VIDEO: CLIPS FROM MARVEL MOVIES We open on the Marvel Studios logo bumper, then cut to relevant clips of bad guys throughout the MCU. SEAN Who is the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (beat) I know... It's a loaded question, and to be honest, the options are pretty limited. But... Is it Loki? Baron Zemo? Ego the Living Planet? Iron Man kicks Thor through a tree (Avengers), then shots of Hulk's destruction in Africa (Age of Ultron). SEAN Or maybe... Tony Stark? Hulk? FADE TO WHITE VIDEO: DAREDEVIL Fade in on the snowstorm painting from Daredevil S01E03 -- OTS reveal of WILSON FISK. SEAN My vote? Wilson Fisk. Relevant clips from Fisk throughout the series. SEAN Fisk is not only the most well-developed villain Marvel Studios has ever put on screen, brought to life by one of the greatest performances of Vincent D'Onofrio's career, he's also -- for me -- the most believable. Fisk tosses Daredevil in to a wall (Middle of S01E13). SEAN No, no. Not because he can throw Daredevil around like a rag doll. (beat) But because Wilson Fisk is essentially a heightened version of a real life public official who, for nearly 45 years, destroyed and rebuilt huge sections of New York City to fit his own grand vision -- No matter how many people lost their homes and neighborhoods in the process. (beat) That man... Was Robert Moses. VIDEO: ROBERT MOSES We reveal Moses for the first time with the image Moses-Wiki.jpg. Then we show photos and images of NYC in the 1950s and 60s. SEAN Between 1924 and 1968, Moses was responsible for completely transforming the civic development landscape of New York. He built Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium (which caused the Dodgers to move to Los Angeles), the Central Park Zoo, 658 Playgrounds, 13 Bridges, a bunch of Swimming Pools, and more than two million acres of parks in the city and surrounding areas. (beat) And right about now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "I don't get it... I thought you said he was a bad guy!" SEAN Well... Yeah. I did. Because to do all that, he forced people from their homes and businesses, displacing them, so that he could make his development dreams a reality. (beat) Sound like anybody we know? VIDEO: DAREDEVIL Wilson Fisk and Vanessa stand at the window of a fancy restaurant, watching Hell's Kitchen explode and burn (S01E05). VIDEO: ROBERT MOSES SEAN Moses was called a "Master Builder" in New York City. Yet, he wasn't an engineer or an architect. We introduce Robert Caro and the book "The Power Broker" on screen. SEAN Instead, he was -- in the words of his biographer, Robert Caro -- a Power Broker. And his real talent was manipulating the political system. We see Wilson Fisk holding a press conference (S01E08). SEAN Does any of this seem familiar? Back to clips & images of Robert Moses. SEAN Moses was already a figure of Progressive politics in New York in the 1920s. And at the height of his powers, he held 12 unelected positions in government at the same time -- most of which he was quick to point out he held "without compensation". And it's true that, apart from his job as Parks Commissioner, he didn't collect a salary... But, he didn't have to. Robert Moses lived an extraordinarily wealthy lifestyle at the expense of tax-paying citizens while making his friends and supporters rich through lavish government contracts. Clips of Fisk at the fancy party where Vanessa gets poisoned (S01E10) and other shots featuring Fisk and Hell's Kitchen. SEAN Daredevil's Wilson Fisk is also a power broker. Over the course of the series, we learn that he started off poor, but his ruthlessness and intellect allowed him to become a wealthy Kingpin of crime. But his criminal empire is a means to an end. His real goal is the total redevelopment of Hell's Kitchen into something... better. Of course, "better" is defined as "Whatever Wilson Fisk wants", and he funds his development with government contracts with companies like Union Allied... Which he gets through political influence. Back to video & images of Moses and his projects. SEAN Just like Robert Moses. Now... Everybody likes a nice park or a shiny new building, and like I said, Moses built a lot of cool stuff... Like Madison Square Garden. Of course, he had to destroy the beautiful original Pennsylvania Station to do it. (beat) And that's the thing... Every bridge, highway, and apartment building Moses built used to be somebody else's home. Shots of Elena Cardenas (S01E05 & E06), the poor Hispanic woman who is being evicted from her home by Fisk -- and whose home is eventually blown up. SEAN Most likely somebody poor, and... Probably somebody from an ethnic minority. SEAN In Moses' own words: "When you operate in an overbuilt metropolis, you have to hack your way with a meat ax." Shots of Nobu (S01E09) or some other villain from Daredevil with axes or sharp objects. SEAN And man... His ax fell on a lot of people. We see photos of Robert Caro and Moses' highways. SEAN Robert Caro estimated that 170,000 people were pushed out of their homes -- mainly using Eminent Domain -- just so Moses could build highways. People were often given a couple hundred bucks and sent on their way, with no legal way to even challenge their situation. And that's not counting all the other developments, but prior to 1953, nobody kept any actual records and Moses actively refused to count the individual people his projects displaced, so the real number is considerably higher. Worse... Throughout his life, Moses explicitly targeted minority neighborhoods, which