Marvel, Please Cast an Asian American Iron Fist

[UPDATE: Our friends at 18Million Rising have crafted a petition to get Marvel/Netflix to cast an Asian American Iron Fist.]

[UPDATE 2: I talk more about Marvel Studios considering an Asian American Iron Fist with Andrew Wheeler over at ComicsAlliance.]

Yes, I am proposing that a major comic book institution change the race of one of its popular characters as it transitions to a new form of media. In this case, I want Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American actor to play the lead in the upcoming Iron Fist show it is developing for Netflix. It seems logical enough to me, though as always, there are fans who are urging Marvel to resist changing his race.

Now, I know the topic of cross-racial casting has come up time and time again here at The Nerds of Color. And while there are a contingent of fans who don’t think such things matter — or worse, are vehemently opposed to such casting choices — I can’t help thinking that Iron Fist gives Marvel a chance to add even more diversity to its interconnected cinematic universe. Not to mention that this is a case where changing the race of the character has the potential to actually add layers of depth to the story of said character.

First, let’s get a couple of misconceptions out of the way. My call for an Asian American Iron Fist is not meant to displace Danny Rand from the story. It is, in fact, the opposite. In my mind, casting a young Asian American in the lead role does nothing to change his classic origin: He can still be the son of a wealthy businessman. He can still  accompany his family on an expedition to seek out K’un L’un. He can still train under Lei Kung, the Thunderer. He can still seek revenge against the man who killed his father. Danny being Asian American precludes none of these things.

What does change, however, in making Danny non-white is that it removes the white savior syndrome of the original story. In the comics, it turns out Danny is the most gifted student Lei Kung had ever trained. Because of course he is. For all the fans who might decry an Iron Fist racebend, do you really want yet another white-guy-is-better-at-being-Asian-than-the-Asians story? But if Danny is Asian American, the scenes of him embracing the ways of K’un-L’un can be viewed through the lens of cultural re-connection. In fact, I’d play up Danny’s rejection of his Asian heritage prior to venturing to China. I know as someone who similarly connected to my cultural heritage later in life, that story would be deeply resonant to me. And you know what would be really dope? If the writers also played up the actual Kunlun Mountains of Chinese mythology on the show.

It also helps that with essentially a Heroes for Hire show on the horizon, appearances by the Daughters of the Dragon, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, can’t be that far behind either. If that happens, it’ll be nice to see the romance between Rand and Knight played out on screen as an Asian male/black female relationship. There hasn’t been one of those on television since John Cho and Gabrielle Union played a married couple on the short-lived ABC show Fast Forward.

And who can’t get behind that?

There’s also the other argument that says making Iron Fist Asian American is unnecessary because we already have Shang Chi. Well, to that I say, white folk already have Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Wolverine, Daredevil… I mean, I can keep going.

Also, while Shang Chi is cool and everything, his inclusion in the  Marvel Cinematic Universe won’t increase the number of Asian Americans because Shang’s from China, after all. Plus, he doesn’t have superpowers. Or shoes.

Speaking of China, it seems that some folks think that cross-racialily casting Iron Fist is a crass pander to the ever-growing Chinese consumer base. My wanting Asian American representation in the Iron Fist character has nothing to do with the marketing demographics of a billion people on the other side of the world. (Also, I don’t think there’s any proof that the Chinese really care how Asian actors are portrayed in American movies anyway). Instead, I want the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reflect the demographics of the real world as much as possible. The Defenders shows on Netflix — with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones representing — is a step in the right direction. But I feel that diversity is all for naught if yet another blue-eyed blonde superhero takes center stage.

I mean, aren’t these guys enough?

146 thoughts on “Marvel, Please Cast an Asian American Iron Fist”

  1. Seems every now and then I hit a link coming back to this. And more and more I like this idea.

    I’m all for it.

    Despite whatever bullshit reverse racism others want to argue, the arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny when it comes to the larger work of whitewashing and racebending.

