Daredevil and Media Stuck-in-Amber Portrait of New York

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66 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Well unlike a kid like you i remember the 80’s, even the 70’s. The thing is, crime was a problem and there was plenty of fear of it. But the worst places were in the inner cities. Most people watching the movies or hyper violent revenge fantasies like Death Wish or the far grosser examples in the 80’s ( Stallone’s Cobra is just one example) didn’t come in actual contact with that violence. In my mild suburb of NY there weren’t roving murderous gangs, although roller skating or bat wearing gangs like in The Warriors would have been cool. People were terrified of violence that they didn’t come in contact with. The fear of violence for most parts of the country was ginned up paranoia and latent fear of social changes that started in the 60’s. To be fair for people actually living in some big cities crime was an actual tangible issue instead of just movie fodder.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to greginak says:

      When I was in junior high school in the mid-1970s I used to routinely take city buses alone to go to the big downtown library. Sure, this was San Diego, but still… The trip took me through (and to) some not-so-nice parts of town, but I don’t recall ever feeling myself to be in danger, and my parents clearly had no serious qualms. I think that the fear of violence was much more abstract than real.

      Cue the free range kids discussion.Report

  2. Glyph says:

    I guess this is the downside of Marvel using “real” cities in its stories – no matter the year, Gotham and Metropolis can pretty much be as gentrified/safe or as run-down/crime-ridden as the current story needs.

    If you use NYC or Chicago, they need to somewhat track to the reality of the year you are using for your story.

    (Speaking of time-dislocation in media, I mentioned that I watched the original King Kong with The Boy the other day. When the natives grab Fay Wray from the boat and take off, he asked if she would just call for help on her phone.)

    (Also, watch Agent Carter, for a fun depiction of post-WWII NYC).Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

      The upside to using real cities is that at least you have a constant geography and infrastructure worked out.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Consistency is the Green Goblin of little minds.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        And Kulthea doesn’t?
        The upside to using real cities is it allows you to be lazy. I suppose it takes a good deal of work to create a plausible city…Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yeah, especially for longer stories, I don’t think you want to lock yourself in with specific geographies like that, unless geography will be frequently important to the story (something that aspires to “real world” obviously, OR something that is going to consistently involve character travel or troop movements, like Tolkien/GRR Martin).

        Nobody knows WHAT the hell the actual geography of Sunnydale or Springfield or Metropolis or Gotham looks like, so the storytellers can throw stuff in as needed and wring them dry.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

          There are some informal cues, at various points in continuity. The Atlas puts Gotham in New Jersey, and Metropolis in what must be a very, very different Delaware.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

            But even if you know, sort of, where the *city* might be – you still don’t really know how big it is, and where its good and bad neighborhoods are, and its current socioeconomic status with any certainty beyond whatever the storyteller wants it to be. So you can still have Batman in the “gentrified” area of Gotham, or the “ghetto” area, just by using the neighborhoods you have previously established, or establishing a brand new one as needed.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

            I always interpreted Metropolis as being in the five boroughs of New York City as a landlocked city, even though some depictions do give Metropolis a waterfront. Basically, imagine if Kansas had enough people to hold a big city of eight million. Gotham always seemed to be more like Chicago than New York to me.Report

            • Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

              I’ve always thought of Metropolis and Gotham as NYC on the shores of lake Michigan and Chicago at the mouth of the Hudson, respectively.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Glyph says:

      The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not the same as our universe. I do not see any reason to expect the MCU New York to be the same as our New York.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Daredevil starts soon after the first Avengers movie when Manhattan was ripped to shreds.

    Oooooooh. I didn’t get this at all.

    I thought it was after 9/11.

    Christopher Cox feels awkward as Matt Murdoch and like he is unsure of what to do or how to stand like a kid who is wearing a suit for the first time.

    For the record, I have it on good authority that you and I are not in the target audience for Christopher Cox.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

      They were coy about the incident (copyright issues?) but it is clear that it was about what happened in the Avengers movie because they talked about all of Manhattan nearly getting destroryed.

      I guess people don’t know this but 9/11 occurred on a really small parcel of land. Hell’s Kitchen is far away from the financial district.

      If you are referring to Christopher Cox being a sex symbol/leading man, he can still be one and be a good actor.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Out here in the sticks, we just kinda assume that NYC is just a melange of construction over the ruins of buildings destroyed by terrorist attacks and people mugging each other.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You know you’re dealing with New Yorkers when someone says that two things that are about 4 miles apart are far away from each other.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

          That is a big distance in terms of New York geography.

