Suffering Makes a Man

Or: My First Fisk

I have read several authors’ Fisks, but until now not penned one myself: here goes!

This article is from the Verge, and it was published in 2018. It was posted in a forum which I frequent and caught my eye. I rather wish it hadn’t, because the stupid in it is so thick you could use it in place of cement. The author of this article clearly has no idea what he is talking about, and as someone who has suffered through more than one item on superheroes that misses the point of their stories entirely – or those that intentionally misconstrue the histories and purposes of these characters to degrade and dispossess them of their function completely – this author does not say that lightly.

If I remember right, in a Fisk, the at issue parts in the original article are put in italics. My responses are supposed to be in bold. Strap in and get ready, readers, because this…. This is a doozy:

Daredevil’s ‘suffering makes a man’ trope is common, familiar, and bad for everyone

Heroes’ imperviousness to pain is a longstanding plot device

By Noah Berlatsky  Oct 24, 2018

Okay, stop right there. What does Daredevil have to do with the so-called “suffering makes a man” trope? That description often refers to stories about the transition from boy to man. An example would be The Yearling, where the protagonist Jody Baxter must eventually kill the fawn that he’s been keeping as a pet, because it has become an adult buck and it is eating the crops his family needs to live. That is an event in a story that may be described as “suffering makes a man,” because the protagonist needs to suffer to grow up.

That is not part of Daredevil’s story at all – he is already a mature adult by the time he puts on the suit. But fine. Let’s see what else you’ve got, Mr. Berlatsky.

Like the first two seasons of Netflix’s Daredevil series, the third season loves to show its hero getting beaten up.

Haven’t read a Daredevil comic, have you? The guy is rather famous for being a punching bag, more so than even Wolverine. Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, typically gets beaten bloody and near-dead more often than any other Marvel hero. The guy needs a vacation.

For the first few episodes, Daredevil, aka Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), is convalescing after the events in Netflix’s Defenders crossover miniseries, and the camera lingers lovingly on his battered face and body, watching him stagger about the screen in an ecstasy of infirmity and pain.

This is a run-on sentence, and your editor should have caught it, since you did not. I can’t say anything about the camera “linger[ing] lovingly” on DD’s injuries, but I am pretty sure “ecstasy” does not belong in the same sentence as infirmity and pain in this case. Not unless you are speaking of a saint who is united to Our Lord and is partaking (at least slightly) in His sufferings on the Cross, which is about the only time ecstasy could fit in a statement with those words and not indicate psychological issues. Daredevil is Catholic, but he has never considered himself saintly, and he tends to react to pain like anyone else does – with “ow,” “ugh,” and “I should’ve stayed in bed.”

This sentence is one of the big red flags in your article; you are applying religious symbolism to something that is not religious in an effort to make a secular point. That doesn’t work. It is possible to use such symbolism in a secular story to make a religious point, sure, though some people may carry that to an extreme and then the allusions are likely to be thin to nonexistent. But try doing it in reverse, and you are going to end up with what we have in this article – a whole lot of stupid nonsense which does not add up at all.

When he’s somewhat recovered and back battling bad guys, the fight sequences are grinding, extended affairs. Viewers are meant to feel it viscerally every time a nose shatters or a rib cracks. Murdock emerges from each conflict bloodied, bruised, and exhausted — and in one notable instance, with a pair of scissors sticking out of his chest.

Here Netflix’s Daredevil was doing its job well, in no small part because it was adhering to the source material. As I said above, Matt is the most physically abused hero in all of Marvel Comics. The next most tortured, physically, would probably be Wolverine. And Wolverine does his best to avoid high-pain situations because, healing factor or not, they hurt. Duh.

Beyond that, though, the whole point of storytelling is to give readers and viewers a vicarious experience. This means that, yes, they should at least dimly feel the impact of every blow that the good guys and bad guys land on one another. And they are supposed to feel it from the safety and comfort of their living room, where they won’t actually be hurt. I am not sure I see the point of your “whinging” – unless it is to say that you don’t understand violence. If that is the case, then grab the latest drama or fluffy romance off the shelf and tune into that. Leave the rest of us to enjoy the entertainment we like.

