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?

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

  1. You know Asians, don’t actually call themselves “Asian” right? Nice try, But learn the proper racial terms first lol

    1. Body-wise, about the only white actor who could even come close to playing Luke Cage as Mike Colter plays him on A/K/A Jessica Jones is Chris Evans and he’s already taken as CAPTAIN AMERICA, plus he’s gonna stop acting in favor of directing, writing and producing after CA:Civil Wars ends.

  2. Hahahahaha this is all marvel’s fault they pandered to this crazy people for to long, now ironfist a white character needs to be diverse, i wouldn’t really care if they cast an asian for this, or a Poc, but ffs, seems like the SJW’s do care if they cast a white guy, which really make’s me want a white guy for this, so that they get angry towards marvel and hopefully makes them abandon the company and then marvel will realize the mistake they made by throwing away their fans and making your stupid bs agenda a priority.

    Sounds to good to be truth but we Mexicans love doing that, sorry i had to specify my origins these people think it like a badge of honor to be unprivileged so they can’t tell me to fuck off.

  3. Cristian: Hahahahaha this is all marvel’s fault they pandered to this crazy people for to long,

    ….Calling some people an ableist slur for wanting equal amount of representation in the media. Real mature there, Cristian.

  4. Captain America: Iron Fist aint a ch***.

    ….Seriously? seriously went there?

  5. But he was never fully Asian.. He was Asian/Irish…
    I’m against that as much as i am against them turning White Characters Black. And I’m Black. Thats like them making Jonny Storm Black.. No.. Or they made the Mandarin Arabic? And then took away his rings.. Respect the character There are Black and Asian super heroes that Comic companies have had for years but refuse to use. I dont understand why they wont do that….

  6. This is a really great idea! It’s a shame it looks like it’s not going to happen. It’s always nice for kids to have a superhero they can relate to. (Yes, I know kids aren’t supposed to watch these Netflix shows, but let’s face it, they all do anyway.)

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