for me were the escape I needed, if only just for long enough for me to rest from that constant feeling of inadequacy.
Eventually technology and perseverance has limited, if not eliminated my feelings of inadequacy. Having made a movie that a lot of people like, that helps too. But I’m still left with the memory of how I was. Now, with this new, semi-healed perspective, I can see why I liked the things I liked.
I watched super-hero movies because they relieve my fears. They give me an escape from the stress of having to go to work or entering the dating scene, or worrying about retiring, if such a thing is even possible by the time I’m old.
But, I’m a white male. The kinds of things I have to deal with are totally different than some of my black friends and some of my women friends, including my wife. They live in a world that still treats them as less-than.
My friend Lexi Alexander is a director in Hollywood. She is part of the DGA (Directors Guild of America). She recently live-tweeted a DGA meeting where they were voting on a measure to remove women from the category of minority. That that’s even an issue is a mystery to me since women constitute 51% of the population.
The measure didn’t pass.
* * *
Superheroes come in a variety of powers: from Batman, whose power is wealth and rage, to Apocalypse, who is essentially an immortal all-powerful god and the only way to defeat him is to get him to go somewhere else.
And then there’s Daredevil. Daredevil has slightly heightened senses that compensate for his blindness and then a bit more. Most of his powers, though, come from his will and his discipline in training how to fight.
Unlike most superheroes, Daredevil is specifically fighting for the poorest neighborhood in New York, called Hell’s Kitchen. He’s taking care of the people who can’t take care of themselves, fighting giant financial and legal institutions that bribe politicians and police officers. He fights them in court, and when the courts fail, he fights them on the streets.
Daredevil is more than just a superhero, not because of his powers, but because he’s almost normal. And because he attacks the very things that make us feel so weak to begin with.
Netflix’s version of Daredevil is shot with the same production values as the show Arrow, with about the same fighting skills and styles as well. It is a progressive story, each episode building on the previous. This format now dominates TV. And Daredevil is perfect for it. Since he’s so normal, very little CG is required to tell his story.
I’m a huge Vincent D’Onofrio Fan, I have been since I saw “Full Metal Jacket”. He does not disappoint in Daredevil. (If you’re bored and want to see a completely different D’Onofrio, he played Thor in “Adventures in Babysitting”.)
There’s less spectacle with Daredevil’s powers which forces the show makes up for it with character, which what all good stories do.
I’m not saying Daredevil is amazing, cinema, or that it will be remembered in a thousand years, or that it should be.
But, for what it is, it’s pretty darn good. And, more than that, it speaks to us, where we are, and how we feel today.