10 minutes into Defenders ep 1, and Matt just became the disabled superhero I’ve been waiting for.
-very mild spoilers ahead-
This is Matthew, founder and host of this site. If you’ve been listening or reading for a while, you know that representation in superheroes is an issue I care about deeply. Yet, as a disabled person, I rarely see myself on screen in superhero stories. Instead I’ve been frustrated as we get character after character who has a disability, but also has some superpower or tech or other way of making their disability irrelevant. Daredevil can ‘see’ through his other senses better than most sighted characters, Felicity has tech that makes her as mobile as anyone else on Arrow- heck even Yoda turns out to be a total badass when he throws away his cane and starts fighting.
I love those characters and enjoy the amazing things they are able to do. But I don’t look at any of them and say – that’s someone who has gone through what I have gone through, who has experienced my life as a disabled person. On very few occasions have I looked to a character on a superhero show and thought – that person speaks for me.
All that changed when Matt, aka Daredevil, talked to his client who is in a wheelchair.
His opening line, telling the kid that the money he just won in court “is really going to help your parents” lets everyone know that Matt is about to hit the kid with some hard truths. Matt proceeds to speak about what life is going to be like for the kid as he adjusts to his disability; the pity and fumbled attempts at sympathy he will get from those around him, the many times he will be told to smile and accept it, and the anger. Especially the anger. The kid says he has already felt that anger, and I knew exactly what they were talking about. From a few words in I was in tears as I listened to my favorite hero tell my story. He could have been speaking to me six months after I lost my leg, as everything Matt told that kid about adjusting to life in a wheelchair was true for my adjustment as well.
As a straight, white, cis-gendered, male, I have not had much trouble finding heroes I can relate to. Yet ever since I lost my leg and had to learn to re-adjust every aspect of my life to the question of how many steps I could get away with and when I would need to bring my wheelchair, there has been a part of my life none of those characters seemed to understand. As I heard that speech by Matt, I remembered every time someone told me how it felt to see themselves on screen in Rey, or Luke Cage, or Holtzman. I am so grateful I got to feel that as I heard Matt speak, and I hope we get more of that in stories to come. Maybe even from characters who don’t look as much like me as Matt Murdoch does.