    Personally, given Iron Fist’s backstory, he was already whitewashed to begin with. Making him visibly Asian or even just not white would be a good correction of his character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. white washed please! Danny race is white not chinese not japanese not laotain not blah blah Gajinn and whites do live in asia and yet you deny them everything


      1. Who’s gonna make me? Pathetic little boy like you?

        Go back to your trailer park and have a nice little family with your cousin. And that the proper way of using “your”, trailer monkey.


      2. The last three comments you entered have begun by some variation of “HAHA” and the thesis of “you assume [things] about me”. In addition to your poor grammatical skills, my assumptions of your intelligence is being continually validated.

        To the comment, “you just make my day”. You’re welcome. Well, I do believe that even you – the mentally disabled, inbred, roadkill-eating closet homosexual – should not be deny a chance at happiness.


      3. White people do live in Asia. But I don’t understand your argument and what it adds to this discussion


      4. This thread has become toxic – on another point, when I heard that Chiwetel Ejiofor has been cast as “Venkat Kapoor” in Ridley Scotts “Martian”, my jaw did drop slightly – firstly his characters name is a mixture of North & South Indian (not improbable), but why get an obviously non-Asian actor to play a character who is obviously “Asian”, if names are ethnic and cultural markers ?

        Ejiofor is obviously a fine actor and very watchable, and after some thought I began to warm to the idea – firstly, there are a lot of Asians working at NASA, despite the fact that the nerdy Indian scientist type seems to have become another trope in recent Hollywood scifi films.

        He’s playing a character who could conceivably be from a part of India where people tend to have a darker skin tone, so visually that may work too – although that’s an issue which has resulted in lots of negative stereotypes in Indian films too.

        The question remains as to why didn’t they cast an Indian in the role – not enough good Indian actors ?…not enough good Indian actors in the U.S / U.K who are also “bankable” stars enough to draw audiences ?…possibly – despite the reach of Bollywood, no one outside India other than the diaspora really are familiar with many Indian actors – so it may be a purely commercial decision to cast a Non-Indian actor – and maybe Irrfan Khan, Hollywoods’ go-to Indian actor for all seasons (after Om Puri, for a while) was not available.

        Right now, despite my initial reservations, I’m intrigued to see how Ejiofor handles the role.

        How is this relevant to the thread ? – well, it shows that many of the decisions which drive casting are purely commercial, with some aspect of cultural narcissism in the mix i.e. “aren’t our actors wonderful & versatile !”

        On the face of it, it could be seen as another example of “Charlie-Chanism” – where a white actor was used to play an Asian character, and numerous other examples (incidentally, “Chandu The Magician”, an early prototype for Dr Strange etc was actually a Caucasian guy *pretending* to be Asian…go figure that one out :)) – the argument being that there were no comparably good Asian actors to play the role, forget that very often these crude pantomimes were often excruciatingly bad.

        I hope Ejiofor doesn’t end up being a bad impersonation of an Asian American NASA technician, but I think the role is in good hands – let’s hope so.


      5. So you’re saying you’re too poor to travel overseas (because foreigners are taking all the jobs) – ? – you have TV, and libraries if you want to know about foreign cultures, but what’s more worrying about some Americans (possibly the majority) is not that they are ignorant, but they don’t want to know and have zero curiosity about anything other than their own culture – which is scary.

        Blame your media / education system for creating such a blinkered outlook, and blame your government for creating situations which force people to become economic migrants and so supply the U.S (& many other Western nations) with a steady supply of foreign workers who aren’t “slaves” (to assuage your historic guilt) because they came voluntarily or because they would starve or die if they stayed in their own countries, to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do, before moaning that you are so poor that you can’t take a “holiday”.

        Always some pathetic excuse to bolster your argument.

        …& as for “colour-washing”, that’s precisely what has been going on for decades in Western comics & media, and that had nothing to do with being “politically correct” & everything to do with reinforcing the idea that foreigners don’t fit in & placating the fears of the majority.

        You know who is really at fault here ? – the comic producers themselves who just want to turn a buck by widening their base to appeal to other people and still flog their brands – are they coming up with unique characters which might appeal to ethnic minorities ?…no…because they just want to maximise profits and push their brands, which is an easier option and less costly to implement – so Asian Spiderman etc etc…


    2. When your pastor took your anal virginity, did he pay for your college? At least you’ll be a whore, rather than a sex-doll.