Daredevil depicts Matt Murdock in pain because enduring that pain is what makes him a hero.

You really have a fear of pain, don’t you, Mr. Berlatsky? Newsflash: Everybody feels pain. As another character said in a famous film: “Life is pain…. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” So far, you are not doing a very good job of hawking your particular product.

He’s not alone, either.

Duh, he’s part of the Marvel multi-verse. There are a lot of heroes in that universe. And I can’t think of one, male or female, who hasn’t been beaten up, hurt, or killed at least once.

Whether it’s Daniel Craig laughing and joking through a brutal testicle-whipping in Casino Royale, or Bruce Willis pulling broken glass out of his bare feet in Die Hard and continuing to fight, men in action movies and television series are constantly expected to shrug off tremendous damage, including being shot, stabbed, and graphically tortured.

Here we have yet another run-on sentence. Did you have an English teacher? If so, were you doodling in class when he or she spoke about the need to avoid such sentences?

Also, that sound you heard was your audience experiencing whiplash. We started out with Daredevil and now you are veering into other IPs such as James Bond and Die Hard. Let me check the title of this article again…. Yeah, Daredevil headlines it. You should have stuck with superheroes since you started out with them. Casino Royale debuted in 1967 with David Niven as Bond, and the remake was issued in 2006. Die Hard was released in 1988. Not that I am above using examples from multiple franchises to make a point myself, but aren’t these movies more than a little distant from your point, since your angst was evinced with superheroes?!

And what do Casino Royale and Die Hard have to do with the trope of “suffering makes a man”? Bond is a spy. Beatings and torture are risks inherent in the job. If he is captured in the course of the story, then the bad guys are going to beat him up. Maybe for fun, but more likely to get information. It is part of how the world of espionage works.

Die Hard’s John McClane has nothing to do with your “suffering makes a man” trope, either. That trope belongs to the coming-of-age story. At the very most one can describe stories where the adult hero begins as a wimp or a “beta” and, during the course of the tale, becomes an “Alpha” as belonging to a “suffering makes a man” category.

Even if that is the avenue you wish to take, though, you have chosen poor examples. Daredevil is “The Man without Fear.” He is not a wimp or a beta, and he has no need to prove his masculinity to anyone, least of all himself. Same for Bond and McClane. They are grown men quite capable of taking care of themselves and they are all secure in their masculinity. What on Earth made you choose these guys to make your point?

These narratives of stoic anguish make it seem natural and unremarkable for men to coldly ignore pain in real life.

Have you ever been bruised, broken a bone, or – in your case – endured a paper cut? There is no “coldly ignoring” pain in real life. See the aforementioned reference to Frederick Lenz, now here in full: “Grow up. Get a life. Life is pain. Anybody who tells you other than that is trying to sell you something.”

Examples of “ignoring pain” come chiefly from athletic and martial endeavors. In all of these instances pain is endured for a purpose: winning. In the cases of airmen, Marines, sailors, or soldiers it is winning to save lives, sometimes their own. In the case of athletes, it is also to win. No one competes to lose and no athlete is contemplating their bank balance when the event is in progress. Those that do lose.

See, this is why writers do research. Unless their only job is armchair commentary on subjects they do not care to even attempt to comprehend, of course….

And at the same time, the trope usually makes women’s suffering seem uninteresting or marginal.

Oh, no, you did not just go there. You want women in pain? Look up Black Widow’s story. Better yet, look up Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller. If you want stories with women enduring pain like you cannot imagine, start with Natasha Romanoff and Karen Page. We will come back to this topic later – this isn’t the only place where you make this appeal, after all. But if I get started in-depth here, I won’t stop for paragraphs. Grr….

The most obvious result of glamorizing and exaggerating men’s imperviousness to pain is that men who suffer feel like they are supposed to endure it without complaint.

Once again, I ask you: Have you ever endured pain? Have you ever seen anyone close to you enduring pain? If you had either experience, you would know that NO ONE is impervious to pain, whether it is emotional or physical. And once again, while Daredevil may be the most tortured Marvel hero, his injuries are not used to glamorize or exaggerate anything. They are meant to serve the story and to build him as a hero. Those are two different things. Endure that, Mr. Berlatsky.

