Now, we turn the Netflix Daredevil eye onto Ben Urich.
I’m going to say something terrible. So terrible, I don’t want to say it out loud, although I have to.
As soon as I saw that Ben Urich was black, I knew he wasn’t going to make it out alive.
If that spoils it for some of you, tough. You’ll live. Ben Urich won’t. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe has lost its most well-known reporter, and Daredevil one of his closest allies.
Really, this is the only thing I call “bullshit” on. Not because Ben was black. He’s a secondary character, and as such, changing his race doesn’t really change much of the mythos of the main character he’s tied to. I call “bullshit” because he had to die. I saw it coming as soon as I saw Vondie Curtis-Hall on screen. Dead Man Walkin’.
How did I know? I’m a child of the 80s and a lover of cinema. I’ve watched a lot of television. And I’m black.
In the 80s, on television, the white guys were always the heroes, and the black guys were either always the villains or they were gay. In the movies, they were either gay, or they were dead. Not much has changed in the intervening years. Watch any horror movie, and if there’s a black person in there, 9 times out of 10, they’re dead. It’s gotten a little better on television. We’re not gay much anymore. (Not much. Lilyhammer, a Netflix original, featured a couple gay black characters for a couple of different episodes, and Emily Owens, MD had a black lesbian on it. So it still happens, just not as much.) However, seeing such a good and solid character as Ben Urich dying really hurt. It would have been great seeing a black, non-powered character getting some love.
So I enjoyed Ben while he lasted. And Ben did what he was supposed to do: he found a story, and he dug. He was then brought the same story, and he dug some more. (He was brought the story by Karen Page, who again, had only one purpose: to drive the plot.) He wouldn’t give it up.
Ben’s job in the series was to help put pressure on Wilson Fisk by investigating what was going on. This is something he did admirably, finding connections and putting them together. When he’s brought more information from Karen, he makes the connection to Wilson Fisk, and his doom is assured.
Ben has a small subplot. His wife has Alzheimer’s, and it’s deep in its progression. He’s trying to find a place for her to live that he can also afford. He’s then taken to a retirement home by Karen (who’s driving the plot again), and finds Wilson Fisk’s mother, who also has Alzheimer’s. She remembers enough of the meeting to tell her loving son, who then decides to pay a visit to Ben.
This does not end well.
To my mind, this is the only scar on both the Daredevil series as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Personally, I would have loved to see the impact of Ben Urich on the MCU. I think his killing was a waste, because he could have done so much good. As much good as he’s done in the comics. And if Vondie Curtis-Hall didn’t want to sign a contract to play the character longer than the single season, then there are other actors out there who would do just as nicely. Joe Morton would have done extremely well. (He may have been my first choice, actually.) Joe Morton, unleashed on the MCU? That would have been a sight to behold. And it wouldn’t have done much to his Scandal schedule.
Killing Ben Urich, white or black, is short sighted at best. Killing a black Ben Urich is criminal, because it seemed like his race was changed just to kill him. Why criminal? Because it goes unremarked. It is unthinkable that a well-known black character is changed to white and then killed. That would cause a discussion, at the very least. There’s no discussion about Ben Urich’s death, just a couple of short ones about his race change.
His killing has lessened the MCU. It will be felt.