Playing Blind

Since I’ve been behind in my MCU watching I’ve done a fabulous job of ignoring the internet in my endeavor to avoid spoilers. So, I’m only now catching a lot of the chatter about things, including a lot of Daredevil and blindness stuff. Among that was this image of Charlie Cox on my Tumblr dashboard; I very nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it.

Why? Because he’s not just walking with a white cane, he is utilizing almost perfect cane technique! Right down to the position of his index finger.

I chose not to go on in ridiculously nitpicky detail how very impressed I am with Cox’s performance as Matt Murdock from a blindness perspective. I don’t want to define his worth as an actor by that any more than I define my own existence purely as a blind person. Plus, my issues are so terribly miniscule that I don’t feel they’re worth putting into text.

Then I saw the above photo and I just had to take a moment to commend the incredible attention to detail that he’s brought to this part. It’s not often that I can say someone playing at being blind is done respectfully because the very essence of the statement sounds like a contradiction. Honestly, the most unrealistic thing about the photo is that the majority of real-life cane users themselves aren’t being as spot on with their technique as he’s showcasing here. And that’s exactly what differentiates this from the cane usage of others on film: being sloppy and/or lazy when walking with a cane and not actually using it properly. If you’re doing it right, it should be as natural as swinging your arms as you walk. What is often seen in movies and television is better described as random flailing about. There’s no effort to walk in stride with the cane and almost no one even holds it correctly! The simple fact that there are multiple schools of thought on proper cane technique only emphasizes how terribly out of place it appears on screen.

Maybe I’m the only person in all the world that even gives a damn about it and that’s fine, though, I rather doubt that’s true. Really, it’s just nice to see someone actually get it right regardless of how inconsequential it might be in the big picture of the show.


Title card

As a comics fan and a blind person, I guess it’s all but imperative I share my thoughts on the Daredevil series.

It’s no secret that I’m rather nitpicky about adaptations of things I’m a fan of, but that pales in comparison to how rigidly I scrutinize the portrayal of blindness in entertainment. There are many misconceptions about blindness and as a blind person I am constantly reminded how prevalent these are. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve been told that I don’t seem blind. Maybe part of this is because I was born blind and I’ve always seen the way I do that such statements confound me so, but I think it’s more that the general public is often astonished to discover how capable a person without 20/20 vision can actually be.

In any case, I’m very pleased to say that Charlie Cox’s performance is without a doubt the best sighted man playing a blind person I’ve seen. Sure there are niggling things here and there, but for the most part he’s incredibly natural and it’s a refreshing treat for me to watch. Now, of course, Matt Murdock isn’t your typical blind person and if you really wanted to quibble the point I’d argue the character himself plays at being blind. His heightened senses have more than replaced his loss of eyesight and that’s the whole point of his alter-ego, Daredevil.

I actually like this particular interpretation of Matt because it’s actually closer to the reality of blindness. There’s a common and very inaccurate belief about blindness and better hearing, but the truth is that the two aren’t correlated. That’s like saying going deaf would make your vision better. In truth all of your senses will compensate for a loss of one, but not without work to do so. There’s a very quick scene with young Matt that explains this concept perfectly when he expresses his difficulties learning to read Braille. He’s confusing some of the letters because at this point he hasn’t developed the sensitivity in his fingers to be able to easily differentiate them. The gravitas of that may be lost on many, but it’s the truth of learning Braille. Anyone can memorize the Grade I alphabet, but recognizing those little bumps with your fingertips takes practice.1

My spoiler allergy kept me from following any news about the series, so I missed the whole descriptive audio kerfluffle. I watched the series with the descriptive track partly to critique it and mostly because this show is absurdly dark and I can hardly make out anything. For the most part it’s done quite well. There are some amusing and awkward grammar choices that sometimes made following along mildly confusing. Also at times it’s a bit out of sync with the action and describes things that happen some thirty seconds after a prolonged silence. It’s also worth noting that it definitely expects you’ve watched the series in order by referring to unnamed characters by their initial introductions. Granted I don’t expect many people to just randomly jump into the show anyway since it is unforgivingly serialized.

With all that said, the show itself is incredibly good. Of particular note is the action. It’s well-choreographed and an enjoyable departure from the over-the-top acrobatics that has been done to death. These are more-or-less regular people trading painful blows. And sometimes microwave ovens. The villains, for the most part, were another treat. They’re a colorful and interesting bunch, capped off by D’Onofrio’s Fisk who is fascinatingly odd.

Not everything with Daredevil dazzled me, though. The standout being the feud Matt and Foggy have. Especially that it’s quashed even more randomly than it’s started. All it really accomplishes is biding some time between some really nice flashbacks, which in turn only emphasize how absurd the fight itself is. To be fair, I did like the bit with Karen on the phone with Ben in a pure “mommy and daddy are fighting and the kids are upset” moment. Which, by the way, is about the only thing I can say I enjoyed when it comes to Ben. I’m sad to admit this because I really like the character and the actor, but he doesn’t do anything. To the point that his own death isn’t even caused by his actions, but Karen’s.

As a whole the show is a mixed bag in terms of style. It’s a lot of things from crime drama to noir mystery and I most favor the direction it starts in and am baffled by where it ends up in the final episode. It’s rooted in a gritty realism that is far better than anything Nolan’s put on screen, but by the end of the arc when Daredevil dons his iconic red costume it’s veered a bit off course and seriously what was up with the Wilson v. Matt fight? I don’t quite understand how that ties together with the action from say the second episode, but at least the majority of the time there’s a fairly good balance of all that this show is trying to be.

I’m eager to see where season two goes.

  1. This is why after learning Braille almost 30 years ago, I personally struggle with reading it these days.