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What Claire Temple’s Absence Could Mean for THE PUNISHER TV Series

What Claire Temple’s Absence Could Mean for THE PUNISHER TV Series

In the Marvel Netflix universe, Rosario Dawson‘s Claire Temple has become something of a constant. No matter how many undead ninjas try to take over New York, Claire is always on hand to stitch up some flesh wounds or listen to a sad life story. But following a report from The Mary Sue that Claire Temple will not be gracing the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in The Punisher, it looks like Marvel‘s small-screen heroes may have to start fending for themselves.

What does the absence of everyone’s favorite badass nurse mean for Frank Castle and Marvel’s Netflix shows as a whole? At the most pragmatic level, it means that gathering so many busy actors in the same place at the same time is not easy; Dawson has said her absence from the show is due to scheduling conflicts rather than creative issues. “At the end of the day, it’s really hard to get all of those casts together…I really wanted to do a cameo on The Punisher, but it doesn’t always work that way,” she told Collider in a recent interview.

Rosario Dawson

However, it also means that unlike Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, the Punisher may not have the luxury of extracting emotional and physical labor from Claire to aid in his mission of violence, which is a good sign. While Claire’s courage has allowed her to facilitate the spread of justice (i.e. strong men beating up bad guys), she is never recognized as a hero or even as a sidekick–Foggy Nelson, for instance, gets more props than the woman who enabled Daredevil to not die from blood loss on multiple occasions. Claire is there to help and then fade into the background while the men do their important punching, and that’s not enough.

As a nurse played by an Afro-Latina actor, she’s a woman of color whose job is to nurture, a role she fulfills emotionally as well as physically. Her interactions with the male protagonists of Marvel’s Netflix offerings tend to center on providing a target for these men to prove they have feelings, which they can then apply to more suitable candidates. And it’s hard not to notice how Claire is brutalized during that process in a way that white female characters aren’t; as Clara Mae at Women Write About Comics notes, the Daredevil showrunners seemed to love displaying the marks of beatings and assault on Claire’s body while shielding Karen Page from almost all physical harm. “Four episodes into season one, Claire is…punched until bloody, choked, dragged, and nearly struck with a baseball bat,” Clara Mae writes, also pointing out that “[a]fter the beating, Matt patches Claire up and they share their first kiss. What Karen receives so easily, so sweetly in season two, Claire needs to be bodily assaulted and brought down for.” If Claire isn’t in the Punisher TV series, we might finally catch a break from watching the Netflix MCU’s premier woman of color having to soak up all that violence.

Not that the women of The Punisher will necessarily be free from the burden of propping up the men around them with emotional labor. Karen Page is listed as a recurring character on the show, so we can expect a lot of light-in-the-darkness dialogues with Frank where she tries to help him see that there’s more to life than Punishing. We’re also getting Sarah Lieberman, wife of the Punisher’s assistant Micro, as a regular character who–if my Trope Bingo card is up to date–will likely be very concerned for most of Season 1 before the villain kills her to get to the Punisher somehow.

Punisher-03192016

I mean, look how manly he is. What villain wouldn’t want to fridge an innocent woman to get to him?

On the flip side, though, there’s the character Dinah Madani, to be played by Amber Rose Revah, and described in casting news as “a highly-trained sophisticated Homeland Security agent who is vexed by the Punisher.” Based on that one-line bio, it’s likely that Dinah is a revamped version of Kathryn O’Brien from Punisher MAX, an ex-CIA agent who works with the Punisher and is almost as deadened by her past as Frank is by his. O’Brien isn’t there to make him feel better; she’s there to convince him to help her take down bad guys. If Dinah is O’Brien 2.0, she could be the anti-Claire Temple: a woman of color (Revah is half Kenyan-Indian and half Polish) who’s less interested in supporting manly violence feelings or protecting aggressive masculinity, and more interested in fulfilling her own mission.

Let’s hope The Punisher follows through on this directional shift. Women deserve personhood in the Netflix MCU, even–or rather, especially–in a show about an angry Caucasian man who owns lots of guns. Taking female roles beyond the limits of emotional labor/violence target and placing them in a context where they can flourish is instrumental to creative success. And without the tropes embodied by Claire Temple to fall back on, The Punisher might have to let its women pursue their own goals and operate on their own agency. You know, like people.

What do you think about Claire Temple’s absence from The Punisher? How could Marvel’s Netflix shows improve her character, and what would you like to see her do in future TV series? Tell us in the comments!

 

Images: Marvel/Netflix; Giphy; Flickr/Gage Skidmore

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