he considered to be "Ghettos". Photo of Prof. Langdon Winner. SEAN According to MIT Professor Langdon Winner's essay "Do Artifacts Have Politics?", Moses deliberately favored highways over public transit and even built his bridges with clearances too low to accommodate city buses. Winner argues that Moses did this intentionally. We see a photo of Robert Moses' Jones Beach public park, over which text, matching the voice over appears. SEAN Quote: "To limit access of racial minorities and low-income groups to Jones Beach, Moses' widely acclaimed public park." Photos of Harlem. SEAN Meanwhile, Moses also refused to build or maintain playgrounds in Harlem and vetoed the extension of rail lines to his parks from poorer parts of the city. Photos and video of NYC Projects. Perhaps also some shots from Marvel's Luke Cage. SEAN And as if that wasn't enough, the low-income people that Moses' projects displaced were often pushed into poorly built, large-scale apartment complexes -- now known in most cities as "the projects". This kind of public housing became a trend in urban development throughout the 20th century thanks to Moses, but far from helping the poor, the projects concentrated poverty (and often crime) into disconnected areas... Far from jobs, stores and public services. So.... To be clear... Clips of Robert Moses from: Prelinger-gov.archives.arc.95822_512kb.mp4 SEAN Robert Moses used his power in government to force poor and minority people out of their homes. Then he bulldozed their vibrant, functioning neighborhoods in order to build highways, swimming pools, and concert halls -- and also to enrich himself and his friends with taxpayer money -- while the people he displaced were pushed into towering monuments to poverty cut off from the rest of the city. And for most of his life, Moses was hailed as a hero of Progressive political activists and city planners across the country. Photo: Moses-03.jpg with quoted text overlayed. SEAN Oh... And, for what it's worth, Moses defended his actions by saying, "If the ends don't justify the means, then what does?" Daredevil S01E12 or 13 - ?? WILSON FISK [Parallel Scene where Fisk justifies his actions] Continue the shot from Wilson Fisk as narration proceeds. SEAN I dunno... Maybe there's something to be said for the idea that the "means" we use to shape society should actually start and end with individual rights -- to people's property and homes, to their voluntary choice of neighborhoods and communities, and of course, to their lives. We see the final confrontation between WILSON FISK and DAREDEVIL. DAREDEVIL [Something about their differences... "I'm like you... No you're not!"] Shots of Fisk and Matt Murdock/Daredevil throughout the series. SEAN Marvel's Daredevil provides us with a powerful character in Wilson Fisk. He's an incredible villain that drives the story and acts as a narrative counterpart to our hero. The difference between Daredevil and Fisk is not in their stated motivations. Both characters claim that they want to see a brighter future for Hell's Kitchen. No. The difference is in the means they are each willing to use to achieve those ends. Daredevil sees a better future coming from his friends and neighbors in Hell's Kitchen -- each individual playing a role in shaping their community based on his or her own values and decisions, and on their relationships with each other. It's a pluralistic vision that values each person and allows them the freedom to define their own future. By contrast, Fisk acts as a power-mad central planner with no concern for the thousands of individual lives he wipes away in service of his vision. Daredevil S01E05, Press Conference scene. WILSON FISK [Speech about how he wants the best for the city] Continue that scene over VO, cut eventually to more shots of Moses. SEAN Plenty of people like Wilson Fisk exist in real life. There are people everywhere who believe that any action can be justified in service of their goals. Like Robert Moses, they usually believe that their goals are noble and good. But without superheroes like Daredevil to stop them, it's up to all of us to recognize how damaging this kind of thinking can be and work to place limits on the scale and types of power anyone can have over anyone else. We conclude on shots of Foggy, Matt, and Karen at the bar in Hell's Kitchen, enjoying themselves and smiling. SEAN It's less glamorous than putting on a costume and fighting crime, but making sure that individual rights are protected against people with the force of government and the support of the political establishment on their side is both super, and heroic. VIDEO: END BUMPER SEAN Hey everybody, thanks for watching this episode of Out of Frame. If you have an idea for a video you'd like to see me make in the future, let me know what you think in the comments. And if you want to see more video essays like this, hit that subscribe button and check us out as @FEEonline on all the social media.

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About this show

Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

October 5, 2017

Wilson Fisk is one of the most terrifying villains in the Marvel universe. Good thing he's just fictional, right? Wrong! In this episode of Out of Frame, we explore the real-life Wilson Fisk, a central planner from America's not so distant past. Learn more about Robert Moses and his greatest nemesis, Jane Jacobs at FEE: https://fee.org/articles/jane-jacobs/ 


Written & Produced by Sean W. Malone
Edited by Jaye Davidson & Sean W. Malone