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The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal condemns alt-right’s co-opting of character’s imagery

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Demands more conversation around gun control

Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle/The Punisher in Marvel’s The Punisher (2017), Netflix. Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

Actor Jon Bernthal is condemning the use of Punisher imagery by alt-right and hate groups following white nationalist rallies around the country.

Bernthal spoke to Esquire about the co-opting of the Punisher’s symbol by members of the alt-right, a radical movement that propagates racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and various other hateful ideologies, and white nationalist groups during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this past summer. That same rally left multiple people injured and one person dead. Bernthal, not the first person from The Punisher team to discuss the topic, said while he was honored and proud to play a character whose imagery is appearing on the helmets of soldiers fighting in Iraq, he had one sentiment for those who used the same symbology to promote a derogatory, dangerous, degrading ideology.

“Fuck them,” Bernthal told Esquire.

Bernthal is aware of how controversial the Punisher can be. Following a mass shooting tragedy in Las Vegas last year, Marvel and Netflix cancelled a panel for The Punisher at New York Comic Con, saying they didn’t want to disrespect the hundreds of people injured and more than 50 killed at the hands of a gunman. Bernthal hasn’t been quiet about his views on guns and gun control laws in the United States. He reiterated to Esquire there needs to be more conversations about mass shootings, mental illness and gun control laws throughout the country, at every government level.

“Should there be a way that a guy with mental issues like the asshole in Texas can’t get guns? Absolutely,” Bernthal said. “We have to have a dialogue, and that’s not happening.”

Prior to The Punisher being released, critics called out Netflix and Marvel for releasing a series that seemed to glorify gun violence and vigilantism. The series was met with mixed reviews following its debut on Netflix, and many were divided on how sensitivity toward gun violence concerns in America were handled.

During New York Comic Con, Polygon spoke to former Daredevil showrunner Steven S. Deknight about the use of violence in Marvel TV series, especially in the wake of a massive tragedy. DeKnight said violence is acceptable, as long as there’s a reason.

Daredevil is a perfect example,” DeKnight said. “We have a main character who doesn’t use guns. He refuses to and he has a very strict code on it, which is interesting to explore. You always have to balance the art and what the story requires, knowing what’s needed to help explain what’s going on. “It’s something that we all think about, absolutely.”

The Punisher’s first season is streaming on Netflix now.