Netflix’s “Daredevil” is Catholic

C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_0tmX52a-Imgur_zpsu8dmz3zaA while back, at the urging of a friend, I watched the Netflix series Daredevil.  I didn’t have any expectations going into it, and so I wasn’t disappointed.  As the beatitude which didn’t make it into the list says, “Beati qui non expectant, quit non disappointabuntur.”  \

I don’t like spoilers, so I won’t post any.

As with any “comic book”, for that’s what this is, don’t expect depth.  However, there is one thing that we might find interesting.  The “hero” (perhaps “anti-hero”?) is Catholic.

I saw one review of the show online that has an interesting blurb.

At Intercollegiate Review I read:

Murdock, on the other hand, crosses himself at the memory of his father, in reverence of a man whose integrity he hopes one day to live up to by bringing justice to a system corrupted by diabolical and often unseen forces. And while we, the audience, know who the real bad guy is, there is always the possibility that Murdock will become everything he hates. And that’s where his Catholic faith comes in. Matt is a tortured Catholic who often seeks guidance from a wise priest.

Yes, a wise priest, Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie). Neither a self-righteous cartoon nor a liberalizing doubting Thomas, Lantom is a priest who believes in a real devil and who is trying to coax Matt into making a good confession by helping him discern his true motives in the choices he’s making. (At first it’s unclear whether the priest knows that Murdock is the “masked devil” of Hell’s Kitchen vilified in the press. Later we discover that the priest has his own insights into Matt’s many facets.)

At a funeral for a journalist, Father Lantom asks Matt how’s he’s holding up.

“Like a good Catholic boy.”

“That bad, eh?”

Catholicism is presented as both a serious bulwark against the moral graylands of late modernity and as a source of its own internal contradictions, inculcating guilt and self-doubt even as it offers forgiveness and moral assurance.

Read the rest there.

It is refreshing to see on the screen a priest who isn’t a complete dope.

Before I watched the show, I knew zero about this comic book character.  I understand that Daredevil is a Marvel figure.  I grew up reading DC rather than Marvel, and that wasn’t any time recent, for sure.  However, Marvel seems to be be taking over the world, so we had better get used to seeing their version of the universe… and its peculiar “ethic”.  They may wind up shaping the thought and moral compass of young people more than their illusive parents or feckless pastors.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gerard Plourde says:

    Like Fr. Z, I mostly read DC as a kid, so I have less long-term familiarity with the “Marvel Universe”. I do think that Daredevil has been persistently portrayed as a Catholic in the comics as well.

  2. JamesM says:

    I read the comics as a child. Daredevils Catholic faith was always a central part of him. Comics always portrayed it in a pretty solid fashion as well.

  3. greenlight says:

    Well Daredevil was never specifically Catholic until the latest reinvention of the character, and even then it seemed like a sort of obvious plot choice by the writer. DareDEVIL….let’s make him Catholic. Get it?!

    That said, the portrayal has generally been fairer than what we’re used to and I’m always happy to see that, but I find myself not enjoying the ‘specifically Catholic’ portrayals in popular fiction because they are too often presented as microcosms of Catholicism in general and I think “Well if you were really Catholic the whole plot resolution would look completely different”.

  4. KateD says:

    OH NO! Not Marvel! We’ve just sworn off all things marvel now that they’ve been bought by Disney and have become anti-Christian. Our family loved Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the first Avengers and we were all really excited to see the new Avengers. It has always been a family friendly franchise. So, I did not preview it before taking my children. MISTAKE!

    Here are some of the highlights from the Avengers Age of Ultron:

    As the camera pans around Tony Stark’s aircraft, there’s a bumper sticker that says “Jarvis is my co-pilot”. Which seems fairly innocuous, and just a play on words for the bumper sticker that says, “God is my co-pilot”. But then Jarvis, a computer system, becomes “incarnate”. When asked who he is, he says, “I AM”. In the context of the movie, it’s definitely mocking God. There are several biblical references, all not good. The villain says about Jarvis, “On this rock I will build my church”.