As for persevering through anguish without complaint, who is Matt going to complain to? Other than his confessor, the priest he visits to receive the Sacrament of Penance, no one else in the series who knows Matt is Daredevil can help him the way Father Lantom can. Matt’s entire choice of career is meant to protect people. He can’t do that if he is crying on every available shoulder.

But I digress – having a Catholic hero who actually practices his Faith in front of you must be equivalent to showing a crucifix to a vampire. You would doubtless prefer he consult a therapist, not a shepherd of souls who is actually doing his job. Unlike therapists, priests do not – and cannot – be forced to violate a non-disclosure agreement. A number of Catholic priests throughout history have died protecting the Seal of Confession, which forbids them from revealing anything they hear in the Confessional. I have yet to hear of a comparable number of psychiatrists or therapists doing the same to protect their patients.

Not that you would know that, since you can’t even be bothered to do the minimum research needed for a fantasy/sci-fi writer to accurately portray physical injuries….

Deadpool 2, as just one example, actually starts with the protagonist trying to kill himself out of grief. He literally blows himself into small pieces — but he has regenerative powers, so he’s back in the next scene, wisecracking and complaining. His attempted suicide is played off as a joke; his depression and despair are just another way to demonstrate his invulnerability.

Now we have whiplash again. You go from Daredevil to Deadpool in zero to sixty and expect that to make sense to your audience. Deadpool is a nutjob and an anti-hero; applying the trope of “suffering makes a man” to him is laughable. His entire purpose is to make the audience laugh while he kills bad guys. That is the whole point of the scene you describe: Deadpool is a gag. He is an anti-hero who is funny, as opposed to the straight anti-heroes like the Punisher who are grim, gritty, and dark.

Admittedly, Deadpool has elements of tragedy in his character and his history. That is another thing this scene is meant to do – show how the man with this fantastic healing ability can’t even kill himself when he wants to do so. He cheats death whether he wants to or not, and that is tragic, as it means he may just be functionally immortal. Immortality in this world is boring and a burden, because the immortal does not change while everything – and everyone – around him does.

The Deadpool version of the story is an extreme exaggeration, and just one of many gags that’s reaching for subversion by making light of the most serious subjects the screenwriters can find. 

Oh, now you admit it was a gag. And no, this scene wasn’t subversive in the slightest. The fact that it wasn’t played for mindless laughs tells me the writers took Deadpool’s character and story more seriously than you do. Kudos to them for that.

But the “heroes suffer, and it doesn’t slow them down” cultural trope does reflect a common social stereotype. 

So now we have gone from “suffering makes a man” to “heroes suffer, and it doesn’t slow them down.” You do realize you have swapped horses midstream here, don’t you? I have already gone into the previous trope twice, so I won’t say it again, but the fact is that “heroes suffer and it doesn’t slow them down” is not a trope. It is not even a theme; it is an inspirational and aspirational message that is meant to remind the audience that suffering is transient. You can push through it, hold on through it, and endure it. And it is a reminder that there will be rewards for those who stay the course despite the agony they go through to get to their destination.

That isn’t a cultural trope or a social stereotype. It is an aspiration and the encapsulation of objective fact, since we all know people who gritted their teeth and walked through pain to reach a better tomorrow. And if you don’t know those people personally, Mr. Berlatsky, then you are woefully deprived.

Men are expected to shrug off setbacks and power through emotional difficulties without sharing or showing them.

Aaaand here we are, finally. Took you long enough to reach this talking point. Let’s see how you spin this old saw….

Films glamorize heroes who don’t feel anything but anger or fear — and who then find ways to make the anger dominant. It’s a culturally ubiquitous message that makes it more difficult for men to seek help when they’re emotionally distressed or depressed. 

Films glamorize a lot of tripe, I agree. This is a new subject, though, since most of the people complaining about what Hollywood glamorizes don’t focus on emotions. Most of the griping I have heard – not all of it unjustified by any stretch of the imagination – has been along the lines of sex, violence, and like issues. This is the first time I can recall someone dragging “feelings” into the argument.