      Go eat the roadkill you found off the freeway.


    3. Knowing finer things in life takes a level of cognitive aptitude that you are not capable of achieving. This is why Pro-Choice is necessary, because your cousin-mommy should have aborted you.


      1. Not that I want to feed the troll, but by your own admission, the films have done well with a black Nick Fury. Nick Fury, while black in some comics now, was not originally a black character. Guess what? The world didn’t end when he was changed into a black character. Your precious Marvel continued to be the cash cow it always was, with fanboys tripping over themselves with how cool Nick Fury was. I’m pretty sure the same would happen with Iron Fist if he were asian. Now grow up and learn how to live in 2015, where there’s no room for your disgusting racism and terrible, and quite frankly, fucking stupid, opinions.

        (Also, there is this thing called bisexuality. Please learn how the world works before you try to have any more opinions. )


    1. I think it would be weird to Rand as Asian. Would you remove Misty Knight?? It would seem weird to have her with an Asian guy. Just leave it like it is. Misty Knight and an Asian guy would seem sooo forced.


      1. No thats why I cant understand the race change of Johnny Storm! colleen Wing is half japanese and more white looking so why not cast someone who looks that?


      2. the same reason it would be weird for a white guy to play LUKE CAGE! Nick Fury is now black even though decades decades he was WHITE


      3. I like this idea

        Why would it be weird to see Danny as Asian? Stated in the article above having him be Asian-American would not change any of his back story but could enhance his characters depth having him be caught between the country that he grew up in and his heritage that he never really understood and increase his popularity reaching out to other demographics. Also changing his race does not mean that you have to race change any other important supporting characters. Are black people not allowed to engage in relationships with Asian? then why is okay with a White person?

        The argument “…because making the martial arts superhero Asian isn’t stereotyping at all…” is not a valid one because those that are familiar with that character of Iron Fist would know that his characters powers are based on magic and mysitics, much like Dr. Strange. Black Widow and Hawkeye are soley martial art based characters (both of whom are white)


      4. Being PC is wrong? That’s quite a thing to say. I would like to know how being PC is wrong. Please explain this…


      5. “it is wrong because it takes away white roles for white actors.”

        I do not think it is hard to find roles for white actors. Just a question: how many Hollywood movies have been released in the past year with an Asian American as the headline actor? 5 years? 10 years? It’s just as prevalent in TV, comics and other visual media. Not to mention all the white washing of characters Hollywood has already done: Avatar the last airbender, dragonball, and the upcoming psylocke, and that is just comic characters.

        “when are we going to get more minority characters that everyone will like? How is being PC fair to the white characters? its a social evil to again give minority privielage to miniotires yet in other countries that isnt happening”

        I agree with you here about getting minority characters people like. Yes there have been some ie. Black Panther, John Conner Green Lantern, and Storm. But the majority of them have been relegated to side kick, never held their own title, or expierenced a great deal of backlash when they took over a mantle of existing character .

        On the same token you talk about minority privilege, but I dont think you see white charaters and actors already have a great deal of privilege already though it may not be know to them or you (I encourage look up the buzz feed video on privilage). Look at all the writers of these stories, movies and TV shows. I can tell you that the majority of them are white. Maybe more telling, look at the producers behind all this, I don’t know for sure but I would guess that none of them are Asian, Latino or Black. There isn’t a lot of opportunities for minorities unless they are doing remedial stuff behind the scenes and it’s even worse in the spotlight. So I would contest your “minority privilege” with the scope of white opportunity.


      6. Mr. Jung, your rebuttals seem to confuse me. On one hand you agree with me calling for more diversity but you do not strengthen your case by giving strong thought out arguments. Ang may not “look” or be frankly stated as asian but he does carry a lot of asian influence as well as the other characters in the Avatar story. Then you talk about Mortal Instruments? The author of said book says Magnus is Asian so what is the problem. In no way is that stating that all Chinese are Demons? I don’t know how you came to that conclusion. You continue with talking about Europe, Japan, and China, are you a white person in Asian? There are many opportunities of white people in Asia, some do not even require skills and are available based on their looks. As for your arguement about vacation time that is an economic thing grounded in capitalist imperialist history and laws. Minority people here in the US have the same issue not because there is a disposable easily replaced work force of minority folks.
        Again I agree there needs to be more dynamic marketable minority chacarters. Articles like this is an example of people DESIRING for more diversity. Ethnic bending is a small step to achieving that. A journey begins with small steps.

