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Obnoxious Product Placement: Daredevil's Exploits Chronicled in the New York Post


Real-life tabloid replaces fictional Daily Bugle in superhero film.

When the script for Daredevil was first tendered by Mark Steven Johnson, who would also direct the movie, the suits at Marvel (MRVL) were said to be tickled. They thought it was moody, edgy and a surefire hit.

Well, yes and no. But it was a coup for a certain prized tabloid in Rupert Murdoch's extensive News Corporation (NWS) portfolio.

In the film, the real-life New York Post replaces the Marvel universe's well-known paper of record, the Daily Bugle. This makes a good deal of sense when you consider the movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox, the Hollywood arm of Murdoch's vast empire.

Not only does the paper occupy an enviable amount of screen time, it serves to advance the plot. Says reviewer Dennis Schwartz, "Whenever Daredevil wants to know what's happening in town, he has his wisecracking partner read aloud [from the New York Post] one of the articles."

Daredevil also throws its full support behind Heineken in less-than-subtle ways. Like all superhero movies, this one takes a requisite trip down memory lane so audiences can learn how their hero became, well, heroic.

obnoxious In the case of Matt Murdoch, Daredevil's attorney-at-law alter ego, it happened while growing up in New York's rough and tumble Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, where his father, a small-time boxer and part-time hood, could be a better role model if it weren't for his propensity to hit the bottle. A Heineken bottle, that is. His is a drinking problem rooted in a rich taste in pilsners.

When a grown up Matt Murdoch -- now blind, but with super-acute senses resulting from a run-in with toxic waste (obviously) -- attends some fancy Manhattan soiree, there are those little green bottles again. Who knew New York's elite had a taste for imported Dutch?

Whatever Heineken spent to be the film's go-to drink for blue bloods and drunks, the net effect is small potatoes compared with the Post's virtual stranglehold on salient messaging.

When the Post isn't being read, its best reporter is closely following our hero's exploits, showcasing not just his own journalistic integrity, but that of the paper he represents. He also coins in the movie the epithet long associated with Daredevil in the comic books: The man without fear.

In real life, New Yorkers know and love the Post for its headlines -- kitschy, clever and the best in the business -- and its famously smutty Page Six gossip section that never actually appears on the sixth page. In 2006, it handily beat its hometown rival, the Daily News, in sales; today, it's trailing by a thin margin of just over 7000. The trend for newspapers in general, however, is a downward one. Way more than it was when Daredevil spent 2 weeks at number 1 in 2003.

The fate of the entire newspaper industry, which has played a prominent role in comic book mythology from the beginning -- in Superman, in Spider-Man and, yes, in Daredevil -- is unknown. Ditto how comic books storylines might adapt when their protagonists lose their jobs to downsizing and the best place to read about a hero's escapades is on Perez Hilton.
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