And seriously, you are going for anger and fear? If so, this is the wrong genre and the wrong character for that. Daredevil is “The Man Without Fear.” His whole motto is to not be afraid, to not let fear rule him, a fact demonstrated by his running around Hell’s Kitchen in a suit at night when he is blind. Radar sense or enhanced senses (depending on one’s preferred term for his superpowers) notwithstanding, by rational people’s criteria, that is insane. It is also terrifying.

Yet Matt – the Daredevil – is unafraid.

Granted, he has a temper. But so do a half dozen other Marvel heroes, from the Hulk and Wolverine on down to Captain America and Spider-Ham. They lose their cool occasionally, but they all strive to keep their anger from going out of control and driving them to commit horrible acts of violence. If they do lose it, they work to make amends – sometimes after punishing themselves more harshly than anyone else would.

Your argument, as they say, is invalid.

That’s part of the reason men account for 77 percent of suicide deaths in America, killing themselves at almost four times the rate that women do.

You. Did not. Just. Go. There. You did not.

I notice you do not say why so many men are so emotionally distressed and depressed these days. Very few people in your circles will acknowledge it, since it breaks with the narrative of female empowerment that you push, to the detriment of both sexes. And no one will admit the precise reason why men would rather kill themselves than seek help.

The short answer is: The “help” will only make their emotional distress and depression worse. The long answer is: The “society” you seem to prefer and harp on does not exist, it never did, and the present society spends its time browbeating men for acting like men – a game which you play in your article, I might add. Why should men “seek help” for the emotional distress of being told they have to act more like women, when the therapist or psychiatrist will just tell them the same thing while taking their money? If they cannot find a woman who is willing to marry them for life and have children with them, staying home while they go out to work to provide for her and the kids, why the heck shouldn’t they be depressed? And where can they go, who can they talk to, who will not tell them that they are sexist pigs who deserve to die for wanting these things in the first place?

This is the reason why men have a higher suicide rate than women in the United States. They are bullied at every turn and told their masculinity is the problem. With the constant blaring of that message from every street corner, every advertisement, and every piece of fiction made by the entertainment industry, it is a wonder that the suicide rate isn’t higher.

You want to know who “trains” men not to talk about their “feelings,” emotional distress, and depression? Look in the mirror, Mr. Berlatsky. You and your soy boy comrades are perpetrating and perpetuating this attitude by doing your part to feminize men and masculinize women. And this article you have written is just the latest in a long string of pieces meant to demoralize and emasculate society further.

The hypocrisy of your article is so acidic I am surprised you still have a keyboard to work with.

“Women are far more likely to acknowledge that they have depression and seek help,” according to Amit Anand, a professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine.

Yeah, because they are the protected sex. Men are the Monsters from Mars after all, while women are the Amazons from Venus. You and your friends give hypocrites a bad name.

Pushing through pain is supposed to be heroic and manly.

Which is why you hate it and are writing this piece of toilet paper in an effort to degrade it. Newsflash: The only person being degraded here is you and your pathetic ideology. Pushing through pain is heroic and manly; it will remain so long after you and I are forgotten dust and ashes. Try to get a life, Mr. Berlatsky. You need it.

But pain is even more validating if it’s suffered in pursuit of some worthy goal, like protecting weaker people through the sheer force of endurance.

Gosh, Shakespeare was ahead of his time: “Mark you this, Bassanio! The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”1 After wading through all this deep nonsense I finally found one of the nuggets of truth you used to pin up your worm-eaten rag of an article. Let’s see how many more you have here before you trot out your excuses for why Daredevil isn’t an example of real masculinity.

Daredevil’s injuries are the result of fighting the good fight; he’s battling to save his city and to stand between his friends and the dangers that threaten them. He isn’t beaten and tortured for no reason — it’s in the line of the duty he’s chosen for himself. Like most superheroes, he shows his strength by using it on other people’s behalf.

Yet you still hate him for it. Funny how that works.

