Daredevil

The second season of Dardevil is one month away, so Netflix and Marvel treated fans to a trailer on Monday. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) will now go up against Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), and the result looks incredibly promising.

In one corner we have the vigilante who clings to the hope that his actions are needed for criminal outliers — evil the justice system is ill-equipped to handle.

In the other corner we have The Punisher, who wages a total war on crime because he has lost all hope in its sanctioned officers and foot soldiers. The battle came to his front doorstep and took those closest to him.

The philosophical difference is displayed during a rooftop confrontation:

Daredevil: “People don’t have to die!”

Punisher: “You hit them and they get back up. I hit them and they stay down!”

“The Daredevil Dilemma” is what one would expect from the cultural breakdown I talked about just days ago: “America, like ant infected with phorid fly, faces decapitation.”

I will once again cite Saint Augustine’s “City of God”:

“If the prince is unjust, or a tyrant (to use the Greek word), or if the aristocrats are unjust (in which case their group  is merely a faction), or if the people themselves are unjust (and must be called, for lack of a better word, a tyrant also), then the commonwealth is not merely bad … but is no commonwealth at all. The reason for that is that there is no longer the welfare of the people, once a tyrant or a faction seizes it; nor would the people, if unjust, be any longer a people, because they would not then be regarded as a multitude bound together by a common recognition of rights, and a mutual cooperation for the common good, as the standard definition of a people demands.

When, therefore, the Roman republic was such as Sallust describes it, it was not only ‘very wicked and corrupt’ — ‘a sink of iniquity,’ as he puts it — it was no republic at all, if measured by the criterion established by its ablest representatives when they met to debate the nature of the republic.” — Saint Augustine, City of God.

Punisher

What do good men do in a city that has been infected with cultural rotgut? The politicians are corrupt. Media are corrupt. The justice system and law enforcement are corrupt — and it’s all because the underlying culture is diseased.

Matt Murdock and Frank Castle are two good men who are fighting the tide towards Gomorrah. No matter how many bad guys Daredevil beats up, the evil within remains unharmed. No matter how many bad men Frank Castle kills, there are always new recruits ready to take their place.

The problems facing Hell’s Kitchen are bigger than both men because it is a collective spiritual bankruptcy that needs to be addressed. No predetermined body count of drug dealers or funding for bigger prisons will solve the problem. On some level both men know this, which is probably why they essentially go out on suicide missions every night: They have determined that it is better to die an honorable death fighting evil — literally coming to blows with bad men — then to succumb to a sense of powerlessness as the cancer metastasizes throughout the culture.

Daredevil: Season 2 looks like it will be another winner for Marvel and Netflix. I look forward to reviewing it shortly after its March 18 release.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

19 comments

  1. It’s funny, you had mentioned before your discomfort (I hope thats the right word) with ‘anti-heroes’ but I’ve always preferred them. I think this was just the way I grew up. My father was a hero in many ways to many people. His fellow sailors (he was navy) admired and trusted him, and as a child I worshiped him…but he was a very flawed man. abandoning us at one point before having to return due to illness. He cheated on my mother constantly and spent most of his weekends away from me when I needed him most, drinking with his friends and spending little time with me. Meeting some of the sailors who served under him, who were my age, they loved him and described how he would go out of his way for any of them…like I felt he would never do for me.

    Though that was a source of great pain for me…I realized he meant a great deal to the people he did care for, and that as cruel as he might of been, a lot of that was out dysfunctional home and his own weaknesses as a human being. In a cursed, painful way, he made me a better person, and I began to see every hero as a anti-hero, and our ‘accepted’ heroes as a sort of fantasy. I learned later that much of what I felt was him being an a-hole, was really his inability to face me…each failure making it more difficult to do so for him. Incredibly, we have become good friends.

    I’ve always liked Punisher. As a kid it was good to know that a character in comics carried around the same rage I did, He was broken inside, but he was going to make a difference (though he doesn’t right? I’ve learned not lean on the wisdom of comic book writers however). It wasn’t lost on me that that the moral quandary of the man was something every military man is expected to do to any one of our enemies…and though I understood the importance of law and civilization…it felt good to see someone break rules we were expected to break outside our borders when the time was right. The Punisher is closer to the people I served with than Matt is.

    For me there’s always a place for the anti-hero, not as something to be admired, but as an example of who we really are or can be. That even the worst of us can do great things. As I told my Dad over beers one night…”you did a great job…even if you didn’t mean to”

    1. I’m not sure if you were reading in 2012, but I wrote on Thomas Jane’s “Dirty Laundry” back then:

      “I’ve never really liked the Punisher. He’s a vigilante, but his thirst for blood always turned me off. There’s a difference between a vigilante who extinguishes evil because he must, and one who also happens to get a weird thrill out of it. Instead of methodically meting out justice, Castle often gets creatively brutal with criminals, to the point where the line between him and the sickos he snuffs out is almost indistinguishable. He also seems dish out executions in ways that suggest that none of his victims are capable of redemption — a sad and bleak view of humanity that actually ends up making the case for earth as a morally-relativistic hellhole.”

