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Netflix's 'Daredevil' wrestles with faith amid rise of atheist TV characters


April 22, 2015

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In its series revival of Marvel comics' "Daredevil," Netflix hasn't only chosen to make hero Matt Murdoch conflicted about the moral future of his community, but also a man of faith.

The new series, which debuted on Netflix this month, is heavily influenced by Murdoch's Catholicism, which became a mainstay of the Murdoch character with Frank Miller's 1980s reimagning of the franchise, the "Man Without Fear" series.

For all Murdoch's sins (Netflix's "Daredevil" stops shy of killing but, like most comic heroes, frequently resorts to violence), keeping his faith from the Miller reboot runs contrary to a renewed run of atheist TV characters, as Religion News Service's Chris Stedman reported last year.

Popular series like "House of Cards," "True Detective," "Community" and "Glee" have all showcased key characters' atheism, Stedman pointed out.

Netflix's Murdoch may be a bit of a return to a time when many characters in pop culture were religious and spiritual. Agent Dana Scully of "The X-Files" famously balanced her role as a scientist with strong Christianity. Other characters with strong faith included Lane Kim of "Gilmore Girls," Eric and Tami Taylor from "Friday Night Lights" and past faith-based shows like "7th Heaven."

Slate's Charles Moss argues Murdoch is a richer character for the inclusion of his faith. Maybe more shows will put faith front and center in the future.

"(Murdoch's) guilt over the terrible things he does to bring justice to Hell’s Kitchen may not make him the perfect Catholic, but they do make his faith an ever greater superpower than his heightened senses," Moss wrote.

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