The idea that it’s honorable for men to suffer while doing their job is similarly reflected in the real world, and it comes out through workplace injury numbers. Getting injured on the job is overwhelmingly linked to gender. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found the men were the victims of 93 percent of fatal work injuries.

Exhibit A in the case for the War on Men, your honor. I see you make no mention of the fact that women are generally risk-averse, that they do not enjoy physical labor of this type as a rule, and that their physical capacity to fulfill these positions is lacking. The strongest female athletes in the Olympics are on par, physically, with fourteen-year-old boys. Yes, you read that right; the strongest women in the world are only equal in a physical capacity to adolescent human males. What was that old quote about Sam Colt again…? My memory’s a little spotty at the moment.

There’s a reason so few superheroines are actually capable of overpowering a man physically. There is a reason why Black Widow uses gymnastics, guns, her feminine wiles and her wits to defeat men. There is a reason why the Scarlet Witch fights using her powers, why the Wasp shrinks and uses blasters or stingers; women are physically weaker than men. They cannot match them, overpower them, or fill the positions that they fill because they have less physical strength. They have to be clever and creative and play to their strengths rather than their opponents’ advantages.

But by all means, continue down your rabbit hole to the Mad Hatter’s tea party. This should be worth a laugh or two, and I like being amused.

Men are injured so often at work in part because sexist barriers to hiring women, plus the gender expectations for certain jobs, mean that high-risk occupations are often overwhelmingly male.

Oh, right, biology is a social construct. I forgot that you had disregarded reality entirely in pursuit of your agenda, which is that women are slaves of the patriarchy and sexism keeps them from doing men’s jobs. Never mind the fact that women actually prefer avoiding such high-risk careers and would rather marry and have children most of the time, that’s inconsequential. Do continue.

The 11 people killed on the Deepwater Horizon in 2010 were all men, for example, because jobs on oil rigs are overwhelmingly male.


*gasps, wipes away tears* To paraphrase Gandalf, Mr. Berlatsky, you missed your calling. You should have become a clown and earned your money that way. It would have been more honest than this career you have chosen for yourself! *goes back to laughing maniacally for an extended period of time*

Oh, my, I have nothing to say to that – other than to remind everyone that I am not laughing at the deceased, may they rest in peace. I would rather not see an event like the Deepwater Horizon occur again. But this explains why I never wanted to work on an oil rig in the first place: The risks are not ones I am willing to take.

They are dangers which men are willing to brave, however. And I admire, appreciate, and respect them for that.

As on oil rigs, so at war: while women make up a greater share of military personnel than they did in the past, men continue to be the vast majority of soldiers on active duty — 85 percent in 2015. That’s reflected in death tolls; as of 2018, the conflict in Afghanistan has killed 2,297 American men and 50 women.

Let’s hear it for women’s rights! It is completely unfair that men have died in the thousands fighting in Afghanistan but only fifty women have done the same (as of 2018, anyway). For shame, whatever could be worse than that – other than the fact that they all died honorably and this moron is dragging their sacrifice through the mud for his pet project?

But men are also vulnerable to injury because they’re more likely to indulge in high-risk behaviors than women.

Oh, look, another nugget of truth. And it is one I already brought up. Mr. Berlatsky, you need to pick up the pace here.

Daredevil insists on trying to prepare himself for combat even when his injuries mean he’s hardly able to stand.

Which is why we love him – and why you hate him. He pushes through the pain in order to keep doing his job, which is to protect and serve. That is admirable and something we should all aspire to do, regardless of sex.

Guys are socialized to disregard their health, safety, and lives in pursuit of a greater cause — whether that’s fighting crime in New York, or extracting oil.

It’s not social, it’s biological. Men are stronger than women. Men enjoy physical work more than women do. They are more aggressive, they are hardwired to serve and protect, and they are willing to take risks for a better future for themselves and for others – or just to see if they can pull off a stunt no one else has tried before. And women – real women, not the ones screeching about sexism, the patriarchy, and God only knows what else – admire, love, appreciate, and want them for that. Whether they admit it or not.

