Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Why Daredevil is Important

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdoch / Daredevil
Warning: this post contains some minor spoilers and possible fangirling

"But you're blind!"
"There are other ways to see."
Claire Temple and Matt Murdock

As with many fellow superhero fans I am currently hooked on Netflix's latest release, Daredevil, portraying the transformation of Matt Murdock; from newly-established attorney-at-law to Hell's Kitchen hero. He is also blind, after a childhood accident, and is therefore the one superhero that I have always identified with and felt a connection to. I don't, however, seem to have an acute sense of hearing or smell due to my failing sight and certainly cannot do so through walls to track people - though that would be a pretty nifty talent to have!

With its sleek script, gorgeous cinematography and great performances it has fast become one of my favourite series in recent memory, joining the likes of Hannibal and Penny Dreadful among my top 3 shows. It is also, very conveniently, available to watch with audio description so extra points to Netflix for that!

So, just why is Daredevil crucial in today's social climate? What makes it so important to me as someone who is severely visually impaired?

To start with, the series is going to raise a tremendous amount of awareness to the public regarding people who live with sight loss and help to spotlight our abilities, rather than focus on our disability, which can only be a good thing towards breaking down barriers. There aren't that many roles on television today portraying someone who is blind, so having a recent adaptation of Daredevil helps me, and others, to feel represented among the sea of sighted characters currently on our screens. Matt as a character is a great role model shown to be independent, determined, strong-willed, approachable, easy-going and well educated. He has got on with his life and adapted accordingly after accepting his blindness at a young age and isn't seen feeling sorry for himself or asking for sympathy. One of the many powerful and inspirational quotes in the series for me was when Stick, Matt's blind mentor and temporary father-figure, informed him as a youngster to not feel sorry for himself because no one else will.

Young Matt Murdock sat with Stick, his mentor and father-figure
"Are you going to spend your life crying and rocking yourself to sleep at night, or are you going to dig deep and find out what it takes to reshuffle those cards life dealt you?" Stick to a young Matt Murdock

Even though Matt functions better than most sighted people because of his other heightened senses, when out of the public eye, many elements of his "day persona" are rooted in reality. The more people who begin to notice a white cane and what it's used for, the better. I cannot count the amount of times I've been asked in the past, before qualifying with my Guide Dog back in December, what I was scanning the area for - not buried treasure, I can assure you! Matt gets from A to B independently using his long cane, rarely relying on the help of others. Many people I came across in the past were unsure of what to make of my cane; one even standing on the tip whilst I was waiting in a queue, and nearly breaking it off. I'm certain that that will never happen now that I have my canine by my side!

Also portrayed is the fact that Matt reads Braille, a tactile form of communication using a 6-dotted cell system, and uses a Braille display to read what's on his computer. He even answers burning questions such as, "How do you comb your hair?" replying that he simply hopes for the best. These little bits of information peppered throughout the show will certainly help to better inform people and highlight the aids that visually impaired and blind people use - whether it be a cane for mobility, a talking alarm clock or a Braille display for reading electronically - and how they help us adapt and perform daily tasks.

Matt Murdock and best friend Foggy Nelson at college
"Most people dance around me like I'm made of glass. I hate that."
Matt Murdock

When it comes to public perceptions of blind people, I often find two polar opposites. People either ignore me and my Guide Dog and leave us to get on with things, or think of me as a sorry case who cannot get around on my own and overstep the boundaries of what is acceptable - either by grabbing me, spinning me by my shoulders into another direction entirely, forcing me to cross the road without me having asked to do so, or even holding my hand - all because I asked for assistance in regards to my whereabouts on a route. I appreciate that people think that they are helping me but, in fact, they are causing great alarm to myself and my assistance dog. Foggy Nelson, Matt's partner attorney and best friend, is the perfect example of someone who knows how to best support someone with a sight impairment. He is willing to aid his friend when assistance is asked for, avoids treating Matt like he's 'made of glass' and approaches his friend's needs with sensitivity. When people are too visual in conversations for example, whether in a professional or social setting, using body language rather than being vocal, Foggy will ensure Matt is informed of people's visual clues for his friend's benefit.

This blind girl absolutely loves how passionate the cast are towards the show, and their roles, and just can't get enough of what has been described as a 13 hour movie. I am eagerly anticipating season 2!

All 13 episodes of Daredevil's first season are available to watch now on Netflix with audio description provided.

ETA: I want to say a big thank you to Deborah Ann Woll (who plays Karen Page) and Toby Leonard Moore (who plays James Wesley) for favouriting my blog post on Twitter. It means a lot to me that you both took the time to read my post!