The White Tiger Trial: The thing that jumps out at me the most is how HUGE the racial subtext is. Hector dies in the same way Tom Robinson does in To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of the most famous book about the Jim Crow south.
But this subtext isn’t addressed in any way. Hector is Latino. The prosecutor is black. Matt, the defense attorney, is white. The main issue is superheroes, not race. Race isn’t even an issue. It’s never mentioned. It’s the elephant in the living room. Luke Cage, a black man, was the superhero who took the lead in trying to convince Matt to take the case. But there’s no mention of racism.
This absence is made even more glaring by the fact racism is still a huge thing in modern America. This arc was published over a decade ago. We live in the world of Black Lives Matter, of Trayvon Martin, of Ferguson…it’s not gone. Given that the White Tiger is Latino, you would expect someone to at least MENTION it. The fact that the prosecutor is black seems almost like an attempt to de-racialize the story. But given that the story draws so heavily on American imagery of racism, given that racism is still a thing that happens, the prosecutor's racial background just raises more questions.
I remember back when I first read Bendis' Daredevil run as a teenager, I thought that Matt and Foggy had a significant power imbalance. I can see that. Matt is calling all the shots, and Foggy just gets caught in the undertow. When Matt asks if Foggy is breaking up with him, Foggy says, “I don’t think you’d let me.” I’m not sure quite what that means…how would Matt prevent him from leaving? But it is a power imbalance. Matt makes major decisions without consulting Foggy, and while Foggy is pissed about it and points it out to him, he doesn't seem to do anything that seems to have really made an actual difference.
Sexism in Bendis' run: Matt visits Luke and Jessica. Jessica is organizing Luke’s CDs, and Luke is irritatedly making it clear that he doesn’t want her to touch them. Then Matt in costume comes through the window. Jessica reams him out for not telling her, when she was his bodyguard, the he was DD. “Everyone knows,” she says. Daredevil says, “I’m Daredevil.” Jessica swears at him, and walks off. Luke says, “She’s pregnant,” and jokingly asks Matt if he can move in with him. Later, when Luke agrees to help Matt with something, Matt says, “I think you just want out of your house.” Luke acknowledges that this is a possibility.
I would like to think this is Bendis depicting sexism rather than endorsing it, but I get the feeling that this isn't the case.
So, first, we have Jessica and Luke arguing over CDs. I mean, yes, if I were in Luke’s place I’d react the same way. But everyone in my life would tell me I'm being unreasonable, and they would not be wrong. Ultimately Jessica is trying to help. Luke is being unreasonable. Unreasonable in a totally human and OK way, but still, unreasonable. If this is actually representative of their fights, well, I can tell you which one I would rather live with, and it ain’t Luke.
Then Jessica reams Matt out for having kept his identity a secret from her. Jessica has an actual grievance there. Now, yes, it’s complicated. Matt was going through crap, and it’s called a “secret identity” for a reason. But Jessica was putting her life on the line for him. Lots of people knew, so it wasn’t too much of a “secret”. Matt did not give her full information. He did not give her information that could have been the difference between life and death in a dangerous situation.
Now, yes, Jessica is ranty and not really open to a conversation. And, yeah, that puts Matt in a difficult position. But…Jessica has every right to be ranty. When you have a grievance, a legit grievance, it is not actually your responsibility to sit down calmly and explain to the person who wronged you exactly what they did and why it was bad. It might be useful to do that, in some circumstances (although there are plenty of circumstances where that actually makes the situation worse…), but it is not your obligation as the wronged party. I don’t want to get so caught up in defending Jessica that I blandify her personality. She’s a foul-mouthed hard-ass. There were plenty of ways that she could have reacted to Matt not telling her his identity besides the ones she did. But…so she’s a foul-mouthed hard-ass. She's still the wronged party.
Which leads us to Luke explaining this away as, “She’s pregnant.” So far, we have seen Luke be unreasonable and Jessica be ranty. And swearful. Male characters are often ranty (and, where censors allow, swearful) about justified grievances. Strangely, this rarely gets blamed on hormones. And then there’s the part where Luke doesn’t want to be in his house. Why, exactly? Because his girlfriend, OMG, touches his CDs?
Also, Luke saying that Jessica is pregnant dismisses her grievance. In theory, he could just be talking about her reaction to her grievance, but the fact that Luke’s only reaction to the scene is to tell Matt that Jessica is pregnant implies that her legit anger at Matt is entirely an irrational female thing.
I love Bendis run on Daredevil, and I love Alias. But some things I am not a fan of.