And by the same token, because it’s supposed to be okay for men to sacrifice their health for work, companies have less incentive to make heavily male, high-risk workplaces safe.

I am not going to dignify this level of stupidity with a comment.

Similarly, war is justified because it gives men a chance to prove themselves through endurance and callousness. 

No…bonehead. War is justified in the same way any self-defense or defense of others is justified, with a few added criteria thrown in because it involves more than a handful of individuals fighting over something or for their very lives. A war of aggression, expansion, or the like is not justified any more than the acts of stealing, robbing, or pre-meditated murder are justified. If it weren’t for the fact that religious education has gone so far downhill that one needs a combination of hard work and grace to find it, I would be more upset by this statement than I am.

The famous ambivalently anti-war film Full Metal Jacket ends with its main character, Joker, forced to shoot a wounded sniper in cold blood. That moment of psychological trauma is painful, which is meant to make it validating. “Hardcore,” one of the onlookers breathes as the deed is done, and Joker — who is, appropriately, his outfit’s joker — becomes a warrior.

You neglect to mention the fact that she asked the American soldiers to kill her. The sniper you are speaking of was mortally wounded and dying. The American men had a choice: kill her or let her die by degrees, in agony, alone in the jungle for hours. There is no easy moral answer to that conundrum, and the fact that Joker was forced to be the one to do the deed has nothing to do with whether or not he is a man or a warrior. The guy claimed to have been in combat previously when everyone knew that he was lying through his teeth. So the rest of the men told him they would leave the sniper to die horribly if he didn’t shoot her. None of that has the slightest bearing on your argument, you inept twerp.

It’s no accident that the sniper Joker shoots is a woman.

...Oh, boy, here we go….

Male suffering onscreen often is built on female suffering, which it obscures and expropriates.

What. The. Heck. Is this unholy stupidity?!

Just where, in Daredevil, does Matt’s suffering build on, obscure, and expropriate the suffering of a woman? And if someone says with a straight face that said suffering occurred when Matt’s mother gave birth to him, or when she left him and his father to protect them from her psychological instability, I will lose my temper. Matt Murdock’s suffering is entirely masculine: He is blinded in an accident at a young age when a male truck driver loses control and crashes, sending his load of toxic chemicals spraying everywhere. His father, his sole provider, is a boxer who throws fights to pay for his son’s medical treatments. But he realizes he is not setting a good example for Matt to follow, and so he reneges on a deal to take a dive in what turns out to be his final fight, winning it instead. This leads to his murder and thus to his son working hard to become not only a lawyer, but a costumed vigilante who will save others from bearing the heartbreak he had to endure.

Where, in all of that, does a woman feature? For that matter, where does a woman feature in Full Metal Jacket? The sniper is female. So what? The Communists in general and the Viet Cong in particular were not above conscripting women into their armies because the Manifesto declared them equal to and no different from men. Communism is about equality, after all. (Yes, I know it is the equality of misery – I am simply repeating the Commies’ propaganda to make a point.)

Many forget that the Viet Cong liked to have women in their ranks because they knew Western soldiers would hesitate to fire on them. The West values women for themselves, something the East cannot boast, or at least not in equal measure. Women even now are typically viewed as chattel in most of Asia, a view that was eradicated in the Western world with the advent of first the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire.

If anyone is building on, obscuring, and then expropriating the suffering of one sex over the other it is women who are doing this to men. As you have pointed out, Mr. Berlatsky, men do most of the dangerous tasks. They take most of the risks, receive most of the injuries, and die well ahead of women, who live longer precisely because men suffer for their benefit. To say that the reverse is true is not only a lie, it is a bald-faced, asinine lie.

The trope-definining instance came in a 1994 Green Lantern comic, in which the hero discovers his girlfriend murdered and stuffed in their refrigerator.

Ouch. I am behind on my DC comics’ lore, so this story is not one with which I am familiar. I am not sure which Green Lantern this was, but...ouch.

Also, Mr. Berlatsky, you need to have a conversation with your editor. Or you need to check your spelling more frequently. That is not how you spell “defining.”