      I guess it all depends on how one defines ‘anti-hero.’ Or, rather, it depends on if we’re talking about anti-heroes in theory or anti-heroes as written by the majority of comic book writers these days.

      What bothered me over the years with Punisher is that he often seems to devolve into violence for the sake of violence. The authors care more about a body count or finding creative ways to kill people, and suddenly you’re like, “Who is Frank Castle, again? Right now I have no idea what this guy stands for or what he’s striving to stand for other than killing.”

      If I were writing The Punisher, I’d read a ton of books like Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” to get a feel for who he should be. Many of the soldiers O’Brien served with were flawed, yet heroes. I can get behind that. I cannot get behind much of what Marvel has done with it’s stable of anti-heroes over the years.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing that story about your dad. I think that helped explain your point incredibly well.

      When I was in the Army there was one sergeant in particular who seemed to treat his soldiers better than he treated his wife. He said the soldiers he was in charge of were essentially on equal terms with his wife, and so she just had to deal with him going out drinking with them, etc. I thought that was weird, which is probably why he didn’t like me. (I rarely went out drinking, so for the short amount of time I was on his team he’d say behind my back that I wasn’t a ‘team player.’ I didn’t know that I had to get drunk 4 days a week to be a ‘team’ player…but that’s another story.)

      Anyway, I guess the point is, the military has a lot of anti-heroes in it. I can totally empathize with you on that one. 😉

    2. I actually completely agree with you. A potentially interesting person like Frank Castle is often an excuse to exercise an author’s love for brutality…this is usually from guys who were never anywhere near such a thing. So my opinions of Punisher actually come from his early appearances, where he was often brutal, of course, but not always sadistic.

      I don’t know how you feel about Game of Thrones for example, but as a reader and watching the show I’m always a little bothered by it all, even though I enjoy it as a whole. I was and still am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings, and often George RR Martin would criticize the books optimism and merriment. George turns up the sex, the rape, and the violence to great heights to the delight of the audience, but I always remember one thing when we compare LOTR to GoT…

      Tolkien was there.

      He saw human misery at it’s absolute worst. Saw destruction in an incredible scale with his own eyes. His reaction to this was to write something wholesome, a tale of good triumphing over evil, with all of human frailty and sacrifice in full display.

      George dodged and wrote for TV. I can’t help but wonder if he’s more fascinated by what he has never really experienced in that scale. Like to most comic book writers, violence is a fantasy thing, no matter how many youtube videos and news reports you watch, you don’t really understand it ’till you see Human life wasted in front of your eyes. The violence and sadism is turned up to 11, there was sex in the middle ages, so now there are prostitutes everywhere (for the serfs?). It’s ‘realistic’ because it shocks you…Even if it isn’t realistic, it’s him sitting in a chair imagining the things that make him happy.

  2. I love the Punisher. My reasons for admiring the Vigilante is because I’ve come to believe that some people deserve to die. They torture, rape, murder and manipulate people for their own gain and no law can stop them, instead they just hold them prisoner until they die or change their ways. Sure some of them ends up a different person but what do you do to the people who are beyond saving?

    Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Iron Man, all of them don’t kill their enemies because of some stupid morality that makes them think they’re the better man when some of their villains just don’t change and they end up doing worse (Joker, Green Goblin, etc.) I understand some heroes’ reason for not killing like Superman and Spider-man but for others there’s no reason or perfect reason as to why. Punisher speaks to the side of me who wants the bad guys to get what they deserve, and do what Batman wishes he did. I know it sounds derange, and I’m honestly a nice guy, but I can’t help but wish these monsters didn’t hurt anyone anymore. It’s an ongoing rage that won’t change anything for the big picture, but it’s not like no one has the patience to fix the bigger problems in the world.

    1. “Superman, Batman, Spider-man, Iron Man, all of them don’t kill their enemies because of some stupid morality that makes them think they’re the better man.”

      But then the question becomes, “Where does that morality come from?” Perhaps those characters should believe they are better men because they are better men.

      “Punisher speaks to the side of me who wants the bad guys to get what they deserve.”

      You are not alone. My guess is that all sane people want evil men to pay for their sins, which is why atheism is so depressing.

      Imagine the worst human being alive. Now imagine that person is smart enough and crafty enough to get away with untold amounts of evil for his entire life. To the atheist, the guy you’re thinking of right now dies and you die and none of it really matters. Depressing, isn’t it? But I digress.

      In the comic books, some of these philosophical and religious arguments break down because a hero like Superman could kill everyone within a couple issues and the writers would be like, “Now what?”

