TV | October 10, 2017 5:00 am

How Real-World Violence Affects Television Programming

'Marvel's The Punisher' is the latest show to change plans after mass shootings.

The Punisher has been building up to a secret release date for months now. It planned a huge promotional push around the New York Comic Con, but then, a few days after the nation witnessed the worst mass shooting in modern history, Marvel and Netflix canceled the NYCC event.

“We are stunned and saddened by this week’s senseless act in Las Vegas,” Netflix and Marvel said in a joint statement, according to Variety. “After careful consideration, Netflix and Marvel have decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for Marvel’s The Punisher to participate in New York Comic Con. Our thoughts continue to be with the victims and those affected by this tragedy.

The Punisher will be still be released. But Variety writes that in a world where mass shootings are getting worse, and the semiautomatic weapons that do much of the damage continue to be legal, entertainment struggles to depict violence without echoing the real world too closely.

The Punisher isn’t the first show to change plans based on mass shootings. Mr. Robot postponed its Season 1 finale because it was too similar to the murders of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television in Roanoke, Va. in 2015. USA pushed the sniper drama Shooter twice after mass shootings in Orland, Baton Rouge, La., and Dallas.

Mother Jones reports that the Las Vegas massacre was the seventh mass shooting so far in 2017. This is more than 2016 and equal to 2015.

But Variety questions whether or not moving a release date will do anything. “The violence isn’t going anywhere; it’s just moving farther into the future,” Variety writes. “It feels like putting a band-aid over a bullet wound, again and again and again.”

Variety writes that The Punisher engages with its subject matter in a smart and compassionate way, but there is no way around the violence. The main character, Frank Castle, is a lone wolf, who carries a lot of guns and has no issue with taking people’s lives. He is a human being with expertise in “a terrifying array of military-grade weaponry.” The guns in the movie resemble guns that has been used to “inflict real-world carnage,” writes Variety. 

Variety writes that there is increasing evidence of a correlation between violence in the media and the actions of mass shooters. So on the one hand, The Punisher symbolizes a culture of “near-meaningless violence.” But Variety has another idea. Maybe Frank Castle’s story has something to say about American violence that is more insightful than we’ve seen before.