[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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203 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. 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.

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    2. 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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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  5. There are no Marvel superhero shows with Mexican or Indian main characters but you don’t see Mexicans or Indians complaining. Most people are arguing that it’s just going to be another white person is better at being Asian than Asians show, but that’s technically wrong.
    None of the characters are actually from Asia, and a lot of people don’t get that. They are all from K’un Lun.

    Marvel can’t fix this by adding another Asian character. Instead, I think they should change the character’s races so that they are not all Asian. At first, that seems like a stupid idea but really that makes the show less stereotypical and allows for much more diversity in the cast.

    Now before you attack me with “WOW YOU’RE SO RACIST TOWARDS ASIANS”, actually think about what I just said. Also it might be worth mentioning that I myself am Taiwanese. I sure as hell don’t want a show that portrays all of their Asians as bland kung fu fighters, because I’ve seen that shit happening so many times in movies and it’s so annoying.

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  6. So either you engage stereotypes for portraying an Asian man as a martial artist, or you get backlash for keeping the main character white. Can’t win for losing, huh?

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  7. For the role of Danny Rand aka Iron Fist, Marvel and Buck would be lucky to get real life martial arts master and Texan celebrity Liam Stone. He recently finished filming a martial arts Hollywood feature Bruce The Challenge playing real life American Kempo Karate Master Dave Gonzales. He is an all Amerian Cowboy and has a Eurasian appearance. PRivate Production Channel has a lot of film on him at http://www.youtube.com/LovinglyStonedProd He looks cool with a shaved head bald right now and is rumored to have such me military affiliation. He is also a member of the Shaolin .

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