visual narratives about blindness

Daredevil drops in two weeks on Netflix. I’m excited about this new series: it has a stellar cast, experienced writers who have worked in comics and crime tv, a distinctive design concept. But the whole idea is odd, isn’t it – a narrative told in a visual medium, about  a man who has lost his sight. I can’t wait. So here’s some juicy speculation about the latest offering from Marvel’s (over)production house…

It has the potential to be a fascinating idea – to try and convey Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) ‘view’ of the world to those who experience their surroundings visually. The trailers that have come out are intersting in this respect for being very dark, fragmented, with sudden flashes of bright light that almost disorientate. It’s a great combination of comic book simplicity of line, with a distinctive evocation of a character’s individual perspective. However, considering Matt’s clarity of hearing, the soundscape of the trailers is an interesting choice.

Full of constant white noise and indistinct percusive breaks, which do not necessarily align with the action on screen. I was expecting heightened clarity, very distinct soundscapes indicative of Murdoch’s finely tuned aural abilities. But, I think this is better. Just as those who recover their sight are overwhelmed by the sensory information available to them, so would a person losing their sight and trying to navigate by sound become hyper aware of all the messy noise of the world. As a person with clear sight when wearing my glasses, I filter out noise that has an obvious source in my peripheral vision, using a combination of senses to determine its relevance to me, and the threat level.

Given the limited information of the trailers, I will be very interested to see how the design department develop this muddy world of darkness and indistinct and constant urban noise. I think that they have very clear ideas about presenting an alternative world for Matt Murdoch as a ‘disabled’ hero, and that’s a good thing. I hope that the narrative doesn’t attempt to paper over the differences in his life experiences as a blind person in a world built on the expectation of sight.

One minor moan – I got a distinct damsel-in-distress vibe from the presentation of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) in these traliers. Can we stop making men heroes by making women weak? Does Matt really need to save a girl as well as fight villains? You’d think with the backlash over Black Widow’s lack of solo movie, Gamora’s being left out of the Guardians marketing, and excellent examples of female heroes in rival DC’s Green Arrow, that Marvel might want to move this trope on a little…

Royalty-free clipart picture of a caucasian male super hero flying with one arm forward, on a white background by Rosie Piter, COLLC0023. This image is protected by copyright law and may not be used without a license. No free use allowed.
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Royalty-free clipart picture of a caucasian male super hero flying with one arm forward, on a white background by Rosie Piter, COLLC0023. This image is protected by copyright law and may not be used without a license. No free use allowed.
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I used the ‘scare quotes’ around the term disabled, as its important to remember what this term in fact means. There’s a big difference between recognising the impairment of a bodily function for health outcomes, and recognising the social and cultural impediments that come with non-normative morphology. If my renal system shuts down, I need a measure of medical support to be able to pursue my life. However, if I had been born blind or deaf there is no medical necessity for intervention – it is only social and cultural expectations that will cause me a limitation – my body can thrive!