    Other issues in the movie, there was a point at which they say, “the program is spreading like Catholic rabbits”. There is a whole bit about profanity that sends the wrong message to young people. Some sexual references that led to the inevitable, “what does that mean, mommy?” questions. Oh yeah, and there’s a witch that uses her powers to fight with the Avengers.

    Avengers: Age of Ultron with its profanity, impropriety, blasphemy, sorcery, etc was a great big DISAPOINTMENT!

    We will give Daredevil a try on Father Z’s recommend…I hope someone out there buys the rights to this if Disney doesn’t already own them and make it a Christian friendly franchise. It would be nice to be able to take my children to a cool, super hero movie and not have to spend the rest of the afternoon explaining why their heros engage in behaviors that are contrary to and mock our faith.

  5. It isn’t just since Disney bought Marvel. Marvel has always been the more transgressive and less Christian-friendly of the Big Two.

  6. skyfire says:

    Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock/Daredevil) is a Catholic and was in the role of St. Josemaria Escriva in There Be Dragons.

  7. rcg says:

    I like the show. Not Catholic propaganda, nor bashing. The sort of intellectual struggles are real in the superhero setting. I liked Daredevil as a kid, too.

  8. introibo says:

    KateD, Scarlet Witch is not a witch nor performing witchcraft in the traditional sense…she was given her “powers” by Hydra.

  9. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear KateD,

    I draw a different conclusion from the points you make regarding the movie. Tony Stark’s bumper sticker, Jarvis’s hubris, and the deification of Jarvis by the villan seem to me to be a condemnation of a secular humanist society which believes that it has no need of a God and which holds that the human mind and spirit can create a utopia based on technology.

  10. Maximilia says:

    KateD – I’m not sure Daredevil is an appropriate television show for kids to watch. It’s an excellent show for when they get into teenagerhood, but there is quite a bit of violence. Usually it’s just Murdock beating up the bad guys (never killing them), and they show how conflicted he is about using violence. However, the villains do a lot of evil and gruesome acts (as villains do), stuff that even I find hard to watch. Just something to keep in mind.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    KateD- Yes, there have been several versions of Scarlet Witch’s origins, but she’s never actually been a real witch. She just has probability-alteration powers.

    However, a lot of “magic” characters from one comics generation get rewritten as mutants in the next, and a lot of “demons” eventually turned out to be evil alien supervillains.

    This is not to say that there are no Marvel characters which aren’t supposed to have actual magic.
    Most Marvel magic-users are villains (like the guy who made all the earth’s vampires, or whatever that Dracula plotline was). Most “gods” are either mutants or alien/other-dimensional high-tech people, but some are magic-users.

    Dr. Strange is portrayed as a demon-fighting magic-user (blah blah Tibetan master blah blah made-up stuff blah), so bear that in mind when his movie comes out. (Although I’m pretty sure they’ll let on that he’s “Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme,” as that’s his tagline.)

    There was a big long plot in the Eighties about Illyana, a mutant sorceress who dealt with demons, to her cost. (Although actually they were other-dimensional aliens. But the moral of the story was the same.) And then there was the 1970’s character Son of Satan, who was a Rosemary’s Baby determined to be good and fight evil, even though his dad kept appearing and trying to tempt him. (Just like the medieval story about the evil knight, the one that got ripped off to be Tannhauser.)

    But yeah, Marvel usually isn’t too interested in the occult. Magic is for heroes to bash on, or for calling heroes for help.

  12. Netmilsmom says:

    I love Daredevil!
    The second episode with the one camera, no cuts fight sequence was art to behold.
    And where else can we find a Catholic Hero?
    They are so few and far between in the media.

  13. anthtan says:

    re: Daredevil is Catholic
    For those who wish to investigate this further, I highly recommend reading ‘Daredevil: Born Again’ by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. It is replete with Catholic metaphors and imagery.

