What Happens To Matt Murdock's Dad? The 'Daredevil' Origin Story Is Another Glory-Before-Logic Tragedy
The story of Daredevil, which debuted on Netflix this Friday, gives us a dark look into the superhero's past. It's gritty, romantic, and thrilling, but it also includes a groan-worthy explanation for what happened to Daredevil's dad. Yes, like so many vigilantes, Matt Murdock has daddy issues and his are particularly tiresome because dear old dad didn't have to go down the way he did.
Jack Murdock died when Matt was very young. He was a boxer who got paid to lose rigged matches. At first, this seemed like a twisted lesson about how it pays to lose sometimes, which would be an interesting spin on a fatherly lesson and would explain how Matt grew up to be an anti-hero. However, one day, Papa Murdoch decided to go against his bosses and win a match, just so that his boy could hear a crowd cheer for his old man the one time. (The match, incidentally, was against Carl "Crusher" Creel, who appeared on this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) Before doing this, he called Matt's mother and asked her to take care of him. After the match, Matt's father was shot in the head, leaving his son without a father.
This is somewhat in line with Daredevil's origin in Marvel comics, however that version had Jack Murdock dying when Matt was already in law school and his choice to throw the match had more to do with his own dignity. In the Netflix show, Jack wants Matt to be proud of him, which doesn't exactly fly with me.
Yes, I understand the desire for your kids to be proud of you. However, what's the good of giving them one amazing memory if it's followed by a traumatic memory and lasting loss? Wouldn't it be better to stick around and raise your kid? Poor Matt Murdock already has an absent mother and no vision; his father was the only stability in his life. The boxing world that Jack was involved with was dangerous enough without his death being his own choice. It seems completely flippant, but thankfully this tale does add an additional layer of darkness that the show deals with later on.
But using the storyline for a purpose doesn't make it any less upsetting. It's such an old-fashioned, hyper-masculine, patriarchal stereotype. Are there not other ways to earn the respect of your child? Was sacrifice the only way that Jack Murdock could "be a man"? Give me a break. How many times are we gonna see characters like Jack pursue an idealistic dream instead of simply showing up?
The real concern here isn't that the writers are doing wrong by the material, but that they're painting themselves into a corner. This father-sacrifice thing never seems to work. Think about Rumplestiltskin on Once Upon a Time: He deserted the army and became the Dark One just so that his son would be proud of him. That kid ran away and grew up hating his father. This story was also in almost every '90s movie: A dad is too busy to go to the little league game and has to earn his kid's respect by the end via some feat of masculine bravery. We've also seen it in the trailer for Ant-Man: Paul Rudd is pressured to take up the vigilante life and put himself in danger so that he can be a better man for his daughter. Is this really where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is heading? Can't a man be a present father and a father who makes his kids proud at the same time?
Sure, superheroes are rarely without demons. I just wish some of those demons could get an update.
Images: Barry Wetcher/Netflix; Giphy