      I agree with you that in a world where the Joker kills with impunity — behind bars or not — then it would be morally justified to take his life. The whole point of prisons is to stop the madman from killing innocent people. If the prison system is completely broken in Gotham, then the citizens have an obligation to do what is necessary to protect themselves.

  3. “Imagine the worst human being alive. Now imagine that person is smart enough and crafty enough to get away with untold amounts of evil for his entire life. To the atheist, the guy you’re thinking of right now dies and you die and none of it really matters. Depressing, isn’t it?”

    That’s not the way I see it, if you can make a difference for the greater good, then you do it. Of course we can choose not to do it since it may not affect you in any way, but what if this said evil person did affect us? We can say it doesn’t matter and all of this is pointless but that’s not how a atheist thinks. That’s more of what a nihilist thinks. I see the benefit that killing the evil bastard helps innocent people stay alive longer to live out their dream, make their lives easier etc. For the bigger picture, yes nothing matters but for the small picture, currently in this moment, it can matter. Like in the Dirty Laundry fan film, that kid who got tortured could’ve died and a mother would have no son and the universe won’t care, but in that moment Frank stopped it because perhaps he didn’t care about the bigger picture, he just wanted to stop a family from losing someone they love like he did, and now that son gets to see his family again, and that’s enough for anyone to do what the Punisher does, or anyone.

    1. “That’s not the way I see it, if you can make a difference for the greater good, then you do it.”

      Did you watch and think about the videos I shared? There is no “greater good” — except the some notion of “good” in your own mind – if God doesn’t exist.

      What you think of as “good” doesn’t matter one bit if we’re all just sentient space dust that swirls around for a bit, settles back down, and then returns with the next celestial wind.

      There are no “innocent people” without God — there are only beings, without free will, roaming around according to what the atoms and molecules in their head dictate.

      Without God, then your “morality” is no better than a drug dealer or serial killer. If you believe otherwise, then I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning.

    2. I’ve seen the videos, and I’m afraid I can’t agree to that.

      The first video had some good reason when it comes to morality but how can you define morality as a higher cause made by some supernatural being? Humans made morality as a response to the horrors of the world, they gave themselves laws to bring order to a otherwise chaotic world.

      “There are no “innocent people” without God — there are only beings, without free will, roaming around according to what the atoms and molecules in their head dictate.”

      The way I see it, each person has their own rules of what is “good” and “bad”, wether you believe in God or not. A Christian can easily be a good person in their own mind, yet molest kids, bully homosexual people and condemn people to hell and think that it’s “good” and a person who doesn’t believe in God can do the same but doesn’t justify it with some higher being but instead does it because of their own desires and personal hatred that they had due to experiences in their life.

      I also do not agree to the second video, that thinks that we have no right to complain about suffering because it is a natural cause, at least that’s how I see it. It thinks that we believe bad things happen that there isn’t nothing we can do to stop it. How does God help? How does he make suffering less bad than it already is? It doesn’t change that it hurts people, it doesn’t change nature, no God on earth can change that. I fail to see to difference on how human suffering is justified by God.

    3. “The way I see it, each person has their own rules of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ wether you believe in God or not.”

      By your own words, you admit that your own sense of morality is no better off than a serial killer’s, given your apparent disbelief in God. Your own logic dictates that “good” at any particular point in history is only what the majority of humanity believes at any given moment in time.

  4. “Your own logic dictates that “good” at any particular point in history is only what the majority of humanity believes at any given moment in time.”

    Doesn’t this fit believers in God as well? Considering that people have started wars for the sake of God and other cruel things, isn’t it possible that being a “good” Christian can also be shaped depending on your own opinions and belief in what the Bible says?

    How does God fit into this argument? How is believing in God any different for a person who doesn’t believe? Is morality better for a believer? Considering every time a man or woman’s actions is downright cruel some of them uses God as a base as to why they do it. Using it as an excuse, a serial killer could easily believe that God wants him to kill and that he believes that’s his moral code. I want to understand your argument here but I’m not quite getting it.

    1. “Is morality better for a believer? … I want to understand your argument here but I’m not quite getting it.”

      There is a fundamental difference between what you are saying (i.e., “morality” is determined by individuals, and if enough individuals have power or sway over the culture, then their “morality” reigns supreme), and what I am saying, which is that there is one objective morality that all men should abide by at all times — and that through God’s Word (i.e., the Bible) and the gifts of logic and reason, we can discern that objective morality.

      Do some people twist God’s word to fit their own agenda? Sure. Man is fallible. Original sin, etc. … However, a world where everyone determines what is right or wrong according to their own temporal passions and desires is far different than a world governed by one objective morality.

  5. It’s a promising trailer, as a fan of both characters i hope this series’ll be as good as the first season. About the Punisher there is something that i like to address, in the old stories by Baron, Potts and Dixon while still being a vigilante Castle is less bloody and crazy and more human, more interested in correcting a system that he consider flawed that taking pleasure in killing criminals.

