I can’t watch Daredevil.
Is that title to click baitey? Probably, but I refuse to apologize for it. Clicks are what I want for this after all.
I’ve wanted to write this post since the show launched, but it’s taken me this long to figure out how I feel about it and why. Truth to tell, I’m still not quite sure. Maybe you’ll read along with me while I figure it out.
Let me get this out of the way first, I am not here to criticize the Netflix DD from everything I’ve heard, it’s actually a rather well done show. What I am here to do is criticize a decision By Netflix in regards to this show though.
Daredevil has never been my favorite superhero, he just hasn’t been. That being said, I was always happy he existed, and even read a few of his comics from time to time. It was nice to see a superhero who to at least some degree represented what I and other people in my life were going through. That thing of course was his blindness. I can already hear people asking, “how could you read his comics if you were blind?” and it’s a reasonable question. Other than admitting to being blind on this blog, I’ve never really gone all that deep into the subject of my actual blindness, just to how it affected my hobbies, and there is a reason for that. The reason is, it doesn’t matter, not to what I want to talk about, but for here I will say this. I wasn’t always totally blind, much like Daredevil, I went blind later in life, unlike Daredevil, I had been legally blind all my life up to that point. That digression aside, let me get back to it. I was happy to know there was a hero like him, even if the depiction of his blindness was always based on stereotypes more than anything else. What does that say, that you are even happy to see a stereotypical and often offensive portrayal of your experience in media, because it’s up to that point the only one you’ve seen at all? But even that’s not my point.
My point is, that even though it was a comic that was about us, it never really bothered me all that much that blind people couldn’t read it, in point of fact, from the few issues I did read, I was actually glad of it, because I knew they’d be a lot madder than I was at some of the things I saw in those pages. I wasn’t bothered, because I and others understood the inherent limitations of the comics as a medium. A book could be read out loud, or turned into brail, a television show or movie could be described, either by one of several organizations and companies that were doing it even at that time, or by a friend, or family member, But a comic book, that was something else. The medium was pure vision, yes there was dialogue, and a story, but almost all of it was told visually, I’d even go as far as to say, for most comics, if you took out the artwork, well what was left was never going to be enough to stand on its own.
Now let’s fast forward to today. Daredevil the TV show looks to be the next big hit for Netflix, it has people raving about its story, and to a lesser extent its visuals, and while I was aware it was on its way for months, I found it hard to get all that excited about it myself. Oh I talked it up to others, alongside other superhero offerings Netflix was getting ready to give us, but at the same time, I knew this show wasn’t going to be for me. I knew it was going to be about me, but I knew me and people like me would be excluded from the audience out of hand. This didn’t bother me, I’d become so used to the way things are, that it just didn’t. You have to get that way honestly, if there is nothing you can do about a thing, if it’s everywhere, and there is almost nothing you can do about it, you have to stop letting it bother you. Some may even go as far as to say it’s not a problem, because the alternative is to spend your days angry or hurt, and no one should spend their days like that.
I’ve just realized that I’ve gotten this far without actually spelling out what the problem is, I’ve eluded to it, the more observant of you will have picked it up already, but I really should just come out and say it.
DareDevil, a show about a blind superhero is not described for the blind. It’s easy to say that Netflix just didn’t consider the blind members of its customer base, and that’s no doubt true, but it’s not because they don’t know we are there. Campaigns have been trying to get them to make accommodations for its blind and low vision users for years. So far nothing, Oh they usually say something like “We are working hard to provide great entertainment to all our members, including the hearing and visually disabled. We don’t have any further updates to share at this time.” But considering how long we’ve been pushing, I’m forced to assume that no updates are ever going to be forthcoming, unless we let Netflix know this really matters.
Some will argue, and indeed many do, that if you pay attention, you can enjoy a television show just as much by listening, and follow it just as well as if you were watching it. This statement is almost comical in its absurdity. Yes it’s true, I watch a lot of movies and television shows, and no not all, or even most of it is described for me and I enjoy it. I’d not bother if I didn’t, but it’s not the same experience, not even close. I know I am missing a lot, I have to spend a lot of time figuring out what happened earlier in some shows through context, often I just have to let it go. There are sometimes ways around this, episode guides, and the like are a godsend, but it’s not the same, and sometimes it’s not even possible. I still live in hope that someday I might actually know what happened in the last couple seasons of Clone Wars.
But let me get back to daredevil, because this more than anything else bothers me. This is a show about a blind man, it’s a highly visual show, one where a lot of the plot is unspoken, where the jokes rely on seeing what a character is referring to, a show where a lot of the suspense comes from seeing what’s going on at that exact moment, and I can’t do any of those things. OH if I could only speak Spanish, I could watch the show, or French, or German. The show is both subbed and dubbed into all three of those languages, but there is nothing for me. No option to switch to a track where at least the major action could be described to me. I can’t help but feel excluded, and I stand by what I’ve said before, this is a show about me, but Netflix has made it clear it’s not a show for me and never will be. I wonder if there should be a term for that. Blindxploitation maybe? Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but I am stumped to find another way of describing what’s going on here. It’s about blind people, but fails utterly to let us into the conversation, while at the same time exploiting us for profit.
Actually the more I think about it, I don’t like the term Blindxploitation. It harkens back to blackxploitation, and while those films and television shows were, and still are problematic, it does actually let black people be a part of it, they starred in the stuff, made money from it and went to see it. True this doesn’t make the exploitation any better, but it’s a bit different. Blind people are being erased from the media about them. They are being played by sighted people, in movies and shows for sighted people. It’s really more like blackface shows. I’m going to move away from this line of thought now, because I don’t want to coopt someone else’s struggles or say mine are worse, but if I keep down this track it might look that way, I am however trying to draw an equivalency and one I hope people can see.
So I guess I’ve figured it out, I’m upset by this. DareDevil bothers me, it actually bothers me a lot. What’s going on here is not ok. A lot of what’s happened in the past isn’t either, and frankly I’m tired of pretending it is. Netflix has excluded me from something I really should be celebrating with everyone else.
A good DareDevil show should have me dancing for joy, but I’m not, and I won’t. Netflix, you’ve seriously dropped the ball here, and now it’s really up to you to show you can pick it back up again. For my sake however, I’ll not be holding my breath.