“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.” -GK Chesterton. An amazing thing happened! I flew into New York last week to be on a panel discussion with some of the creators of Marvel’s hit Daredevil Netflix series. It was quite an adventure. We discussed the difference between a good and evil–between a super-villain and a superhero, between a “good person” and a dragon-like person– between vengeance and justice. In this post, we will address some of these topics. Modern figures and movies like DeadPool and the Suicide Squad, really push the line.
At the event sponsored by The Sheen Center in Greenwich Village New York: “Speak of the Devil: A Conversation about Marvel’s Daredevil,” it was on Friday, July 29, 2016 at 7 p.m. I flew in Friday morning. I thought Chicago was expensive—and I know that is nothing compared with London!
Anyway, that night David DiCerto was the host. They did it Johnny Carson or David Letterman style. I was on a panel with a Catholic Priest –Father. John P. Cush, STL Academic Dean, Pontifical North American College in the Vatican in Rome. Also joining me was Matthew O’Brien Director, Original Programming of Marvel TV and Julie Schuber Casting director of the NetFlix Daredevil.
I was the token “philosopher.”
The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture. It is an amazing place where they address what I do here: The true, the good, and the beautiful….”…as they have been expressed throughout the ages. Cognizant of our creation in the image and likeness of God, the Sheen Center aspires to present the heights and depths of human expression in thought and culture, featuring humankind as fully alive. At the Sheen Center, we proclaim that life is worth living, especially when we seek to deepen, explore, challenge, and stimulate ourselves, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, intellectually, artistically, and spiritually.”
If you are ever in Manhattan New York, check out their amazing line up of events !
We discussed the issues of whether Daredevil is a hero or a tragic figure I talked about how the majority of the myths of cultures have a messiah like figures. Myths remind us how dragons, or evil will not triumph in the end. These myths are shadows of the true myth in Christ. It is where the myths of Truth Beauty and Goodness become flesh.
They asked me what separates superheroes from super villains and the difference between vengeance vs justice. I was able to compare the importance of what we put in our bodies food wise to what we watch … thus why should we neglect what we put in our souls too?
Comment discussion question 1 : What do you think? What is the difference, if any, between vengeance and justice?
In the Daredevil series, Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who (see my post on this series) (Charlie Cox): was a kind, young boy living in the seedy, section of New York known as Hell’s Kitchen, who after a freak accident saving an older person from death, gets toxic waste splashed on his eyes and loses his sight at 9 years old. This touches on the theme of sacrificial love –where the hero loses so much but in return gains much more. This is what philosophers call the paradox principle: You give to get, you die to really live. However, it has the effect of intensely heightening all his other senses beyond normal human limits. He has an unnerving ability to decipher sounds as they bounces off a brick walls or feeling the vibrations in the tarmac and even heart beats of those around him –discerning if they are lying—not bad for a lawyer but enviable for fighting those hiding in the dark—except maybe ninja assassin who slow their heart rates!
But he also meets the Punisher in the second series of Daredevil. Anyone who follows Marvel Comics will know who Frank Castle — Punisher — is! Frank became the vigilante that makes Batman run for cover! His family was killed by the mob. But US Marine Special Forces veteran Castle becomes a one-man army in his war against crime. Emblazoning a distinct death’s-head symbol on his chest, Frank Castle became the vigilante now known as The Punisher. (By the way Netflix has announced it will have its own series on him as well.)
Comment discussion Question 2: The Punisher kills those he fights. But Daredevil has a code against that. But are they not both vigilantes? What makes one a hero and one not?
I was not going to write on the Daredevil series, as it did not seem important to my readers, (I was wrong!) but I felt a deep “burning in my bosom” as my Mormons friends are fond of saying, to not sleep till I wrote and published it! Well it was destiny because the day after I got the invitation, through the kindness of Tom V. Morris.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said it best “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” So that line is not as clear sometimes as we may think it is.
Killing as recreational pastime is evil –while helping a drowning child out of a pool is a good thing. But what about the use of embryonic stem sells or illegal drugs for medical purposes? What about breaking the law to right a wrong? We must use wisdom in these cases.
However, without a GPS or moral compass pointing us to true North, we cannot ever arrive at a solid objective answer to the difficult ethical questions that plague us. That is why relativism, the view that there is no “north” in ethics, or an objective standard, is faulty. See my post on the objectivity of evil.
Daredevil is a hero that overcomes the dragons of the world, because he is haunted by his own dragons.. This wound produced in him a desire to bring justice to the world. Similar to what Batman does, but different than how Frank Castel does it.
Why do we enjoy watching series like Daredevil with the evils in it? Why do we subject ourselves to this? Are we all sadists waiting to burst out of our closets? No…well I assume that is not the case for the majority of us.
Aristotle had a theory on this. I wrote about it here.
Myths remind us how dragons, or evil will not triumph in the end.
And most of all, we discussed how we need to be careful what we put into our minds or souls.
Fr. Cush reminds us to recharge our batteries with good things, and remember who we are. If we cannot look at the man in the mirror and recognize him, we need to make some changes in our souls and reconnect with our creator.
I was at a bookstore years ago and was asked to contribute to their literacy program. I said “Sure” but after the kids learn t read, what do you give them to read?” She said “It does not matter as long as they read!” I asked her, “Would you say the same thing abut food? It does not matter what kids eat as long as they eat?” She said “That is different!” I said ,”Well what goes into our souls is just as if not more important than what goes into our bodies.” She said “I don’t make these types of judgements.” I said ” In all due respect it looks like you just did.”
At that point she became upset and I quickly got my book and left. 🙂 But the point stands, what we read or watch, like Daredevil goes into our souls, and we need to have a filter to filtrate the healthy from the vile “food” we put into our souls.
Comment discussion Question 3: What is the difference between a good and a bad movie or book (comic), is there something to be said about “bad” art that is harmful to our souls?
Something to consider: 6 Reasons why you should really consider comic books!
And how Daredevil’s faith is his most powerful weapon! from Slate.
Looking forward to your thoughts