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How Netflix has made superheroes more than just spandex

WRITTEN BY: SCOTT BROWN | STAFF WRITER

Superheroes are often viewed as characters who are larger than life and who stand for something greater than how we normally view the world. Even when they have problems, they are shown to be able to overcome them because they are supposed to be greater than the average person. However, since the premiere of the Marvel branded shows on Netflix, “Daredevil” in April 2015, “Jessica Jones” in November 2015, and the second season of “Daredevil” on March 18 of this year, superheroes are now able to viewed as something other than the idealistic views we have commonly had of superheroes. The shows have also brought several hot- button issues to a mainstream audience.

When the first season of “Daredevil” premiered, I was not sure what to expect. Being a huge comic book Daredevil fan, I wanted a darker tone than the normal movies and some awesome action scenes, which I got in spades, but I was also given something much greater than either of those things along the way. The main theme of the entire season was about the moral dilemma of what is right and what is wrong, and whether killing those who do evil to others is crossing that line.

Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, is constantly dealing with this dilemma throughout the season, but not simply as a human being, but also as a Catholic. He struggles with keeping a moral code that aligns with his religious beliefs while still allowing him to be a vigilante who protects those who cannot protect themselves.

This struggle can connect to anyone, even though none of us are vigilantes probably. This moral dilemma that Matt Murdock has throughout the entirety of the season is an exaggeration of every moral dilemma we as human beings have every day when we are trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong, and this show has brought this topic to a mainstream audience in a way that many people do not think about or simply ignore.

These themes continue throughout the entirety of the second season of “Daredevil” as well, but to even more of an extreme, with added symbolism and other issues thrown into the mix.

Daredevil is stilling keeping his city safe at the beginning of the second season, albeit with a new suit that now looks like a devil, with the horns and all. The horns seem symbolic of the types of actions Daredevil is willing to do in order to do what he perceives as “good,” and it also essentially dissipates his Catholic guilt that he could do more to save more people.

The moral dilemma from the first season, though, is also elevated with the introduction of The Punisher, another vigilante who is willing to use deadly force in order to stop criminals. The ideological differences are apparent, and it brings the argument of what “the end justifies the means” really means to the audience.

Is The Punisher right for killing criminals, which stops them from hurting others in future? Or is Daredevil right for sparing criminals because taking a life is taking life, no matter who it is? The themes of what is right and what is wrong and “the ends justify the means” are constants throughout the first two seasons of Daredevil. The show never answers these dilemmas, but instead shows what the characters decided and leaves the audience to determine what is right and what is wrong in the context of both the show and within real life.

While “Daredevil” constantly carries and develops the moral dilemmas of its characters, Marvel’s other show on Netflix, “Jessica Jones” dives deep into several topics, including rape, assault, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that many people do not want to address because they seem to feel like it is taboo.

The constant theme throughout the entirety of the first season of “Jessica Jones” is the struggle that the super- powered title character, Jessica Jones, has with coping with her assault and rape by a criminal named Kilgrave, who has the power of mind control. Kilgrave forced Jessica to be with him against her will, and this caused many obvious scars she cannot recover from.

The mind control that Kilgrave uses in this scenario is an epitaph to how many victims of sexual violence and rape feel like. They feel helpless, aware of their surroundings, but unable to do anything about any of it, and, essentially, hopeless. I cannot even find the words to describe how awful someone is to be able to do this to another person.

Having a super-powered character like Jessica Jones going through this atrocious thing that many people have gone through, and putting the effects on full display, should bring this topic to the public in a way that most have never seen before and help begin a conversation about what we can do to stop these acts from happening.

On the flip side, having a super- powered character like Jessica Jones who, while having her myriad of issues from her imprisonment, is able to overcome her own issues, can potentially help others through the same thing that she went through. Her character can help serve as an inspiration for those who want to support those who have had these terrible things happen to them and help them no longer be defined by that.

While this is all set in a fantasy world and in the same cinematic universe as the Avengers films, a show like “Jessica Jones” is able to bring to light a topic that many people want to ignore. It can cause the mainstream audience to become involved in trying to stem the tide of rape and sexual assault, while a show like “Daredevil” can cause mainstream audiences to step back and look at what the differences are between good and evil.

photo by Youtube.com

About the author

Jordan Ligons

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