    (and for some strange reason, Catholicism figures largely in X-men characters…)

    re: Depth in Comics
    “As with any “comic book”, for that’s what this is, don’t expect depth.”
    Any comic book? How about Art Spiegelman’s Maus which deals with the Holocaust? Or how about Bryan Talbot’s ‘The Tale of One Bad Rat’ which deals with childhood sexual abuse and recovery? And what about Gene Yang’s ‘American Born Chinese’ and ‘Boxers and Saints’?

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    If the “politically correct” people win any more victories, we shall see this revision of the cable TV “mature adult” warning:

    Strong language
    Priest who isn’t a complete dope

  15. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Didn’t read Daredevil as a kid (mostly just Superman). Only watched a handful of the episodes on Netflix, but it’s not too bad.

    There is excessive (and in my opinion overly graphic) violence in the villain shots.

    But it does take a fascinating look in flashback at what shaped the characters (Daredevil, semi-villain Wilson Fisk, etc.) Without being explicit, it does seem to hint that there is something like “grace” which helps the characters overcome the difficulties of their childhood, even as they wrestle with them into adulthood.

    The very fact that Daredevil wrestles mightily with attempting to overcome the tempation to kill (assuming that it is not morally licit to perform acts of intrinsic evil even for a good cause) shows that there is some hint of Catholic theology embedded in the comic.

  16. Charivari Rob says:

    I’ll echo Anthtan. The notion of “As with any “comic book”, for that’s what this is, don’t expect depth.” just doesn’t hold up.

    Try Enemy Ace: War In Heaven

  17. Tradcarlos says:

    I am sorry but I stopped watching DD for the profanity. Does anyone know if it is a mortal sin to watch programs with bad language? I really enjoyed the series but like I said stopped watching because of some of the language. Can someone please help me out here. Thanks.

  18. KateD says:

    Dear Gerarde Plourde
    That’s awfully deep for a popcorn and candy filled afternoon at the theater with 7 and 8 year old boys. They just want to see Thor, Captain America, Ironman and the rest whop-on some bad guys….and then to spend the next several months re-enacting the scenes throughout the house, park, backyard. You remember how it was when you were little…

    The Avenger’s franchise is the closest thing we’ve had in recent memory to being a boy movie. It’s been a lot of musical princess stuff and not much of what little boys like. My boys want to see more things like the Hulk slamming Loci around and saying, “puny god”.

    Introibo and Suburbanbanshee – Yeah, I got that about Scarlet Witch…still….Witches are BAD…until they stop being witches and convert :D

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    I don’t post on Sundays. so, I didn’t have a chance to get in on the discussion while it was active.

    The plot thickens, regarding Catholicism and Daredevil.

    Originally, the Comics Code Authority frowned, if I remember, on making overt references to religion. Certainly, there are very few mentions in comics during the Silver Age (1958 – 1969), when Daredevil was created, although you could see the heavy influence of contemporary Protestantism. The first iterations of Daredevil were without any mentions of religion. Tony Isabella introduced Daredevil as a Catholic in issue 119 (in 1974 – you can find information about the issue on the Grand Comic Book Cover Database). The first revelation, as mentioned by the website, “,” is in a story titled, “They’re Tearing Down Fogwell’s Gym. According to Isabella, few in the comic book industry understand religion. It was Frank Miller (of The Dark Knight fame), however, who ran with the idea that Daredevil is Catholic, however.

    What you probably don’t know, however, is that Frank Miller, in the reboot of Daredevil – Born Again, in 1987, fleshed out Daredevil’s parents. Daredevil never knew his mother growing up. His father was a boxer. It turns out that Daredevil’s mother left his father and, somehow, became a nun, named Sister Maggie! His mother keeps tabs on Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and it was she who rescued him from the truck that spilled the radioactive chemicals on his eyes that gave him his heightened senses. She, later, saved him from Kingpin, when he was severely wounded. She refuses to acknowledge this (going so far as to lie to Matt), but his heightened senses allow him to detect the family resemblance (through smell).

