Friday, April 29, 2016

Netflix Queue: No, Punisher isn't "Daredevil's" most moral character

I actually enjoy Marvel on Netflix better than most of what the company brings to the big screen. So this piece at The Federalist caught my eye:
The Punisher, who murders dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the second season of Netflix’s “Daredevil,” is actually the most moral character on the show. 
Daredevil, who’s willing to break every law and ethical rule on the road to putting villains in useless prisons but unwilling to go any further, willingly participates in a vicious cycle that makes a mockery of justice. Allowing the revolving door of crime to continue ad infinitum is naive at best and immoral at worst. The Punisher realizes this and attempts to end the cycle instead.
Through murder, of course.

Now, we're talking about comic book characters here, so this probably isn't a topic worth dwelling on too long but a counterpoint is needed here. If your viewpoint is that there's good and evil and evil can only be overcome by being destroyed, maybe the writer — Stephen Gutowski — has a point.

But if your moral framework includes the possibility of redemption — of being lost, then found; of making the journey from darkness into light — then the Punisher's ethos has to be reconsidered.

Gutowski all but calls Daredevil a "wimp" in his piece here, and it's true that Matt Murdock's angst in the Netflix show can get a bit overbearing sometimes. But it's interesting that Gutowski never quotes Murdock's defense of his "take them off the streets but let them live" approach:
DD: What about hope? 
P: Oh, f*ck. DD: Come on, Frank... 
P: You wanna talk about Santa Claus? 
DD: You wanna talk about Santa Claus? I live in the real world too, and I've seen it. 
P: Yeah? What have you seen? 
DD: Redemption, Frank. P: Ah, Jesus Christ. 
DD: It's real. And it's possible. The people you murder deserve another chance. 
P: What, to kill again? Rape again? Is that what you want? 
DD: No, Frank. To try again, Frank. (panting) To try.
I'm lapsed in my own faith, but I'm reminded (as I so often am) of John 8:
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
If Jesus wanted to guarantee the woman sinned no more, of course, he could have stood by and watched as the Pharisees killed her. Instead, he reminded everybody of their own moral failings, and admonished her to do better.

Morality untempered by humility, given the power over life and death, is often twisted into something ugly and, frankly, immoral in and of itself. It's a tension that makes for great storytelling — the Punisher is a great character, and so is Javert, and hell, so is the John Lithgow character in "Footloose." Frank Castle might be "Daredevil's" most interesting character this season, but most moral? Nah. That's too easy.

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