On Thursday, Marvel Entertainment announced that Game of Thrones alum Finn Jones will star as Iron Fist, aka Danny Rand, in the upcoming Netflix/Marvel series Iron Fist. Created in the 1970s in the wake of the Kung Fu craze, Danny Rand is a rich young man who is orphaned as a child when his father and mother are killed in an avalanche while the family was looking for the mystical city of K’un-Lun in the Himalayas. Taken in by the city and trained in martial arts, Danny earns the right (after beating a dragon, long story) to be the chi powered warrior Iron Fist.
Now, ever since the show was announced, there has been a campaign to have the role played by an Asian American. This has been a matter of debate in the Asian American comic geek community, with at least one prominent member disagreeing with the campaign. On the other hand, Marvel writer Marjorie Liu tweeted at the time:
Let me be blunt: I won’t watch Iron Fist if they cast a white dude. I can’t do it anymore. I’ve reached my limit. Peace out. #AAIronFist
— Marjorie Liu (@marjoriemliu) December 11, 2015
As of Thursday night, Twitter exploded with tweets about Iron Fist, as two camps swiftly formed.
Tomorrow, Iron Fist will be old news and you'll forget it. But you will have heroes on TV who look like you. And my 8-year-old nephew won't.
— loudlysilent (@loudlysilent) February 26, 2016
Iron Fist will be played by the whitest white dude. This was casting inevitable. Why did even I let myself believe otherwise?
— Angry Asian Man (@angryasianman) February 25, 2016
Iron Fist is an orientalist-white-man-yellow-fever narrative. Asian actor would have helped subvert that offensive trope, and reclaim space.
— Marjorie Liu (@marjoriemliu) February 25, 2016
'Gods of Egypt' is an example of whitewashing.
Iron Fist, a character who is Caucasian in the comics, is not.
— Prodigy (@maskedProdigy) February 26, 2016
The funny part about people being mad at Iron Fist is that you idiots all mis-stereotyped him as Asian.
Who's the racist now?
— WHMSordraige (@DragonierZapp) February 26, 2016
One camp believed that an Asian American should have been cast no matter what, to emphasis diversity, to make Danny more of an outsider, and correct a long (and we mean LONG) troubling aspect of “white savior” in the character. The other camp is perfectly fine with the casting, and is equally voracious in its opinion. I myself am of the latter persuasion. While I am sympathetic to the reasons of the former camp (with one major criticism, more on that in a bit), I have to go with the latter based on an important thing: two recent runs of Iron Fist comics. These are namely The Immortal Iron Fist and Iron Fist: The Living Weapon.
Beginning in IIF, and expanded upon in IF:TLW. we can see Danny Rand is not a white savior type or destined to be the best fighter in K’un-Lun. He goes from the ultimate pinnacle of privilege (white rich kid) to being an orphan. Because he’s an orphan, not to mention an “outsider” and white, he is looked down upon by K’un-Lun society, which is not only incredibly xenophobic, but sexist (which is covered in IIF) and big believers in survival of the fittest. Danny is also not the best student when he begins his training, he literally becomes the best in order to survive K’un-Lun society. And even after becoming Iron Fist, many of the city still look down on him and don’t trust him. One of his major villains thinks he’s unworthy of the role because he’s an “outsider”, and not is afraid to make that opinion heard. This subverts the “white savior” idea, and shows Danny has to seriously earn the title and is not some “white savior” archetype.
Not only that, IIF introduced a series of past Iron Fists of numerous backgrounds, and even of both genders.
So why the hell are people insisting that he should be Asian? In my opinion, demanding that Iron Fist should be Asian, even if it is to correct a long lasting lack of Asian American heroes, etc, is FAR more offensive. Why? Because people are literally demanding that our hero be a racial stereotype, in a most ironic demand from people who claim to be progressive. Speaking AS a progressive, demanding a racial stereotype in the name of diversity is in itself prejudiced and biased.
At the end of the day, this will likely not stop or reverse Jones from being Iron Fist. Personally, we should be lobbying someone to play his Asian counterpart Shang Chi and have them appear in the show alongside Danny. Also, the show should attempt to show Danny’s struggles in his training as well as his being an outsider in K’un-Lun society. That would be more productive than bowing to Twitter outrage.
As for the people freaking out…well, we can’t really stop them; so let them burn themselves out before we move on to the latest thing in comics to set off an uproar. That should arrive a lot sooner than we think.
The above commentary is the opinion of Daniel Kalban alone and does not represent the opinion of Word of the Nerd as a whole.