Social Commentary or Scathing Indictment?
BY: Frater Bovious
(New York) – Marvel and Netflix have made a huge splash in the comic universe with a series of interrelated shows featuring crossover characters. First was Daredevil, with two seasons and nearly unanimous critical and public approval. Next was Jessica Jones, my personal favorite, followed by Luke Cage. To say all these shows are dark and violent is to be guilty of understatement. Yet, amidst all the violence done to both property and the character’s psyche, we get convincing stories of damaged people trying to hold it all together and do something about the crapped up world in which we live.
Then came Iron Fist – which kind of sucked. And too bad because that show turns out to be the focal point of the evil organization known as The Hand and around which the Defenders show, the mashup of all four of these shows, revolves. And, while I enjoyed Defenders, it suffered because of the Iron Fist Factor. Iron Fist misfired on the lead character – he is not convincing, and the character is whiny – a huge turn off to me. And, while this may be intentional, he comes off as a kid trying to prove he’s not a kid. I’m not that interested in a coming of age superhero. I’m more interested in real people. And despite all the super power stuff, Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage feel real.
Which brings me finally to The Punisher. Where the first three are all damaged in some way, Frank Castle is a complete psycho, but one with a code and a plan. The code: Kill bad guys. The plan: Kill bad guys.
That is not as simplistic as it may sound. Because the flip side of that code, which is always present, is: Don’t kill good people. Help them. Even at cost to yourself. The flip side of the plan is: not very planned out – it just follows from the code whenever circumstances dictate. He is not driven to help the downtrodden, as is Daredevil.
The psycho part? Without bad guys to kill, he’s a complete wreck, barely getting by. The sad part, the social commentary part, the indictment part about this show? Frank Castle is the story of a trained soldier who comes home from the war and is not taken care of by the government that made him. It is a story writ large – it is very in your face. But all I can think about when watching this show is that this country trains weapons, uses them up, and then tosses them. And they lay around like an IED until something or someone triggers them.
At essence then, this particular show is very much about the dignity of the human person, and the violence done to a person used as a means to an end. That this violence then overflows is hardly surprising. At least, we should not be surprised – we should take note. Humans are not means to an end. They are ends in themselves.
I think it is a national shame that we need to figure out, and I think a hidden code message of The Punisher is simply, let’s take better care of our vets.
Very worth watching. Sometimes hard to watch. Should be rated R for all the usual suspects.
Check it out. I’ll talk about Jessica Jones next.