          Do you have a problem with that?Report

          • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            It’s not a big difference anywhere to anyone but New Yorkers. It’s an hour walk, maybe, from Hell’s Kitchen to the WTC. Hell, depending on where you are in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s a nice walk, too, along the Hudson.

            One of the things that always amuses me about New Yorkers (even those who aren’t actually from the City) is how they distort distances because there are tall buildings and all those people and the grid plan. Really, it’s just the grid plan. The results are things like R. thinking New Jersey is a giant state. It’s not impossible that people in Hell’s Kitchen could hear some of the events on September 11, it’s so close.

            By saying that everyone likes The Grid Plan you’re saying, “I’m going to relive all the mistakes my parents made. I’m going to identify and relive all the sorrows my mother ever lived through. I will propagate and create dysfunctional children in the same dysfunctional way that I was raised. I will spread neurosis throughout the landscape and do my best to recreate myself and the damages of my life for the next generation.” -Speed

            When you are sitting in the middle of midtown Manhattan you are sitting amongst a 20th century invention. A city that grew up at an explosion, as an explosion. It is an explosion, an experiment. A system of test tubes gurgling, boiling out of control, a radioactive atom swirling. Civilization has never looked like this before. This is ludicrousness and this cannot last. Ibid.


            • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

              There has to be some New York :: rest of America version of the old “An American thinks 100 years is a long time, a European thinks 100 miles is a long way” chestnut.Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                You get them out of New York for a little bit, and they start to develop a reasonable sense of distance, but you put them in Manhattan again, and suddenly NYU’s light years away from Chinatown.Report

              • Murali in reply to Chris says:


                unless you’re doing it for the exercise, you should not be walking for an hour just to get to a place. 4 miles, which translates to about 6 km is a good distance. Its the rest of you who live out in the middle of nowhere who have your distances all wrong.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

              Hear and see? Yes. Get physical damage? Not at all.Report

            • j r in reply to Chris says:

              It’s not a big difference anywhere to anyone but New Yorkers. It’s an hour walk, maybe, from Hell’s Kitchen to the WTC. Hell, depending on where you are in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s a nice walk, too, along the Hudson.

              In all fairness, distance really does mean something different in dense urban places than it does in less-dense cities and suburbs.

              I live in Manhattan and both my wife and I take public transportation to work. It takes about the same amount of time for her to get 5 miles downtown as it does for me to get 30 miles outside of the city.Report

              • Chris in reply to j r says:

                Oh sure, it takes a while, which is why their sense of distance is so distorted. I mean, I can walk that 4 miles in about the same time in Manhattan and in my Northwest Austin neighborhood, so it’s the same distance. There are just more people in the way, and more transit stops, so wheeled transport takes longer there.Report

              • Michael M. in reply to Chris says:

                @chris Can you? One thing I noticed soon after settling in Portland, OR, after many in years in Manhattan is that generally it takes longer to traverse the same distance on foot here than it did in New York City. There are some parts of Portland where the difference is negligible — mainly downtown and some of NW Portland — but in the rest of the city you have to wait longer to cross streets, walk out of your way to get from A to B, and push a lot of buttons to activate signals. Plus, construction sites are allowed to close off the whole sidewalk and don’t have to put in temporary walkways — you are supposed to cross the street to continue travelling in the direction you want. That doesn’t happen in Manhattan — there is always a temporary walkway.

                In my experience, a four-mile walk in Portland takes noticeably longer than a four-mile walk in Manhattan.Report

              • greginak in reply to Michael M. says:

                In NY people dont’ waste time pushing buttons for signals to walk. Heck they often don’t wait for traffic to completely stop before walking.Report

              • Chris in reply to Michael M. says:

                Ah yeah, I can imagine that’s true in some places. Manhattanites are also more experienced pedestrians, and with pedestrians, than most non-Manhattanites.Report

            • zic in reply to Chris says:

              @chris I think the surface walked matters greatly.

              Four miles in the woods is nothing for me; I do that nearly every day, weather permitting.

              Four miles on pavement cripples me up for days; the surface is too hard and unforgiving, all the shock goes to the joints and spine. Equally as bad, four miles on snow or sand can be distressful, unless it’s a distance you’ve worked up to slowly, for they’re too soft and use muscles not normally used walking.

              The surface matters greatly to one’s ability to do distance.Report

              • Murali in reply to zic says:

                4 miles bashing through jungle is hell.Report

              • zic in reply to Murali says:

                Says you.

                Have you ever bushwhacked through the jungle? (I have in Central America. Biggest concern was snakes dropping on you.)

