Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why I Won't Watch Daredevil Again

“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
― George Orwell1984

If you've read my earlier essay about "Comix" you know that I've always liked superhero stories, albeit with some serious recent reservations. I've watched all the Marvel and DC movies, and Agents of Shield on TV. I looked forward to Daredevil, despite the character's being sort of a B-team Batman. Even knowing the series would get the Frank Miller dark, violent, tormented-hero treatment, it seemed worth watching.
I was wrong. One, the violence is repulsive, repellent, disgusting. Not only the villain's, mind you; Daredevil's, too. He makes Jack Bauer look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. "Oh," but the fanboys will say, "the real world's like that." Well, maybe, some places, but I don't watch ISIS beheading videos on YouTube, either. Do I want monsters like those to die? You bet. I want them to die the way I'd kill a rabid coyote: quickly, efficiently, with as little danger to myself and others as possible. Evil is in no way mitigated by making evildoers suffer, and my virtue (such as it is) isn't enhanced, either.
Two, the writing is lame. Pay attention to the action scenes. Daredevil takes enough punishment to put anyone but Wolverine in the hospital for weeks. The baddies he fights are stupid, brawling when any gangbangers worth their spiderweb tattoos would step back and unload their pistols into him. One supposedly professional killer is surprised when his brand-new pistol misfires at the crucial moment. Apparently, despite his earlier misgivings about semi-auto pistols, he failed to test-fire it. The failure gave him the opportunity to crush the victim's skull with a bowling ball (?!?), creating a lot of blood spatter. This was, of course, the point of the exercise. In fact, those parts of the scripts not aimed at exposing the angst of the various characters are intended to create visuals as bloody as possible. Intelligence? Get serious.
Then there's the ambiance. Apparently, New York nights are longer than mid-December's in Norilsk, hardly anyone can afford more than 20-watt bulbs, the rainfall makes Seattle look like a drought zone, and garbagemen are on strike. Again. This stuff was dramatic once. Now it's just cliched. If you want a scary, horrific scene try the Nazi home movies. All those happy families gamboling amid the swastikas... 
There's more, but you get the idea. In fairness I should mention a show, similar in structure, that I enjoyed and whose writers I can admire. Justified. Note the similarities:
In both shows, a boy who grows up poor and troubled comes back to rescue his town from gangs of criminals. In both, his chief antagonist is someone from the same community, with a somewhat similar background, whose goal is to be the Godfather, more or less. Both the hero and the villain are driven by ghosts from their pasts. Both Matt Murdock as Daredevil and Raylan Givens as the maverick US Marshal step outside the law and convention to serve what they see as a greater good. Both are exceptionally talented in the ways of violence. On the other side, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, and Boyd Crowder, wannabe criminal mastermind, have understandable desires for respect, companionship and affection but are ultimately murderous psychopaths, deserving of none.
In short, both shows have classic structures, seen time and again in Westerns, crime stories, science fiction, all versions of myths thousands of years old. So what's the difference? Raylan Givens doesn't inflict pain when it's unnecessary, even to his cost. He faces down thugs and their bosses but won't cause harm unless it's unavoidable. Sure, that's the mythical "Code of the West," which never existed outside of dime novels and old-fashioned movies. But myths exemplify cultural ideals. What ideal does Daredevil exemplify?
There's another big difference, too. Justified is based on the work of the late Elmore Leonard, one of the best Western and crime novel writers who ever lived.
It shows.

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