There is a video making the rounds this morning. It is NWS and contains a disturbing rape scene along with some really brutal violence.
So now you know; it is a short film about The Punisher, a comic book character from Marvel who is all about eliminating crime in the most violent way. Tom Jane, who just wants his kids back, reprises his role as the man in the skull shirt. It is apparent through interviews and his personal projects that Jane never really got over the fact that he had his run as The Punisher and it didn’t turn out so well. He just wants to distribute justice! Or punishment!
I will be honest, as a super fan of The Punisher, I was really disappointed with the short film. The character, in most of its incarnations, works on two different levels. The first is of wish fulfillment, and it is best summed up by Garth Ennis in a Q+A a few years back:
Ennis talked about what it was like to write the Punisher. “Writing the Punisher, I usually try to keep my distance. His methods are grim, his ethos are reprehensible. His morality and mindset are not my own,” Ennis said. This was, of course, before Ennis started doing research for his human trafficking arc. “Reading about human trafficking, that was the first time in my life I found myself wishing there was such a thing as The Punisher. It was reprehensible. I wanted someone to kill all of them.”
And it makes a lot of sense for this to be the case. Superheroes are often about projection–I can’t fly, I can’t make the world better, but Superman can, so I root for him. The Punisher just flips that into the day-to-day, allowing us to project onto a character solving real-world problems in, sadly, real-world ways. This level of The Punisher gets embodied in the Ron Perlman character in the short film, which is a nice nod.
But it is the second level of The Punisher that most writers, and readers, don’t pick up on (or withdraw from.) The Punisher is a fucking psychopath. No one should want to be him. He isn’t someone to be loved an emulated. In fact, we should recoil, and that’s honestly how I feel about the short film. HE KICKS BONES OUT OF PEOPLE! And, of course, we are shown that the gangsters are the baddest of bad dudes. They were gonna kill that kid! They raped that woman! But that doesn’t give one guy the right to straight-up murder them, and I’m very wary of the love that ethic receives from fans of the character.
Along with that, there is the unfortunate racial implications of the entire thing. A white guy goes to a rough neighborhood and does his laundry while young black men literally rape and pillage in the streets. The white guy walks across the street and talks to Ron Perlman, who proceeds to call the black men “savages” and “animals.” Then the white guy takes “justice” in his own hands and murders the whole lot of them. I mean, come on, people.
Anyway, I like The Punisher as a character, and Garth Ennis’ The Punisher MAX, followed by Jason Aaron’s PunisherMAX, is the definitive take on the character. I suggest you check it out.