'The Punisher' appeals to both sides of the political spectrum — just the way Jon Bernthal likes it

It’s rare to see a film or television show championed by both sides of political spectrum, but that is the case with Marvel’s The Punisher, which unspools its second season on Netflix today. Viewers on the left have found anti-Trumpian/anti-conservative messages in the series, particularly in the new season, which pokes fun at certain gun-toting Christian extremists, while viewers on the right have embraced the superhero series about a bullet-spraying vigilante as something of a gun-rights manifesto.

Even Jon Bernthal, who stars as the vengeance-seeking Frank Castle, has made statements that could endear himself to two sides of a divided nation. The Walking Dead alum has said he’s proud gun owner, and supports law enforcement and military personnel who have adapted the Punisher’s iconic skull logo (even though the character’s creator, Gerry Conway, has called the trend “disturbing”). What Bernthal is not cool with is the alt-right’s embrace of his character. “F–k them,” he has said bluntly.

“I never want art to preach or to dole out a political message,” Bernthal told Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the season premiere (watch above). “What I think art can do when it’s at it best is hold a mirror up to society and let people ask their own questions.”

Ben Barnes (Westworld), who plays the antagonist Jigsaw, agreed. “It purposely makes a concerted effort not to make any specific judgment on those kinds of issues,” he said.

“Essentially it’s trying not to necessarily throw answers at you, it’s for an audience to interpret,” said Amber Rose Revah, who plays Homeland Security Agent Dinah Madani.

What Bernthal wants — and in an ideal world what sociopolitical nerve-hitting programs like The Punisher would inspire — is civil discourse.

“Unfortunately right now we’re at a place politically in this country where to be steadfast about your views and to be completely unbending is somehow being confused with being patriotic or strong,” he said. “I think it’s really quite the opposite. I think there’s really nothing more American than being able to listen to somebody who has different views from you and being able to accept their views and to have an honest and open debate.

“I think if this show sparks any of that, awesome.”

The Punisher Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer:

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