    Potts was especially good in showing the more normal side of Castle in opposition to recent stories, also in the old series the Punisher often use his smartness instead of brutal actions (like that time in which instead of torturing a criminal he used a bit of suggestion to make his prisoner talk). It’s like in the last decades Marvel has made the Punisher more crazy and brutal to satisfy people more interested in gore than introspection.

    1. Thanks for the added perspective, Fra. It’s a shame how the same character can very so much from writer to writer. I guess we’re sort of experiencing that with The Amazing Spider-Man at the moment, though… 😉

  6. I’m not fond of anti-heroes, either, though I’ve always liked the Punisher. This looks pretty good, although I haven’t been able to watch Daredevil or Jessica Jones, for that matter. I don’t have Netflix, so I’ll wait until it’s out on DVD and buy it.

    I definitely think the culture is in trouble when the so-called “heroes” of popular shows over the past decade or so are meth-dealing chemistry teachers, sleazy 1960s ad executives, depressed Mobsters, etc… You know, characters that in decades past would have been rightfully called villains because they do despicable things.

  7. It pains me to see anyone get tangled in the web of how Christian love-thine-enemies / compassion squares with destroying enemies good and dead, where they don’t get up again, ever.

    If it’s 1945 and you are GI Joe and you stumble upon Adolph on the run knowing that he’s gassed 12 million innocents and seeks to enslave the earth, you don’t go Batman on him, you go Punisher, end of story. Those who can’t make the right choice in this non-dilemma invite the dark ages to descend upon the earth, where evil men act with conviction while the righteous tie themselves in knots and surrender all.

    Arjuna wondered about this in his conversation with God (Krishna) in the Bagavadgita (the Hindu Bible), and got some clear counsel. If you don’t know the Story, here’s a hint: Arjuna does not take the path of the Batman, for such a path is an insult to God.

    1. “It pains me to see anyone get tangled in the web of how Christian love-thine-enemies / compassion squares with destroying enemies good and dead, where they don’t get up again, ever. If it’s 1945 and you are GI Joe and you stumble upon Adolph on the run knowing that he’s gassed 12 million innocents and seeks to enslave the earth, you don’t go Batman on him, you go Punisher, end of story.”

      But that is the problem with Punisher — he’s not running up against Hitlers. In some books he essentially equates low-level drug dealers with Hitler and then snuffs them out.

      Jesus’ disciples were often reviled by society. He turned sinners into saints. Are you suggesting that petty criminals, drug addicts, and lost souls should be executed, because that’s what we’re talking about.

      It’s one thing to advocate killing Joker in Batman comics. It’s a whole different story if you’re condemning random street thugs to death.

      Whenever I have conversations like this, I think of “the thief on the cross” next to Christ…

    2. Let there be no doubt that I believe in proportionality and the 8th Amendment to the Constitution (outlawing cruel and unusual punishment). As I think you know from reading my blog, I have written extensively on the human dark matter known as sadism — taking pleasure in another’s pain, which I believe is one of the darkest forces inside the human psyche.

      Sadism is why Michael Vick cannot be defended with absurd arguments of the kind made by Chris Rock (“A football is made with pigskin!”). It was Vick’s pleasure in the dogs’ pain and suffering that made his actions heinous and worthy of extreme condemnation; a person having a steak dinner is not taking glory in the suffering of the cow, and is not a sadist in the way Vick was when he and his friends electrocuted dogs to death for fun.

      And so if your point is that the Punisher as a comic book character is an overly sadistic hero, then I am on your side– it is unappealing. I am not in favor of entertainment that would enflame one’s sadistic impulses.

      But when it comes to The Joker and the pretend-hero Batman, I have a different problem, which is a lack of proportionality in the other direction. To show compassion in the face of evil is a kind of masochism, and authors of such stories in my view are subjecting the audience to suffering (if there is exultation when the bad guys are brought to justice, there is suffering when they are set free by failed authority figures).

      I have no interest in watching evil get a free pass, whether from Daredevil, Batman, or anyone who has the power to stop it.

    3. “And so if your point is that the Punisher as a comic book character is an overly sadistic hero, then I am on your side – it is unappealing. I am not in favor of entertainment that would enflame one’s sadistic impulses.”

      That is definitely what I am arguing. My memory is a bit hazy, but I think Marvel had a “Max” line for The Punisher for mature audiences. I think I bought one or two issues before I was like, “No thanks. This obviously isn’t for me.”

      Reader Fra commented earlier in a way that I think sums it up nicely:

      “In the old stories by Baron, Potts and Dixon while still being a vigilante Castle is less bloody and crazy and more human, more interested in correcting a system that he consider flawed that taking pleasure in killing criminals.

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