Superman (although born pagan and raised Methodist) has a very Calvinist ethos. Dude is SAVED, right? Once and for all.* Superman’s heroism is predestined. But not Daredevil. His friends, and even he himself, aren’t always sure whether he is doing the right thing.
He and the villain he hopes to bring down have pretty much exactly the same goals. And rather similar motivations. And their techniques vary only in (important) details.
Daredevil is working out his salvation in fear and trembling. Daredevil is Catholic.
It’s always problematic to endorse a show before they’ve stopped making it, because you just never know where they’re going to take it. It’s especially dangerous to pronounce that a show is “Catholic” or even that its values are in the right place. But, hey, I like to live dangerously.
I really enjoyed this show. And I appreciated seeing Catholic themes and struggles fairly portrayed on mainstream TV.
Comic writer Frank Miller, on whose “Born Again” story arc the Netflix show Marvel’s Daredevil is based, has said, “I figured Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante.” (via)
He’s no Man of Steel, impervious to pain or injury. We see him beaten, broken. He is seriously hurt every time he goes out to fight bad guys. But he keeps getting up and getting back in the fight.
He’s no millionaire playboy with a basement full of ridiculously awesome technology at his disposal. He has to work for a living. By day, he upholds the law, trusting a jury to make the right call. By night, he’s the judge and jury, punishing bad guys with his own two hands. (Literally. He eschews guns. And the fact that he doesn’t kill any of the bad guys seems to be mostly on purpose.)
Even his superpowers are born of weakness. He has extraordinarily heightened senses of hearing, and smell, and kinesthetics, but only as a result of the car accident that robbed him of his sight.
Perhaps even more central to his life as a crime-fighter are the lessons young Matt learned from his father, a tenacious but troubled professional boxer. Battlin’ Jack Murdoch was never knocked out. Beaten, yes, but always on his feet. Daredevil is the same way. Dude gets his Butt. Kicked. Every night. But he drags himself up again and keeps fighting through the pain.
Oh, and there’s his faith.
Religion and superheroes can be tough to sort out. Most of the well-known comic book superheroes have a religious affiliation, assigned to them by their (largely Jewish) creators. As a writer, if you want to know a character, and understand his motivations, you’d, of course, have to understand his faith.
But, for the vast majority of them, that faith is nothing more than back story.
Daredevil, throughout his long-running comic (which I haven’t read), through multiple writers and reboots, in his movie (which I haven’t seen), and now in this TV series (which I have seen), has consistently been a notable exception to the rule. His religion is a deep part of who he is.
Daredevil isn’t, ya know, a GOOD Catholic, but he is a Catholic. In the opening scene of the Netflix show, it’s clear that he doesn’t understand how confession works. But he’s there. And the priest DOES understand how confession works, so that’s nice. That same priest features prominently throughout this first season. His advice is consistently empathetic and theologically sound.
|Matt: I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father, I’m asking forgiveness for what I’m about to do.
Priest: That’s not how this works.
Daredevil/Matt Murdoch has been a comic book character through many decades and many writers. It’s my understanding that in that medium, he doesn’t always live out Catholic moral teaching in his personal life. But THIS review is on the Netflix show. And in season one of this show, he does. There are multiple allusions by other characters to how Matt “does well with the ladies.” But what that means precisely isn’t confirmed by Matt or shown on screen. As far as we know from watching this show, he is a good Catholic boy.
Matt Murdoch spends this season in much the same state as Seeley Booth was when we met him in the first season of Bones. Both men have a deep sense of the Truth of Catholicism, and are searching for answers in religion to the difficult questions posed by their career choices.
|Priest: It’s all right, seal of confessional. Anything
you said during the Sacrament of Penance stays between us. You could
have killed ten people. I couldn’t tell anyone.
Nine seasons later, it’s clear that Booth isn’t willing to move from a faith of ideas to one of actions. And it’s clear that the writers of that show think that theology of the body doesn’t apply to attractive people.
If every other show that’s ever been on TV is any indication, Daredevil will go down the same way next season. And I will be sad. But, for THIS season anyway, Daredevil is Catholic.
* except for 2013’s Man of Steel, directed by a guy who is awesome at making Batman movies but who doesn’t seem to understand the character of Superman.
p.s. There is a scene of other non-married characters waking up together. There’s no nudity, but there is some language. And a LOT of graphic violence. I had to employ the “hand over the gross part of the screen” many times, but that works for me. It is rated MA. I would recommend it for teens and adults.
And that’s my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.
Have you seen Daredevil yet? What did you think?
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My husband Stephen loves Daredevil. He was just telling me all about it, last night no less!
Interesting… I'm really not much of a Superhero fan (I tell myself) though I really enjoy X-Men. My favorite is Nightcrawler who also happens to be Catholic. But I've no read many older comics where he featured more often.
We've watched the first couple so far and liked them, for when we're in the mood for something brutal. I will watch them with this in mind, it's an interesting way to look at a show.
My husband and I have really loved this show, at least partly because we feel it is so Catholic. Glad to see you writing about it. I also think the bad guy's girlfriend is fascinating – she seems completely amoral and really broken. I love how she is almost always dressed in white – as if appearing angelic but really not at all.
I love this show!!!!!!!!!! It makes me very happy that you appreciate the awesomeness that is Daredevil, too! This show is the only exposure that I have had with the comic, but I think it is wonderful, and I am very excited for Season II.
I love how the show is unafraid to portray the beauty of Catholicism. The priest is awesome, and I really appreciate how he's a positive character who is always ready to offer Matt the sacraments (even when Matt shies away from them). Plus, the themes are so fabulous, and as you go on in the show, you see how sin literally rips apart and destroys people, but how God's Truth, Justice, and Communion bring people together.
This show has a lot to say about the necessity of communion, which is super Catholic, too. While Matt is a vigilante, he sees the problems that come when you try to "go it alone" and push away from others. Particularly when we meet Stick, we see this whole theme dealt with beautifully. I love the redemption in the show; there is one character who I can't stand when I first meet her (Foggy's ex), but ultimately, she's given a shot at redemption with the free choice to accept or reject it.
You already know how I feel about this show, but I'm glad you wrote this out. I think it's really good to see the good in shows that have bad things (like violence) in them. That's Catholicism, right? Truth, goodness and beauty are always and only from God. Not that imaging this show is from God. That would be silly. But still, I like how the show has depth and complexity.
Thanks for this! Just watched first two episodes based on your rec. While watching, I realized Matt/Daredevil looked familiar, but couldn't place him… Lo and behold, Wikipedia told me that I recognized him because he played St. Josemaria in There Be Dragons.
Love, love, love your blog. Keep writing.