The Punisher is a popular character, but sometimes that can be a little uncomfortable, as people can be fans for Marvel’s violent, gun-toting anti-hero for all the wrong reasons. White nationalists and neo-Nazis have embraced the Punisher’s skull logo, and a few were seen wearing the logo at the fatal white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year. What does the Punisher himself think of his white nationalist friends?
“Fuck them,” actor Jon Bernthal told Esquire when asked about the alt-right’s embrace of the skull logo.
Bernthal, who played the Punisher in the Netflix series and in Daredevil’s sophomore season, is hardly alone in hating some of the character’s worst fans. The Punisher’s original creator, comics writer Gerry Conway, also detests Nazis and neo-Nazis of all sorts.
“They’re despicable human beings, and Frank Castle would have all of them in his crosshairs,” Conway told Inverse last year. “The fact that white nationalists and Nazis embrace it is a tragic misunderstanding. It’s a misappropriation of the character and a blatant disregarding of reality.”
“They literally do not know what they are fucking talking about,” he continued.
It’s pretty easy to tell white supremacists to fuck off, but it becomes a little more complicated with some other groups which have embraced the skull logo, like certain police and military organizations. There should be something unsettling about public servants identifying with a violent vigilante.
For his part, Bernthal told Esquire that he was “honored to play a guy who people putting their life on the line identify with,” which is both a fair answer and also a bit of a dodge.
Inverse also asked Conway about the proliferation of the skull logo in the police and army. While people like “American Sniper” Chris Kyle appropriated the logo because, in his view, the Punisher was cool and “righted wrongs,” Conway thinks that’s bogus. At it’s core, he said, wearing the skull should come with a “fundamental understanding that this is not a good guy.”
“People can tell themselves anything,” Conway told Inverse. “I could have a bat symbol and tell people I’m celebrating nightvision. It’s a defense people throw up when they don’t want to be associated with the actual meaning of the symbol.”
Bernthal’s Esquire interview also addressed the role that guns and gun culture play in The Punisher, a pertinent topic since Netflix delayed the show’s premiere in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting in October. Bernthal admitted that he has his concerns about the way the show handles gun violence, but he never wants to sound like he’s “glorifying the violence.”
“I’m a gun owner. I have a gun in my house to keep my family safe. I’m trained in that gun’s use. I know how to keep it away from my kids, and I know how to use it if I need to,” he said. “Should there be a way that a guy with mental issues like the asshole in Texas can’t get guns? Absolutely. We have to have a dialogue, and that’s not happening.”