Warning, this article has spoilers for Daredevil seasons 1 through 3. If you plan on watching the show, I suggest you do so before reading this.
There has been an explosion of gritty, dramatic adaptations of comic books in the past decade or so, and writers have been able to provide apt insights on the struggles of life and on political issues through these stories. Netflix’s Daredevil is no exception, exploring many poignant themes including religion, loss, justice, and corruption. Although the show directly addresses many deep and important topics, there are many other underlying themes that are more subtle and could therefore go unnoticed without the proper illumination. In this article, I hope to point out some parallels I noticed between the main villain’s schemes and aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency.
First, some background. The main villain of the new season is Wilson Fisk, Hell’s Kitchen’s most powerful organized crime boss. Thanks to the protagonists, he is captured and sent to prison at the end of the first season. In the latest season he convinces the FBI to release him to house arrest in exchange for becoming an informant, but really it’s all part of his plan to regain his control over the city and coerce government officials into overturning his conviction.
The most blatant reference to The President is the press conference scene following Fisk’s official release, in which the writers are clearly trying to evoke Donald Trump. He starts out talking to an angry mob, blaming the “news media’s fake story” for vilifying him when he’s actually the good guy, and eventually pacifies the crowd with his speech. Ironically, this comic book villain is far more eloquent and poised than the 42nd president (beside Fisk’s tendency towards hyper-violent outbursts when outside the public eye … hopefully). This article talks about at scene in more detail. It’s been a common theme in recent media to portray aspects of Trump in their antagonists, so even though it is interesting and satisfying to see Daredevil’s take on it, the deeper (and perhaps unintentional) parallels are far more unsettling than these mere caricatures.
Fisk has threatened, bribed, and murdered himself into a position of legal near-invulnerability. Through these and other reprehensible means, his organization controls members of law enforcement at all levels, local and federal judges, and many important city departments. These connections made it nearly impossible for him to be captured and convicted in season 1, eventually being arrested on federal charges. In season 3, the situation is reversed. He has lost his influence over the police during his time in prison, and spends the majority of the season infiltrating the FBI, who now has custody over him. Towards the end of the season, when the protagonists finally have a witness against Fisk, they convince the District Attorney to pursue indictment via grand jury. As the viewer has come to expect, the witness is attacked and almost killed on his way to the courthouse. After the feeling of relief seeing him arrive unharmed (thanks to Daredevil, of course), we learn that the members of the Grand Jury have been threatened to not indict Fisk. This is the protagonists’ last ditch effort to stop him, and the corruption of all legal channels shows the direness of the situation.
Although Fisk’s character is an extreme example, Trump has proven to be above the law and public admonishment in many ways (but probably by other means). He has been accused of many impeachable crimes, none of which have shown any real traction toward serious investigation. With the Republican majority in the House and Senate, it seems that no one is very inclined to challenge him. This is effectively like Fisk’s control over all the systems that threaten his interests. Presumably, no members of our Congress have been coerced, but their extreme party loyalty results in a similar effect. We the people are seemingly powerless against The President as long as the people elected to represent us refuse to take any steps against his illegal activities. It seems like legally we are as stuck with Trump, as the fictional residents of Hell’s Kitchen are with Fisk.
Clearly I have a strong bias against Trump, but to those who don’t, consider the situation from a different perspective. People on both sides of real-world politics who watched that episode probably empathized with the sense of desperation felt by the protagonists after learning that Wilson Fisk would once again evade justice and continue down his destructive path. Obviously there are major differences between this fictional villain and The President, but the exaggerations of reality in shows, movies, and books are meant to emphasize certain points to the viewer/reader. Fisk is an extreme example of someone who is involved in illegal activities and manipulates his way out of legal accountability. Even though the allegations against Trump aren’t nearly as bad, the fact that he is the most powerful person in the world means the consequences of his misdeeds are almost as serious. We should be as concerned about someone who commits terrible acts against a small number of people as someone who commits seemingly mild infractions that could affect hundreds of millions of people.
I believe that the power of fiction is to take real world issues and isolate them in a setting where they can be examined from another angle. Highly charged political issues can be hard to consider objectively and without falling into deeply ingrained and partisan positions. The issue now is not so much about whether an investigation will prove Trump guilty or not, but rather if we should take the steps necessary to ensure justice.