Pointing to this comic in particular, comic writer Gail Simone coined the term fridging to describe the common plot device in which a woman is murdered, mutilated, or sexually assaulted in order to traumatize the man closest to her, giving him a worthy motive for violence and revenge.

A common plot device – is that all this is to you, Mr. Berlatsky? Men (and the women close to them) have to face this potential scenario all the time, particularly if the man’s job has risks. And a superhero’s life is full of risk; obviously there is the initial threat to life and limb, when he faces criminals in person. Then there is the potential danger to his loved ones, which can strike even when he is not fighting the bad guys.

Remember, the bad guys want to hurt the heroes. At the least they want them dead, but at best? At best the villains want the heroes broken. They want to twist them and turn them into mirror images of themselves. Evil is not content with living and letting live. It hates with a passion everything that is good, innocent, beautiful, and true. It wants all of those things destroyed or ruined so it can rule over and glory in the ashes.

So of course the bad guy is going to go after the hero’s girlfriend. He wants to kill her. It is not about traumatizing the hero; it is about destroying him by destroying what he loves most. The fact that you can’t see that, Mr. Berlatsky, says more about you than it does about the stories, characters, and trope(s) you hate so much.

But the strange flip side of the cultural emphasis on tough, impervious men is that when men do let their pain out, they may be taken more seriously than women, because of the assumption that women are emotional all the time, while any emotions men are unable to hold inside must be overwhelming.

Again, we have another run-on sentence. You and your editor need to have a chat, because this is not good for your image.

And heaven forfend that the reason women respond to men letting their emotional guard down has anything to do with the nature of women themselves. It is not like women are naturally loving, nurturing, compassionate, empathetic creatures who want to love men, after all. Biology has nothing to do with it – it is all the men’s fault, because the patriarchy, and sexism, and blah blah blah….

Yes, women tend to be more openly emotional than men. They can afford to be more emotional because they are not biologically wired to hunt game and fend off wild animals, so they have less reason to keep their feelings bottled up. Men are less emotional because they are hardwired to fight lions and tigers and bears in order to protect the homestead and put food on the table. Research shows this, history shows this, and tradition – stories – demonstrate this. No matter how much you and your ilk want that to change, Mr. Berlatsky, it isn’t going to happen. Get used to it.

“We are primed, almost from birth, to find men’s emotions more serious and more worthy of empathy than women’s,” author Sady Doyle wrote earlier this month, in response to the Senate testimony of Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In his response to sexual assault allegations, Kavanaugh shouted, cried, and belligerently claimed to have been wronged, putting his pain on display. That resonated for many viewers because male pain is such a powerful narrative trope, and men expressing it openly goes so counter to cultural expectations that it’s taken seriously when it happens.

And now you openly drag politics into this discussion. Color me surprised.

Some commenters criticized Kavanaugh for his weakness in breaking down, but others were clearly moved by the spectacle he made of his suffering. “Men can afford pain,” Doyle wrote, “because when faced with the spectacle of male pain, our culture’s first instinct is to look for whatever is making him uncomfortable and remove it  —  and, more often than not, what is making him uncomfortable is a woman asking for more than he’s prepared to give.”

Doesn’t this quote put the lie to your earlier statements about men suffering in silence, refusing to open up, yada yada yada? Ms. Doyle says our first instinct as a culture is to look for whatever is causing a man pain so we can make it stop. Absurdly curious how that completely goes counter to your assertion that the culture encourages men to hold it in all the time, yet you make no comment on that and clip this thematically incompatible snippet from her article to put it in yours for your own purposes.

Daredevil season 3 is also built on the erasure of a woman’s agony. 

Oh, this should be good.

The Defenders ends with a building falling on Daredevil and his love / nemesis Elektra (Elodie Yung). The physical punishment Daredevil suffers is a reflection of the inner torment he feels because he’s responsible for Elektra’s death. Her suffering is more a part of his story than her own; it adds interest to him, without being important in itself. 

