With Daredevil: Born Again, a beloved character retakes his place in the MCU. Another Netflix-era character, the Punisher, deserves no such place.Following the announcement of Daredevil: Born Again many have wondered if other characters from the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be far behind. Fans clearly want to see heroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage again, and Disney+ would be smart to oblige. However, in rebuilding the more street-level world of the Defenders Saga, the MCU will be better off excluding one of its more controversial figures: the Punisher.
Actor Jon Bernthal brought a seething humanity to Frank Castle starting in Daredevil Season 2 and throughout two seasons of his own series, The Punisher. Without a doubt, Bernthal took what could have easily been a one-note revenge fantasy and imbued it with a genuine emotional core. Despite this, the fact remains that, whatever his motivations, Frank Castle is a character whose primary means of solving problems is shooting people. In a country where the threat of a real-life shooter feels ever-present, foregrounding such a character feels, at best, tone-deaf.
Compounding the issue of the Punisher’s modus operandi is the fact that many members of militant white supremacist groups have adopted the character’s skull symbol as their own. To be fair, Marvel has gone out of its way to make clear that neither they nor Frank Castle share any ideological ground with hate groups. Then again, if so many Alt-Right adherents see themselves in the Punisher, it may be time to consider the idea that the character is foundationally flawed.
Even if Marvel is able to extricate the Punisher from his unintentional far-Right associations, the character still perpetuates a dangerous myth: the good guy with a gun. Frank Castle wields a variety of lethal, high-powered firearms and explosives, but because he only uses them against bad guys, normal people needn’t worry about him or his arsenal. Leaving aside the moral implications of the terms “good guy” and “bad guy,” or whether anyone deserves to be shot, the idea that the streets would be at all safer as a result of Castle’s actions is patently absurd. Even trained individuals with good intentions often shoot the wrong people by mistake. The introduction of more guns — particularly as used by a rogue element with an ax to grind — to any situation only increases the level of danger.