    As for the Scarlet Witch, apparently, she consorts with Maxwell’s Demon, as she has the power to alter probability. Maxwell’s Demon is the descriptive name, given by the famous 19th-century physicist James Clerk Maxwell, to an agent sitting in a box with a partition counting the number of particles (atoms) on one side of the partition or the other. Maxwell used this agent to attempt to explain Boltzmann statistics (hence, they are often called Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics) or, more properly, the Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution Function, that measures the probable state of some thermodynamic variable at a given temperature.

    As for religion in general in comics, if you knew anything about the history of mainstream comics, you would realize that these aren’t called the Dark Ages (1985 – present) in comic history for nothing. The principle culprits on the DC side are, as far as I can tell, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, who ushered in the, “Relevant Era,” in comics where drugs, sex, and Rock-n-Roll were introduced, in defiance of the Comic Code Authority (starting with Green Lantern 76, April 1970). From there, there was a gradual introduction of the occult. Blame it all on The Pill. Once sex became unattached to marriage, the darkening of the moral sense filtered very quickly into comics.

    Most comics are very bad for children, these days. I only recommend Golden and Silver Age comics. Forget Japanese Manga after 1965 – it is sexually explicit (although steps have been taken by the Japanese government, as of 2010, to tone it down. Basically, most comic, today, are sewer-driven. The so-called, high-concept, of modern comics as compared to Silver Age comics is really nothing more than the manifestation of animalistic impulses and a loss of creativity. Writers in the 1950’s and early 1960’s came out the science fiction pulp genre, whereas today’s comic writers are high art writers. It is true that a few of them, such a Strazinski and Gaiman have some roots in descriptive science fiction, but their understanding of real science is minimal. They are, essentially, story-tellers. People like Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, etc., who actually understood science, are in the minority among science fiction writers, today. I, recently, read a sci-fi novel that stated that the range of human hearing was up to 1k Hz (1000 Hz), which is 20 times too low (it is, usually, reckoned as between 20 – 20,000Hz).

    There is a lovely quote from the black-and-white Outer Limits episode, The Sixth Finger, where the super-evolved man (played by David MCCallum) is sitting at a piano playing a Bach fugue (he just learned to play the piano in a day) says:

    Amazing, isn’t it, the things that endure the ravages of time and taste? This simple prelude, for instance. Bach will quite probably outlive us all… Man produces little that is lasting–truly lasting. It’s understandable. Fear, conformity, immorality; these are heavy burdens. Great drainers of creative energy. And when we are drained of creative energy we do not create. We procreate; we do not create.

    Modern comic writers consider the 1950’s and 1960’s comics to be the backwaters of simplicity and naivete – stuff for children, but it is amazing the insights that simplicity holds. God reveals himself to the simple and hides from the learned and clever. Modern comics are all about being learned and clever – just like modern society. Is it a wonder that they have to kill the children, who will expose their viciousness by their innocence? In the classic Disney movie (made while Walt was still alive), The Parent Trap, when the twins are being punished and have to spend time together in a camp cabin by themselves and after they discover that they are twins, Sharon says to Susan:

    Sharon: “It’s scary the way nobody stays together anymore these days. Pretty soon there’s going to be more divorces than marriages.”
    Susan: “Isn’t that the truth!”

    Alas, they had to remove these lines in the 1998 remake – they had already come true.

    The Chicken

  20. marcelus says:

    The work of the great Stan Lee. Check out how he came up with DD!!

  21. Matt Robare says:

    I prefer DC to Marvel, but I think the DC view of things was best summed up in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, during a discusion of Dr Manhattan: “God exists and he’s American.”

  22. I like it so far, but gets … a bit barbaric at times.

  23. ck says:

    I always preferred Marvel to DC (Batman excepted). Spiderman gave his great lesson of “with great power comes great responsibility.”

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