        Ps can you please spell check and proof read. Your responses are hard to follow.


      7. …taking white jobs from white people ?…isn’t that like saying all the jobs are going to foreigners ?…utter BS…racist BS – and what is a “white” job ?…so you’re saying that in this multifarious world of PC and multiculturalism, the last bastions left for “white” people are their heroes / invented gods, and that no one else should go there ? – meanwhile you guys mine the religions & mythologies & cultural idiosyncracies of other cultures for inspiration & pass it off as “original” & ring-fence it in ridiculous “copyright” laws ?…sorry, but that isn’t going to work for much longer – and it applies to anyone, not just to “white” people…


    2. You are just a sad, racist, little boy. How many times have they used a white guy to portray blacks and Asians (in blackface and whiteface) It is 2015 people, let go of your racism. Besides ONE character that goes from Asian to White is not gonna hurt your pride is it? I mean you have THOR, IRONMAN, HAWKEYE, DAREDEVIL, CAPTAIN AMERICA, SPIDERMAN, WOLVERINE, HULK, (lets get into DC now too) BATMAN, SUPERMAN, GREEN LANTERN etc.

      Pathetic…simply pathetic.

      I’m sick of all these white boy savior bullshit stories. No white boy has ever come into another land and “saved” the natives…..more like killed them off or subjugated them. History boy….read about it.

      It’s time for a new history and modern entertainment should reflect that…and if money is the most important thing….Hollywood is losing out with these same white-boy hero troups that the Asian-American market is sick of.


  2. I have given this a lot of thought and I disagree. I think making Iron Fist Asian just plays into a lot of American stereotypes of Asians because of course all Asians know Kung Fu and are mystical or some shit.It also would change some things about Danny in my mind because there would be some cultural changes in there that I’m not sure add any value to the character. I mean yes, the white people are better at being Asian than Asian thing sucks except that dude, Americans suck at being Asian. We absolutely fail so hard at giving up autonomy to further the group.

    I also think it would make it less believable that he dates Misty and is friends with Luke. Sorry, but that’s the truth. I suppose showing more of it in media might make it less unbelievable but yeah, No.

    It does suck that there aren’t that many positive Asian influences in the media but I’m not sure trying to change characters to another race doesn’t kind of partially erase the experience someone goes through as a minority because obviously an Asian Danny would have different experiences than a white Danny. (Typing Asian over and over is kind of annoying me like all Asians are under some kind of blanket. AUGH.) I’m assuming you mean Chinese here?

    That said, how about Moon Knight? I know he is Jewish so that might be less than ideal but he is badass and basically a less sane Batman. I want an Asian Batman dammit. He wouldn’t be stereotypical at all. An Asian dude with an Egyptian totem would be fantastic. It might pave the way to me getting a Batgirl!Cass movie. (I can die on this dream if I want.)

    I’m going to be honest too and say that Iron Fist is my second favorite Marvel character and if they make him Chinese, I’m not sure I’m going to want to watch it as much as I do. I want the character that I really love and I have a feeling this will be handled super fucking badly. I feel like a jerk about this but I adore Danny Rand and that’s who I want. That guy in the comics. I try to support this where ever I feel it works but I honestly don’t like this idea. I was 100% behind Stephen Strange being played by someone Hipanic or Semetic and we’re dumping the movie because of who they did cast but I’m really attached to Danny and I just want that dude.


  3. What a cool idea. Let’s make the Hand be Samoan or Philippino or Nazis, NOT!!!. Let’s make Iron Fist a blonde white dude like he is in the comics how is that for original. Try actually reading the origin.


  4. I really hope they don’t cast an Asian American. Iron Fist is my favorite hero and in this case the story HAS to be a “white guy is better at bieng asian” story because he is an outsider to kun lun that ends up becoming their hero


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