Releasing on Netflix November 17, Marvel’s newest show is about a “brutal, assault rifle-toting” anti-hero Frank Castle and his violent mission to fight crime. Unlike most Marvel heroes, the Punisher is known for his incredible arsenal of firearms.
The Punisher was originally scheduled to release in October, but Netflix and Marvel delayed the premiere and felt it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to hype the show in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. But they’re still releasing it. “For an industry that excels at selling spectacular depictions of violence — especially with guns — does moving off a release date really mean anything?” And what about us, the passive consumers? If our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of violence, yet our time and money are spent consuming it, are we not also complicit in our culture’s continual devaluing of human life? The Punisher may not look like the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, or Colorado killers, but “mass shooters style themselves to be men like the Punisher”, doling out their own version of vigilante justice. Scarier still, teens not only identify with their favorite anti-heroes, studies show they also mimic them in real life. Research proves that elevated exposure to violence increases one’s tolerance of violence, meaning, the more media violence teens are exposed to, the more normal it appears in real life.
And maybe that’s the real problem, we’ve just become so inured to it. We’ve welcomed it into our homes through TV and movies, and wonder why it breaks out in our churches and schools. If your son watches The Punisher, ask him how the violence is portrayed. Did they make it exciting and glamorous? Was violence linked with masculinity or “being a man”? Did the show make violence the only solution for eliminating evil, and why is that important?
If “every act of violence brings us closer to death” may we as parents and teachers create life-giving environments in our homes and classrooms that provide an alternative to the cultural presumption that violence is always necessary and inevitable.