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Daredevil as a symbol of civic responsibility in the wake of tragedy

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Here’s my first long-read culture piece for Salon — and not surprisingly, it’s about something extremely nerdy. Excerpt:

The larger argument the show makes is about the nature and necessity of different kinds of heroism — and the kind of social responsibility they entail. “Daredevil” almost never strays from Hell’s Kitchen, an area of New York City which, the audience is repeatedly told, was effectively demolished by the events in Joss Whedon’s first “Avengers” film. The Avengers were responsible for repelling an alien invasion, which is highly commendable, don’t get me wrong — but someone has to pick up the pieces of the society that’s shattered by the collateral damage, and that’s what shows like “Daredevil” are explicitly about.

In fact, all of the shows Marvel will be producing with Netflix take place in this same small slice of the Marvel cinematic universe — and all of them address the human cost of having your city host a Hollywood action sequence. This is something Hollywood itself has never done, and television only rarely. Even the closest, the third season of “Battlestar Galactica,” had the feel of a reconstruction happening elsewhere, due its visual and narrative references to Iraq.

Daredevil’s certainty — and the desire for it — isn’t a reflection on the world the audience lives in, but in the large cinematic one Marvel is creating. Which is, I acknowledge, something of a cop out. The work is produced and proving to be quite popular in a historical moment rife with divisions between the authority of those who govern and the people they are supposed to protect — but in traditional noir fashion, the show is quite critical of the established authorities. “Daredevil” does not encourage viewers to kowtow to police, as the NYPD is institutionally and irrevocably corrupt…

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