Daredevil on Netflix. As a child, I collected only two comics – the Uncanny X-Men, and Daredevil. While I was excited about the film version, I just couldn't see Matt Damon as the lead. Don't get me wrong, he's an accomplished performer. He's just too pretty for it, and his eyes are all wrong.
Sure, Daredevil is blind, Ben Affleck has puppy eyes. Daredevil is gritty. His eyes, when revealed, are like steel. They are not mournful. They are set and resolved. So, I just couldn't bring myself to watch Matt Damon as Daredevil. Charlie Cox, in my opinion, nails this role. He is resolved and purposeful, penitent and yet unyielding (Forgive me Father for what I am going to do...). He is the product of childhood fears and his own intentional actions that incorporate the darkness that resides within into the light of righteous indifference. He lets the devil out in order to conquer the hell of human suffering. I'm not saying that's good theology, but it certainly creates an opportunity for a very good man to do some very bad things.
Now, it's not my pattern to get all fanboy about such things on my blog. Nor do I have the chops to claim the geek level status of those who go to events ending in "con" or who's personal lexicon include the conflagration of words resulting in cosplay. Nor have I ever been a fan of graphic novels – mostly for their glamorization of graphic violence and overt sexualization of girls and young women. I have even been "that guy" who doesn't allow his kids to play with toy guns (although light sabers are totally acceptable – an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age). I even gave away my coveted few comics to a younger collector, because I was unreconciled over their care and the violence they portrayed.
That said, you may find my appreciation – no, my near fascination and even veneration – of the new Daredevil to be out of character or even hypocritical. So far I have only seen the first two episodes, and they are pretty true to form with the comic. Daredevil is a vigilante in the urban slum known as Hell's Kitchen fighting a local crime syndicate. Daredevil does not typically kill his opponents, and he does not use guns (which is something I like in a hero, hence my love of Jedi and Time Lords). He simply beats them into bloody submission. He catches them in the act of violence and repays them appreciably.
I think there is a lot to be said about faith, justice, violence, and restitution (the hero is a Roman Catholic), and I may do that some other time. Right now I just want to express why this character and this series matter to me. It matters to me because of my friend Brad. He's the one who introduced me to the comic series and turned me on to the fact that comics could bring you into another world. More importantly, Brad was a friend in a time when my family was falling apart. His home was a place of hospitality, and our adventures were an experience of connection in a time when I needed it.
Sure, we pretended to be ninjas and all that rot (Brad – before God and everyone – I've never forgiven myself for almost impaling you with that throwing star and that homemade spear). But what mattered most is that he represented justice, just by the fact that he was my friend in a time when I needed one. So, I guess I have some kind of childhood association between Daredevil and Brad, even if only by coincidence.
As we've grown up we have become, in some ways, essentially different people. When it comes to politics, we are sometimes on different planets from one another. But when it comes to justice, I think we still find some agreement – even if some of those seeds were planted by a masochistic vigilante from Hell's Kitchen. Of course I believe the soil and the water come from experiences of faith, and that all things are grounded in the providence of God.
You and I may never be superheroes. We may never interrupt heinous crimes with a billy club (although cell phones seem to be popular these days). But we can be friends. We can seek out people whose lives need some stability, and we can just be with them, letting them be as they are. There is a lot of power in presence. Jesus said that we are to be salt and light.
Salt was a preservative. Light was a corrective. Be a friend, even if you disagree, and you just might be someone's hero. Go on. I dare you.