                But I’d still rather bash about in the jungle than the concrete jungle for many miles. Any day. I am not a city girl.Report

              • Murali in reply to zic says:

                Yes, I have. During my active service days when we went on exercise in Thailand.Report

              • Chris in reply to zic says:

                Oh certainly, especially people with leg or back issues. I walk about 10 miles per day, just as part of my daily activities (walking to and from the bus, walking to the store, walking to see neighbors, and so on), almost all on sidewalk and street, but I realize that I’m both lucky and benefit from having been a heavy walker for much of my adult life.

                I go through shoes like it’s my job, though.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

          “You know you’re dealing with New Yorkers when someone says that two things that are about 4 miles apart are far away from each other.”

          Speaking of Law and Order, they made a big deal around the middle of the original series run that Chris Noth’s character was way way way *way* out there in Staten Island, calling that story “Exiled”.Report

        • Michael M. in reply to Chris says:

          Because of the communications infrastructure problems on 9/11, I wasn’t able to get in touch with my mother (who lived in Oregon) until that evening. (I did try!) But I wasn’t too concerned because I lived in Chelsea in the West 20s and the WTC was so many neighborhoods away that I figured she would know that I was fine. I mean, you had to go through the West Village, Tribeca and much of the financial district before you got to the WTC. It might as well have been a different city.

          Of course, I was wrong and she spent most of the day in a panic. That’s when it occurred to me that as far away as the WTC felt to me, it was actually only about two miles.Report

    • Michael M. in reply to Jaybird says:

      @jaybird & @saul-degraw For the record, it’s Charlie Cox, not Christoper Cox. I think the latter was the former head of the S.E.C., which is a different kind of Daredevil.

      In any case, I think the actor is fine, in all senses of the word.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    Is your commentary more on set design, or plot design? (it’s not clear to me). I haven’t seen Daredevil, but we’ve discussed on these pages the set design of Gotham (which I’ve seen the first half of), and it’s melange of art deco era iconography, 70s-80s ‘urban grittiness’ and circa 2003 technology used by the characters. So it’s possible they just picked the 80’s urban gritty look (based from your description, this could be a wrong characterization) because it still says “New York” to just about everyone.

    If it’s plot design, the use of white ethnics is probably (like it is on Law and Order) to avoid Unfortunate Implications/Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:



    • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

      Both but largely plot with levels of violence.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Ok, but as Jaybird said in the other thread, the main point of the superhero genre is a plot where punching something becomes an acceptable conflict resolution mechanism. A superhero story without violence – in both background and foreground – is like a vegan chicken parmigiana dish.

        Also, on this
        “The other cinematic problem I’ve noticed is that film finds a way to make immoral messages and characters seductive and cool.”

        yes, Murdoch is technically a vigilante in his Daredevil role, but is he truly an anti-hero as is all too common in works created today? There’s a difference between chaotic good and Tony Soprano. Plus, if he is being played as a melancholy killjoy as you say he is, is he really seductive and cool?Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    Superhero stories are basically conflicts mythological conflicts about gods and heroes fighting in a modern era. Like the myths of old, conflicts tend to be resolved by a combination of violence and trickery. Given that this is the case, I fail to see how you can depict a clean, safe, and expensive New York in superhero story. This is especially true for a character like Daredevil who always tended to fight against the more realistically motivated super villains in the Marvel universe. Without grit and crime, Daredevil is obsolete.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Oh, I do believe I could spin a few tales… might be a little more realistic than you want to admit, though.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This is pretty much the case. Hell’s Kitchen is what it is because it has to be.

      Law & Order’s New York is actually pretty different, for the most part, and not as divergent from our current timeline except that every national story seems to have a doppleganger incident in New York and murder is mostly a rich white person thing.Report

  6. Kim says:

    I’d much rather see more Vegas than 1981 NYC. That’s just drear and drab, man.
    Judging from the stories I get out of NYC, there’s still plenty of crazy
    (white slavery isn’t exactly 1981, it’s more like every day ever.)

    I mean, they could do 2005 Detroit, which has a bit of grit, and a really unsettled populace.
    That’d actually be fun. Imagine having to deal with the moral issue of Adult Gangs Emulating Superheros,
    and claiming they’re Protecting People.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

      Oooh! Give them badges and uniforms!Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, that too. It’s one thing to have corrupt cops, it’s another to have cops behaving as they see superheroes doing — all with the iron idea that they’re doing good. After all, everyone cheers the superheroes… and who didn’t join the police to be a hero?Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kim says:

          Reno 9-1-1 was always my favorite TV cop show.
          It’s the drama. The realistic portrayal of police officers as real people. The ingenuity called for by the average patrol officer to deal with violent criminals.