Daredevil is not a superhero. At least, not quite like the superheroes we normally think of.
Superhero stories have always been entertaining, but mostly stop there.
The good superhero stories, like Marvel’s Netflix adaptation, play on the their reflection of humanity. Heroes can be a reflection of who we actually are — the struggling, broken man — and who we’re meant to be — the courageous hero —simultaneously: The ordinary man made for greatness.
There’s nothing wrong with the superhero flicks that don’t go there. Their focus is on the mind-numbing action — which this show has at points. (And much of it is very, very violent — this is most definitely not a family show.) Daredevil is up there with the great action (artistically choreographed, in fact), but its themes deal with deeper issues.
For one, Daredevil (known as Matt Murdock by day) is a Catholic. He faces a fascinating internal conflict as a result of being both a crime-fighter and a Catholic at the same time.
On one hand, he feels the weight of responsibility his unique gifts carry. On the other, he struggles with the means he must take to bring about a good end. He wrestles with his faith and constantly wonders whether he’s doing the right thing. He looks to his faith for guidance, but isn’t sure whether he’s found the answer.
At one point in the show, one character asks Murdock, “Does [faith] help in times like this?”
“Not today,” he says.
It’s an honest answer. Faith doesn’t make our problems go away, it gives them deeper meaning. Life doesn’t always work our way, and having faith in the midst of struggle doesn’t always feel good. Most days, we’ll still struggle.
Faith is meant to guide us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t wrestle with where it’s leading. This is the reality the show depicts honestly and well.
Thomas Merton once said:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
In trying to do the right thing, sometimes good will is all we have. We can never know with 100% certainty whether we’re always doing the right thing, but we can trust that as long as we try in earnest sincerity, God will bless that desire to please Him.
This is what faith is. It’s stepping forward despite our inability to see what lies ahead.
Which is ironic, because this is Daredevil we’re talking about here. (He’s blind, for those of you unfamiliar with the character.) But I think that’s one of the greatest strengths of the show. It uses a well-known characteristic to play upon a deeper truth: we walk by faith, not by sight. Living that out feels pretty uneasy. Faith is difficult. It’s scary. It requires stepping outside our comfort zone. Following a path we’re unsure of. These are the things Murdock struggles with.
This is what makes this show stand out so drastically from more recent superhero films. Not only does it bring up the question of faith, but it also dives into the struggle of living it.
And Murdock is by no means a perfect example of it. He’s not what I’d call a “good” Catholic in the sense of following the Ten Commandments. He is, however, a figure we can identify with in this struggle.
He is very, very human. He’s broken down, beaten to a pulp and most of the time, walking wounded in the show. He battles the devils within and without. He’s plagued with doubts and fears, but he keeps going.
I think that’s much closer to a real hero, anyway. Having the courage to act and keep going despite great fear. His courage, his faith — those are his greatest superpowers. They’re what ground him and guide him, even if he wrestles with them. That’s the hope he personifies for us in this story.
And that is heroic.