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Why Moon Knight Can Still Succeed Without the R-Rating

Moon Knight, R Rating
By Pierre Chanliau

Since Moon Knight was announced as a series on Disney+ over two years ago, some fans were skeptical of its inclusion on the streaming service. Specifically, due to Disney+ initially disallowing R-Rated content, thus restricting Moon Knight to a PG-13 rating and "neutering" the character.

Many believe that the upcoming series should be more in line with Daredevil, due to the violence Moon Knight has doled out in his comics. Some have even gone as far as to directly compare his acts of violence to mass murderer Frank Castle.

Although Disney's streaming service has recently allowed more mature content through its new parental controls, it's far too late for Moon Knight, which finished production long before this decision was made. On top of that, it was recently confirmed by head writer Jeremy Slater that the whole series would remain PG-13 and would still be "appropriate for all ages."

So, why is the show perfectly fine without such intense violence? And what exactly has convinced so many people online that Moon Knight needs to be so violent?

One horrible act of violence that the vigilante committed in the comics, once, and only once, has warped the perception of the character for over a decade—the one time Moon Knight cut a man's face off...

The One Time Moon Knight Cut A Man's Face Off

Moon Knight Bushman Face Cut Off Header
Marvel

The only reason most online users advocate for this upcoming series to be R-Rated is due to "Moon Knight" #2 (2006) by Charlie Huston, in which Marc Spector ends his fight with Bushman, his nemesis, by graphically cutting off the man's face.

Frustratingly, whenever this scene is brought up in discussions, it lacks the proper context for Spector's actions. In this story arc, "The Bottom," Marc Spector is at the bottom—at his absolute lowest. He got there precisely because of what he did to Bushman.

After Spector broke both his legs fighting the man and cut off his arch enemy's face, his allies abandoned him, and the love of his life, Marlene, left him. It's blatantly stated that the only reason Moon Knight even did what he did was to get into Khonshu's good graces again, who had seemingly deserted him.

Moon Knight Khonsu Comic Panel
"Moon Knight" (2006) — Issue #6

It's later revealed that Khonshu manipulated the entire encounter to sate his thirst for bloody vengeance and Spector to become more devoted to him. So, it's clear that Spector cutting off Bushman's face was him acting out of character.

When this was all revealed, Spector insisted that he wasn't like Khonshu, that he wasn't as bloodthirsty as him—that he was a hero. Of course, this is one of Spector's many ongoing conflicts as a character; his relationship with his god, his friends, allies, and, most importantly, himself.

Bushman Moon Knight The Bottom Comic Page
"Moon Knight" (2006) — Issue #6

This incident became so ingrained in the history and identity of the character that it caused almost every writer after Huston to make at least one cheeky and overt reference to it. Even in the newest relaunch of the character, writer Jed Mackay couldn't resist having the villain, 8-ball, pleading Moon Knight not to cut his face off.

Moon Knight 8-Ball Comic Panel
"Moon Knight" (2021) — Issue #1

So, it's funny that the same people who are chanting for Moon Knight to spill more blood sound like a disappointed Khonshu.

Khonshu Wants Marc Spector To Be R-Rated Too

Khonshu Pissed Moon Knight Header
Marvel

The same writer who had Moon Knight cut another man's face off also portrayed Khonshu as a truly vengeful god, berating Spector for not drenching the streets in the blood of the guilty. In fact, as a direct rebuke of what Spector had done to Bushman, when he was given a chance to do it again to another villain later in "The Bottom," Taskmaster, he spared him.

In response, Khonshu expressed his displeasure that his Fist of Vengence would pull some "namby-pamby crap" by leaving Taskmaster with his face intact. Khonshu even leans on the fourth wall berating Spector for letting himself "get dropped from the b-list to the d-list" as a superhero over the years.

Khonshu Displeased Comic Panel Moon Knight
"Moon Knight" (2006) — Issue #6

It's true that Moon Knight has never been a well-known character outside of niche circles of comic book fans and that his impact on the cultural zeitgeist has barely left a dent outside of being a meme online. So, to correct this, Khonshu now pushes for his avatar to become a proper Fist of Vengeance as a way to raise Moon Knight's prominence in the eyes of the public.

The irony is that it worked, as the one thing that Moon Knight did do in the comics, cut a man's face off, is seemingly the only thing he's remembered for doing, even when the story was framing it as something Moon Knight shouldn't and doesn't do.

To be clear, Spector does kill in the comics, but he doesn't go out of his way to kill criminals like Frank Castle either. Khonshu even unfavorably compared the two of them in "Vengeance of Moon Knight" #5, asking him, "...why can't you be more like [The Punisher]? I bet his god is well fed."

Moon Knight Khonshu Punisher Comic Panel
"Vengeance of Moon Knight" (2009) — Issue #5

In that same run, written by Gregg Hurwitz, Bushman was even revived from the dead by another supervillain, with Moon Knight given another chance to kill him. But, again, Spector, in direct defiance of his god, Khonshu, refuses and walks away to let the police arrest Bushman. 

For most of Moon Knight's existence, Khonshu has been more often than not an antagonistic force in Spector's life, which only became worse at the turn of the century. Berating the former mercenary for his lack of bloodlust, doubting his resolve because he refuses to kill at every opportunity, and even at one point completely abandons Spector for another avatar for a brief time.

So, fans of Moon Knight shouldn't act disappointed that Spector won't do anything as horrible as cutting another man's face off in the show. 

A Hero Not Defined Solely by Violence

Moon Knight Header Sky Comic Panel Header
Marvel

So, why exactly would Moon Knight need to be R-Rated? Throughout the character's history in the comics, he's rarely so consistently violent to the point of disfiguring bodies as he did to Bushman. It is well established now that what Spector did to his long-time foe was an exception that doesn't define Moon Knight as a character.

The most typical violence in Moon Knight comics would be small blood spatters from beating up bad guys or people being shot. However, there have certainly been times when a writer would push the amount of violence, like Charlie Huston, Mike Benson, Warren Ellis, and Max Bemis.

But, even in those comics, the blood and gore never felt like it was truly required for the story or character. The exceptions were Huston and Bemis, who used the intense violence to showcase the path Moon Knight shouldn't go down and the trauma that can come from witnessing such horrible violence.

Otherwise, outside those writers, the brutality present in the vigilante's comics is relatively minimal, especially in the comic series Moon Knight will reportedly draw most of its inspiration. Jeff Lemire's "Moon Knight" had barely any blood, minus one character bleeding from the neck, as it otherwise dealt exclusively with Spector's psychological state, history, and his continuously deteriorating relationship with Khonshu.

Moon Knight Marc Spector Child Comic Page
"Moon Knight" (2016) — Issue #10

Most of Moon Knight's best stories don't even revolve around any hardcore acts of violence but squarely on Spector as a person, his relationship with his friends, allies, and his god. So, fans looking forward to Moon Knight slitting the throats of criminals or cutting off faces should accept that it isn't really who the superhero is and not what Marvel Studios intends for the character.

Fans will see whether Moon Knight sates their bloodlust when it debuts on Disney+ on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.