‘The Punisher’ is Strangely Appealing to Both Progressives and the Alt-Right
Could The Punisher be the antihero America needs?
Films and TV shows these days are rarely championed by both sides of the political spectrum, but the exception may be Marvel’s “The Punisher”, with its second season premiering on Netflix on January 18.
Based on the popular long-running Marvel comic book of the same name, the series centers on a vigilante who fights the criminal underworld and exacts revenge on those responsible for the death of his family.
Jon Bernthal, who stars as the titular character also known as Frank Castle, spoke with Yahoo Entertainment before the new premiere.
“I never want art to preach or to dole out a political message,” said Bernthal. “What I think art can do when it’s at it best is hold a mirror up to society and let people ask their own questions.”
Viewers on the left have found anti-Trump/anti-conservative messages in the series, particularly in the new season, which pokes fun at certain gun-toting Christian extremists—while viewers on the right have embraced the superhero series about a bullet-spraying vigilante as something of a gun-rights manifesto.
Bernthal himself has made statements that could endear himself to both these sides in our divided nation. “The Walking Dead” alum has said he’s a proud gun owner and supports law enforcement and military personnel who have even adopted the Punisher’s iconic skull logo (although the character’s creator, Gerry Conway, has called the trend “disturbing”).
What Bernthal is not cool with is the alt-right’s embrace of his character. “F–k them,” he has said bluntly.
Ben Barnes (“Westworld”), who plays the antagonist Jigsaw, agreed. “It purposely makes a concerted effort not to make any specific judgment on those kinds of issues,” he said.
“Essentially it’s trying not to necessarily throw answers at you, it’s for an audience to interpret,” said Amber Rose Revah, who plays Homeland Security Agent Dinah Madani.
Bernthal championed the necessity for civil discourse no matter what your beliefs.
“Unfortunately right now we’re at a place politically in this country where to be steadfast about your views and to be completely unbending is somehow being confused with being patriotic or strong,” he said. “I think it’s really quite the opposite. I think there’s really nothing more American than being able to listen to somebody who has different views from you and being able to accept their views and to have an honest and open debate. I think if this show sparks any of that, awesome.”
Although the series is only an escapist fantasy based on a comic book, like all art it’s possible to have universal themes that unite people as a whole—to even realize that they aren’t so different from one other. In our divided times, the need for this outlet could be even greater.