Skip to main content

What do you see when you look at me?


One of the most astonishing television experiences I ever had was a multiple-episode arch of The Practice. In it, the law firm was defending a quadripilegic client played by the late great Christopher Reed. Casting Reed was particularly effective because, by that time, he really was a quadripilegic. The audience knew and loved him as Superman, as a family man, and as a hero who would not give up in the face of his life-altering (and ultimately life-ending) disability. In the legal drama, Reeve plays a man who was injured in a car accident in which his nephew, the driver, was killed. Kevin's brother, the boy's father, is wealthy but has refused to offer any assistance toward Kevin's care. Kevin's wife, Nancy (played by Carolyn McCormick), is suffering depression stemming from caregiver burnout and has been taking drugs that have caused her to black out on occasion. She resents her brother-in-law's refusal to help, and when he is found dead, she is accused of killing him. Attorneys Eleanor Frutt and Jimmy Berluti (Camryn Manheim and Michael Badalucco) are presenting her insanity defense. 
But here’s the kicker. It turns out Kevin (Reeve) committed the murder and purposely framed his wife. Why you ask? She cheated on him after his injury. She humiliated him. As he calmly relates this to Eleanor, she reminds him that she is his wife’s attorney, not his. She is under no obligation to keep his confession a secret. Reeve just looks at her and smiles and says something like: “Who would believe you? I’m disabled. We are sweet and kind. We are the victims.” Eleanor’s face widens in horror as she realizes he is correct. She was taken in by the same thoughts. He was someone to be pitied, to be cared for. To even present the theory in court would earn her the undying loathing of every jury member. 





 Now in real life we deal with the “Blade Runner” murder, and Slate was kind enough to run an excellent article regarding these same themes. It begs the question of why we put disabled people on a pedestal. These are adults who simply have a mobility problem without medical intervention. Why do we see them as more innocent than ourselves? If he were just another athlete, would anyone really be surprised that he shot and killed his model girlfriend? Sadly no. We expect it.

Examining our preconceptions is important in real life, but it also important when we are designing our characters. Are we playing into preconceptions or worse, are we playing into a stereotype? This is an especially present danger when we are writing about a type of person we have never actually encountered. A psychopath for instance. This type of person has been featured in countless movies and books, but when you read clinician’s notes about actually psychopaths (not all of them are violent), you see in many cases a starkly different picture than is painted by those Ashley Judd woman-in-peril movies. As I embark on my standalone book, I see now I will have to do research.

I love police procedurals, but I have never known any actual women police. If I am going to create one, my experience as a female Marine may provide some guidance, but I do not think it will be enough. Nor will my military experience provide any assistance in creating a US intelligence operative. I know nothing about those people, and for good reason—they live in a world apart from the rest of us. But if I am to bring them to life, I feel a strong need to be honest—true to real life. To do so means examining myself to ensure I do not fall into preconceived ideas based on stereotypes and pleasant fictions.

When personal experience cannot provide a rich enough well of experience to create a character, where do you turn for inspiration? Have you ever felt compelled to do actual research for one of your characters?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Psychopaths - Part 2 of my Daredevil Review

I will start this review with a mandatory disclosure: I love me some Vinnie D. That's Vincent D'Onofrio to you normal folks. I love him in everything he has ever done. I loved him as the sweet yet prideful young man in Mystic Pizza, I loved him in his small role as "Thor" in Adventures of Babysitting, I loved him when he wore an Edgar suit in Men in Black, and I loved him the mostest in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. So while I'll be telling you the strengths and weaknesses of the show, don't be concerned when I seem to love the villain more than the hero.

Though Kingpin AKA Wilson Fisk had a small cameo in the Defenders, Season 3 of Daredevil marked his triumphant return to the status of Big Bad. And make no mistake, Wilson Fisk is as Big and Bad as they come. Obey him or he will kill you. Though he might kill you even if you do obey him. Hypothetically, he might savagely crush your head in if you are simply the bearer of bad news. Hypothetically.

Though…

On Faith - Part One of my Daredevil Review

"I would rather die as Daredevil than live as Matt Murdock."

As I mentioned in my review of Daredevil Season 2,  I love this show, so I didn't want to simply write another review. Instead, I chose to write three articles on what I saw as the three main strengths of this season: its honest depiction or faith and the struggles of mere mortals to live it; the effects of psychopathy and the morality of treating people who have it; and the ability of friendships to fill the hole left by a missing family. In my Season 2 review, I mentioned how the show's writers have stayed true to the spirit of the comic in their characters, in the actors they cast, and the direction of the plot. Season 3 begins with another strong and unapologetic nod to the original comic: its focus on Matt's faith, or in this case, his loss of it.

In the last episode of The Defenders, a building fell directly on top of Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, as well as Elektra, the love of his life whose sou…

Maximum Harm: The Toxic Maternal Instinct of Therapists in Daredevil and The Punisher

I have a particular interest in feminine aggression and how women's ways of destruction differ from the masculine baseline of beatings, gunfights, and demolition of infrastructure. The Netflix Marvel shows have been universally strong in depicting women as realistic, complicated, and aggressive in uniquely feminine ways.

Of course, the heroines like super-powered Jessica Jones and driven Karen Page exemplify these qualities, but so too do the female villains--the ones who know they are villains... and those who think they're on the side of the angels.

Daredevil Season 3 and The Punisher Season 2 have an important connection that struck me (other than being Marvel shows on Netflix): They both feature a female psychologist whose overabundance of care for her psychopathic patient results in great harm being wrought on the populace. I don't think it's a coincidence that there is a fair bit of overlap in the writers for these two shows (all 12 writers for Punisher also were …