Saturday, April 25, 2015

On Daredevil and disabilities

I wanted to dedicate a few paragraphs to a new show from Marvel/ABC Studios that has been subject to a bit of a controversy recently.  I'm sure their corporate parent, Disney is not very happy with some of the headlines "Daredevil", an original series  now available on Netflix has been making recently. As the show is centered around a character that lost his sight a a child, many news outlets picked up on the fact that the blind or visually impaired subscribers can't really enjoy it. The streaming service has offered the program without a visual description track. It does come across as strange if not ironic that while featuring this really empowering and positive presentation of a hero in some ways severely limited (which he compensates with his other super sharpened senses and incredible martial arts skills) Netflix chooses to alienate what could be some of the show's biggest advocates. I'm also impressed with the media for taking a second to notice and bring out issues relating to portrayal of an important segment of the disability community and what it means for it to have someone it can relate to. I'm not even insisting that the actor playing the main role should himself be blind. I'm only on Episode 8 of the 13-piece season, but the title character appears to be some type of superhero- with the elaborate choreographed fight sequences I don't think it would be feasible to pull off. Otherwise, the show has been getting acclaim pretty much across the board, with how it turned a comic book into a very dark and gritty, adult type of entertainment. I did find it difficult to binge watch, given the extremely violent, bloody graphic content, that is not intended to be cartoonish, but realistic and literal, but I do applaud Disney for branching out of the classic TV format into a 13-episode streaming event when they felt too constrained for that type of storytelling. But that's not the point I'm trying to make. I'm very impressed with their portrayal of the title character. To put it in colloquial terms:" He's a badass". Yes, most of of plays like a fairytale: He can beat up a group of gangsters all by himself, he has senses that are borderline super powers and I'm pretty sure I saw him bring a man from the dead. He's cool, he's confident, he stands up for himself and for others. Many people will be so amazed with what he is and how he is that they say:"He's awesome. I want to be just like him". Not because of his condition and not in spite of it, but because of how he is as a whole. I've written about it before. I think it's crucial to have independent and able people with disabilities whatever they may be present in popular culture to change people's perception. Yes, it starts with an exaggerated portrayal, a comic book superhero fiction, but who knows when it will spill over and what will come next. I have always said: acceptance of other minorities came when we started saying them as a normal part of our media landscape. Popular culture is a big part of bringing both respect and empathy. I was enthusiastic about the Netflix show because although I'm not a big fan of comic books or Marvel content- I recognized what it was trying to do and how it took me by surprise as to what it made me feel. And I like it because what's it's doing as it sneaks up on you is exactly what I want to do for other disabilities at the Florida Disabilities Access and Awareness Foundation. Over the last few months we were talking about video games and apps, books  reporting and storytelling all designed to bring out "Badass" people with disabilities, with mobility issues and in wheelchair in both real world and fiction all to make the audience say, these people are so cool. Marvel managed to get their point accross in 13 hours. We are still on our way. So visit us, join us and support us and let's make something "cool" together

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