Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page Brings Girl Power To “The Punisher”

by Bri Kane


The Marvel Universe is ever-expanding, but Netflix’s newest addition, The Punisher, is set to blow fans away. Viewers will be happy to recognize Deborah Ann Woll’s character, Karen Page, from Daredevil – in both shows she is in the position to be the trope “girl in the refrigerator,” but instead is the boss chick we all wish to be. The Punisher follows Frank Castle, another character introduced in Daredevil, who stomps through NYC avenging his wife and children’s death, all while being presumed dead. The “girl in the refrigerator” trope comes from comic OG The Green Lantern, in which his girlfriend is literally trapped inside of, and dies in, a refrigerator – which in turn is Green Lantern’s catalyst for all future adventures. The concept of a murdered wife/girlfriend/lover being the catalyst for a man’s journey is nothing new, to comics or any other form of storytelling, but The Punisher aims higher. Karen is Frank’s friend and confidant, but more importantly, he couldn’t do it without her. Woll told BUST that although “[they] established a pretty strong bond between Frank and Karen, in Daredevil season 2” their relationship isn’t romantic, but just “a really nice, natural, organic way to carry that through” into The Punisher. Deborah Ann Woll is so much more than a sidekick-chick, so of course, she plays characters like Karen as a badass babe.

Karen Page is known for being the moral sounding board for the men in her life and that certainly hasn’t changed. Woll explained to BUST that although, “Frank can be a good person who does questionable things… Karen is a unique kind of person to be able to see that” and call him out on it. Karen debates the moral issues around her and her friends’ actions throughout Daredevil and The Punisher, as she’s surrounded by anti-heroes wandering the gray area of morality. Woll defends Karen’s right to be morally questioning while still having agency over her own decisions – just because Karen helps men she may or may not agree with on everything, and may or may not get in some trouble because of it, doesn’t mean she isn’t in control of her own decisions.

“On my second season of Daredevil, I was talking with one of our writers and he said, ‘Wow, Karen keeps getting in trouble’ and I stopped him and corrected him. I said, ‘No, Karen is trouble.’” Can’t you just hear the mic drop? She goes on to explain that, “it’s a big distinction. If you’re getting kidnapped because the bad guy knows that the good guy is in love with you, then you’re a plot device. But if you actively go searching for the bad guy, kill his right-hand-man and that’s what makes him come after you, now you have agency in the story.” Woll’s character Karen definitely seeks out as much trouble as is thrust upon her; there is no doubt she has complete agency. Woll elaborates “that’s the kind of scary you want to be” when it comes to being a frightening woman.

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In The Punisher, Woll’s Karen continues to beat the bad guys at their own game, and leave the good guys wondering how she can do it all. Woll told BUST she likes, “that Karen has to be smarter than the villains and faster and care more about the truth than they do in order to beat them.” She may not have super strength or an arsenal of weapons, but she is a vital member of Team Good Guys. Deborah Ann Woll is explicit in that Karen ambushes the Marvel universe with girl power, in lots of forms: “I can be strong without having to take on a traditionally male aspect of strength. Karen’s strength lies in her empathy, in her curiosity, and her fearlessness.” Yep, anyone that casually meets up with a literal serial killer who is on the run, to give him info about another serial killer is absolutely fearless.

Woll may not have grown up a comic book nerd, but little nerds at home are definitely watching her character’s development closely. “Throwing a punch isn’t the only way to be strong,” Woll tells BUST, further showing audiences that Karen Page, and Deborah Ann Woll, are anything but stuck in the refrigerator.


Header photo via Netflix.


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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