Wednesday, 22 April 2015

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Daredevil as a symbol of civic responsibility in the wake of tragedy Here's my first long-read culture piece for Salon -- and not surprisingly, it's about something extremely nerdy. Excerpt: The larger argument the show makes is about the nature and necessity of different kinds of heroism — and the kind of social responsibility they entail. “Daredevil” almost never strays from Hell’s Kitchen, an area of New York City which, the audience is repeatedly told, was effectively demolished by the events in Joss Whedon’s first “Avengers” film. The Avengers were responsible for repelling an alien invasion, which is highly commendable, don’t get me wrong — but someone has to pick up the pieces of the society that’s shattered by the collateral damage, and that’s what shows like “Daredevil” are explicitly about. In fact, all of the shows Marvel will be producing with Netflix take place in this same small slice of the Marvel cinematic universe — and all of them address the human cost of having your city host a Hollywood action sequence. This is something Hollywood itself has never done, and television only rarely. Even the closest, the third season of “Battlestar Galactica,” had the feel of a reconstruction happening elsewhere, due its visual and narrative references to Iraq. Daredevil’s certainty — and the desire for it — isn’t a reflection on the world the audience lives in, but in the large cinematic one Marvel is creating. Which is, I acknowledge, something of a cop out. The work is produced and proving to be quite popular in a historical moment rife with divisions between the authority of those who govern and the people they are supposed to protect — but in traditional noir fashion, the show is quite critical of the established authorities. “Daredevil” does not encourage viewers to kowtow to police, as the NYPD is institutionally and irrevocably corrupt...
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Louie, you disappoint me I can't think of a better way to win friends on social than to write an article in which I bag on Louie and defend beat cops: As any television critic will tell you, there are two constants when it comes to televised drama, “cops” and “doctors,” and the current moment is no exception. For example, you have a wide selection of police procedurals to choose from: old hats like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; more family-oriented fare like “Blue Bloods”; shows that are only tangentially about cops, but are still police procedurals, like “Elementary” or “Person of Interest” or “Bones”; and you even have comedies that work within the trappings of the police procedural, like “Brooklyn 99.” Except none of those are actually “cop shows,” because they’re all about detectives. (Which is, yes, technically a rank, but is conventionally depicted as entirely different profession.) In fact, the majority of shows aren’t about cops at all — they’re about individuals too intelligent or talented to be lowly patrol officers, who have transcended the beat and work in the rarefied world of investigation. That is not to say that uniformed officers don’t make an appearance on these series, because they do, but when they’re not relegated to bit players at crime scenes — the blue drones in the background collecting evidence or being asked to canvas a neighborhood — they’re inevitably fucking up. This dynamic was neatly encapsulated on a recent episode of “Elementary” — CBS’ loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes– in which Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is asked by the daughter of the New York Police Department’s Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) to assist her in breaking up a ring of thieves hitting up local drug stores. Hannah Gregson (Liza Bennett) is just a lowly uniformed officer, so she seeks out Watson’s help — and Watson isn’t even an actual detective, she’s an assistant “consulting detective” — in order to discover the identity of the thieves, a problem that’s been vexing Officer Gregson for weeks. Two scenes later, Watson has not only discovered who the thieves are, but how to use them to infiltrate a much larger prescription drug smuggling operation. She hands Officer Gregson a file containing everything she needs to initiate what could be a career-making bust, and what does the beat cop do? She immediately arrests the low-level operators, thereby allowing those running the criminal enterprise to go to ground. Why does she do this? According to her own father, Captain Gregson, it’s because she’s not that bright — she settled for the small score because her beat-cop-brain isn’t capable of conceptualizing the abstract connections required to take down a smuggling ring. “She is what she is,” Captain Gregson tells Watson. “I love her, but I love this job too, the people who can actually do it.” And on that note, the episode fades to black, as if it’s a fact of precinct life that current uniformed officers just don’t have what it...

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