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?
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124 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


    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. 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)


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