One of these days, I’m going to try to catch up on reviews of the current ongoing Daredevil book (it’ll probably be as a video). And, when I get some time this weekend, I want to do a post detailing Daredevil’s many encounters with Bullseye. However, in search of a topic for a slightly less ambitious post to start the week, I turned to Facebook to ask TOMP’s followers for ideas. One idea was put forth about a science post on Matt’s kinesthetic abilities. Of course, this is a great idea, but one I’ll be covering in the book. When I get to that chapter (I’m currently busy writing about the “radar”), I’d be happy to put together a digest for the site.
The other suggestion, endorsed by two people, was to write a little something about Matt’s (pretty obvious) insecurities about showing his eyes to people. I actually touched on this subject when I did a post about the various looks of Matt’s sunglasses over the years, But 1) that was six years ago (pre-Netflix), and 2) psychoanalyzing the shit out of Matt Murdock can usually be done on short notice and with a minimum of preparation. So, perfect for a slightly shorter post.
Perhaps the handful of panels you see above, from Daredevil #111 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann, is really all that needs to be said on the topic. Aside from the rather odd segue between what Matt says in panels three and four (which I think has to do with Matt’s recent loss of his wife Milla to villain-induced insanity and relating this to his own father’s inability to protect him), much of what I think this boils down to is: “So much of my life… It’s been about how people see me. Not wanting to let them see too much.”
What I like about this line is that there are so many facets to it. There are at least three ways to read it that all say something about Matt. We have the literal interpretation that reminds us that Matt has to pay very close attention to his outward behavior so that he doesn’t rouse suspicion. In his civilian life, no one except a select few can know he has heightened senses, and as Daredevil, no one can know he’s blind. This, in and of itself, would inspire a certain amount of paranoia and hyper-vigilance about how he’s perceived.
The second way to read this reminds me of what Elektra said to Matt at the end of the second season of Daredevil, when she suggests to him that he hides from the world, and refuses to let people in. In so doing she calls out a character trait shaped by a lonely childhood and some pretty major abandonment issues. Of course, the Netflix show takes this to extremes, in that Matt is actually raised in an orphanage. Add to that the thoughts that Stick put in his head, and you can begin to make sense of other reasons Matt may not want people to “see too much” of his inner thoughts and wants.
More to the point here is the third way to look at this: Heightened senses or not, Matt obviously knows he is perceived differently than the average person, and that he risks standing out. I also think it’s very much in line with his basic personality to try to manage people’s perceptions as much as he can. I think it boils down to a control thing with him, and in this context the shades make sense and become a different kind of mask. If he can’t look people in the eye, making sure that no one can look him in the eye either evens out the playing field.
Because Matt’s behavior in the comics surrounding when and to whom he will reveal this side of himself (see that post from six years ago) has been carried over more or less intact to the Netflix show, you would have to assume that the writers and directors of the show have done so very deliberately. As in the comic, it kind of becomes a proxy for trust and intimacy, and perhaps says even more about Matt’s level of trust in Foggy than anything he says or does.
In that first episode scene with Karen, he makes what we can assume is a big exception for her. But he does so in a situation where she’s feeling exceptionally vulnerable and he’s willing to go to great lengths to put her at ease. In the third episode, Matt and Foggy are working in the office (see above). When Karen comes back from lunch, Matt is very quick to put his glasses back on (see the featured image). He continues to do this more often than not throughout the show. It is hard to interpret it as anything other than a physical manifestation of him raising his guard.
Of course, there’s a slight difference between “managing others’ perceptions” and a genuine insecurity about one’s appearance. In Matt’s case, and this goes for the comic as well as the show, you definitely get the sense that the latter cannot be completely disregarded. I actually find this incredibly humanizing. Even people who seem to have everything in life sorted out probably have a complex about something. Things we experience in childhood seems to have a particular power over us, and a stupid comment by the school bully can linger for years. For all we know, hearing something insensitive said about him at just the right (wrong) age might have planted an idea in Matt’s head that he can’t quite shake, despite knowing better on a rational level.
Considering Daredevil’s near-complete mastery of his body and remaining senses, his eyes become that one part of his anatomy that will never behave as expected, and can never be fully reigned in. Effectively covering his eyes is the only way Matt has of addressing this, and I suppose his need to do this is yet another one of those quirks that makes him interesting.
Since he can’t see what his eye look like, he can never be sure what sort of impression he’s making or how “normal” they look. Hiding them could be to avoid making people feel uncomfortable or his embarrassment that they could be different. Also it would be hard for him to know how much of his emotions are readable through them. Hiding them can hide his inner thoughts.
It reminds me of the line in that same first episode scene when Karen asks him how he brushes his hair after he said that was the other thing people ask in addition to how he was blinded, and he shrugs and says, “Honestly, you hope for the best.”
This also reminded me of the scene after the Aaron James trial in The Defenders when Karen congratulates Matt and tells him: “You can be proud of yourself… A little… I won’t tell anyone” implying she knows he’s really happy for having won that case for that family although he doesn’t exactly show it.
As always, really interesting post, Christine! You’re an amazing writer 🙂