“Her suffering is more a part of his story than her own” – uh, maybe because she’s dead? The dead can’t suffer in this world, you know. They may suffer in eternity, if they do not turn to God before they pass, but that is outside the scope of your argument, which is farcical on its face. If Elektra truly died when the building fell, then her pain in this world is at an end. She is at rest and, hopefully, at peace. There is no need for the show to add anything more about her because – guess what – she isn’t there anymore.

Daredevil is still there, however, and he is still suffering. He just lost his on again/off again girlfriend; that is an emotional agony he will have to bear for years to come. Again, this puts the lie to your assertion that he is impervious to pain – Matt is clearly in a great deal of physical and emotional pain here. He is not invulnerable, as you have repeatedly stated. He is picking himself up and continuing onward despite the pain he must bear.

That is what you hate. That is what you cannot stand. You would rather roll over and wallow in agony, Mr. Berlatsky, and have everyone else do the same instead of picking yourself up and moving forward while carrying the anguish of loss day in and day out. It is disgusting and sad, and you have my unremitting pity for it.

In the same vein, newly introduced Daredevil villain Bullseye (Wilson Bethel) is a troubled young man whose violence is motivated by one woman who dies of cancer, and another whom he stalks and frightens. The suffering of women is a narrative sideline, which motivates two men to dramatically, viciously beat the snot out of each other.

I have found my knowledge of Bullseye wanting lately, so I cannot comment on this directly. All I will say is that, for someone who says he is so concerned about women, you don’t appear to have the slightest bit of appreciation for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen when he “beats the snot” out of a stalker threatening a woman. How Matt’s stepping up to defend a woman being pursued by a psychopath like Bullseye “sidelines” the suffering of women is beyond me. From what I can see, it alleviates that pain significantly.

Like so many action heroes, Daredevil is cool because he’s tough. He gets punched and kicked and he just keeps punching back.

Another nugget of truth. Yes, this is one of the main reasons why Daredevil is cool. He takes a beating, gets back up, and keeps on keeping on after protecting innocent people from those who would harm them. That is inspiring to both sexes, since it makes men want to live up to Daredevil’s example at the same time it prompts women to look for men like him. Kudos to Stan Lee and the rest of the gang for creating this wonderful superhero who has stood the test of time.

Pain and manliness validate each other in action stories, creating wish-fulfillment scenarios where the audience can imagine being just as calm under fire as their heroes, just as impervious to any physical or emotional pain they feel, just as capable of shrugging off whatever hurts or frightens them.

But an obsessive focus on men expressing themselves primarily through anger and invulnerability can make suffering seem heroic in itself — which is why the series, in every season, is so eager to show scenes of Daredevil torturing people. When pain is what makes a man, everybody of every gender who comes in contact with men ends up suffering along with them.

Do I have to say that this is why Bullseye is the villain and Matt Murdock is the hero? For the umpteenth time, Matt is not invulnerable. And while he may be angry and he may beat criminals in the process of interrogating them, when the only language the villains know is pain, then that may be the only way to “talk” to them. Especially if there are innocent lives on the line and Matt has a limited time to find them before they are maimed, tortured, or killed.

When the bad guys play rough, the good guys have to play rougher. There’s no time to be nice when lives are at stake. Matt knows that, which is why he frequents the Confessional when he believes he has gone too far. I notice, though, that you still don’t mention in your article the Faith of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and how it helps him deal with his pain, anger, and other negative emotions. Of course, Christianity has the same effect on you that holy water has on vampires, so that’s no surprise. Why discuss how Faith helps men deal with their negative tendencies when you hate that Faith and men in general?

I repeat, Mr. Berlatsky: Get a life. You need it.

Whew! Well, readers, that was my very first Fisk. And considering the last name of Daredevil’s main nemesis (Wilson Fisk/Kingpin), I have to say it was worth the effort, despite the lost IQ points. I will sign off to get back to work now, but I hope you enjoyed this piece.

Oh, and if you are looking for stories with manly men and womanly women, drop by my Amazon Author page through this Affiliate link and pick up one of the volumes listed there. My heroes would probably give poor Mr. Berlatsky a case of the vapors and a retreat to the fainting couch – and he hasn’t even seen my novels yet! ;)


From The Merchant of Venice, for those who are curious.