Right now is a good time to be a superhero on television. Supergirl on CBS just premiered to the biggest numbers of the fall season, ABC is moving forward with an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff, and Jessica Jones is primed to be Netflix’s next superhero du jour. Speaking of Netflix, the streaming service, its partnership with Marvel promised us individual series starring four heroes — the aforementioned Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Of those four, though, only Iron Fist remains in development hell. Mainly because no one has cracked the story yet.
Fortunately, with the help of MC Nedelsky and MCU Exchange, we think we’ve figured it out. So starting tomorrow, we’re going to present a five-part series that would effectively introduce Iron Fist to new audiences, add greater diversity to the MCU, and do justice to one of Marvel’s most badass characters.
You’re welcome, Marvel.
The rumors of trouble on the Netflix Iron Fist series have been swirling since the summer1. Even though Easter eggs were dropped throughout Daredevil — not to mention Marvel’s comic side recently announcing an all new Power Man and Iron Fist series by none other than David Walker and Sanford Greene — Marvel’s television lords seemingly cannot find anyone with the right vision for the series.
Apparently, they’ve never met Lexi Alexander. Which would be weird since she directed Punisher: War Zone2.
Part of the problem, it seems, is that no one at Marvel Studios can figure out how to bring the character’s “mystical” elements into the grim and gritty universe established by Daredevil — which we’ll tackle more in-depth later. I think the other nut they’re finding difficult to crack is the fact that the general Iron Fist story as a white-dude-kung-fu-champion-fish-out-of-water is trite at best, racist at worst.
I’ve written before how recasting Danny Rand as Asian American solves a number of these issues without changing the heart of the character, but for some fans this isn’t sufficient. They seem to think that the Orientalist issues of Iron Fist are either irrelevant or central to the character and often argue that the only type of racebending they are okay with is one that has a narrative justification — otherwise it’s just “diversity for diversity’s sake.”
Leaving aside the obvious issues with that argument — the best critique of which is the popular chocolate raisins metaphor — we’d argue that having Danny be Asian American actually is narratively justified. In fact, it helps smooth out the extremely convoluted continuity from the comics. Given that all comic book adaptations take liberties with the source material to make them more accessible, this special series of posts will offer small but major changes to Iron Fist continuity that not only would help with bringing the character to Netflix, but add greater diversity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and in a way that is narratively justified.
There’s no better time than the present to do this, Marvel. In addition to the aforementioned television superhero renaissance we are currently living through, AMC is about to resurrect the martial arts drama with Into the Badlands — starring not one, but two Asian American leads, natch. I’ve seen it, and it’s the real deal.
So all of this talk about not having the right “vision” for the series? Yeah, we don’t buy it. Marvel needs to strike now while the iron (fist) is hot. And all this week, we’re going to show them how to do it.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES:
- The Original Post from March 2014
- Why Netflix Can Handle Mysticism
- Casting Danny Rand
- Introducing Danny Rand to a New Audience
- Why an Asian American Danny Rand Matters
- Why Does Danny Rand Need to be White?
- Race, Politics, and the Third Self: Why We Need Iron Fist and Ms. Marvel to be Asian American
- Fear of an Asian Martial Artist: The Thing about Stereotypes and #AAIronFist
- Cole Horibe and Charles Pulliam Talk #AAIronFist
- So Much for #AAIronFist: Marvel Casts Finn Jones
- Shang-Chi is Coming to Netflix, Still Doesn’t Negate Need for #AAIronFist
- #AAIronFist Fan Art by Alison Roberts
- However, the latest from Bleeding Cool — who are the ones who most recently reported on Iron Fist troubles — says that according to their sources “Iron Fist at Netflix is fine at the moment,” which also syncs up with other reports. ↩
- Speaking of the Punisher, one of the various rumors swirling around the various Netflix series suggests that Jon Bernthal’s take on the character in Daredevil season two is so compelling that he might replace Iron Fist in the lineup. ↩
18 thoughts on “We Fixed Marvel/Netflix’s Iron Fist Problem”
How exactly does making Danny Asian solve ANY of their problems? You started off saying you would help Netflix solve it’s problem which is that Iron Fist is too “mystical”. How does making him Asian make him any less “mystical”?
Into the Badlands looks like a badass show and I can’t wait to see it, and if anything, Iron Fist should be like that show. But look what Into the Badlands is doing; it’s a martial arts show but there aren’t only Asian characters. There is so much diversity in that show which I think is amazing. I, like everyone else, don’t want Iron Fist to be about a white guy beating Asians.
If Netflix does the show based on comics, pretty much every character except for Danny would be Asian. What they should do is make LESS Asians by changing the race of those characters to make the show just as diverse as Into the Badlands. And no, I’m not saying “Make’em white”. This would give them an opportunity to add blacks, other types of asians like India, etc. It would make the show so much more interesting.
You came to NOC to convince people to keep Iron Fist white LOL. Swing and miss. Netflix just signed on with China’s top entertainment group Wanda (look it up). Marvel wants China’s money. China will never accept pretty white boy as a champion of kung fu. Thus Marvel stalls. And yes it would be a white guy beating all Asians . That us the reality.
I would love a Shang Chi show tbh
Maybe cast Iwo Ukais (even though he’s Indonesian but still awesome)
If you read my comment, I said that I don’t want it to be about a white boy beating asians. That’s why they should have diversity so that the story isn’t about race but rather determination.
There’s another thing that making Daniel Rand/Iron Fist solves for Marvel/Netflix: His relationship with Misty Knight. In the comics, this interracial love is very longstanding. White man, black woman, no problem. But in the MCU, Danny and Misty will be new characters–and we only just introduced Luke Cage and Jessica Jones knocking boots. Keep Danny a white dude and this looks like a patriarchal woman swap: You take one of “my women” and I’ll take one of “yours.” Very sexist in appearance. But make Danny Asian and we still get two interracial couples who are close friends, but without a weird sort of parallelism that seems forced. Again, this problem doesn’t exist in the comics, because Danny and Misty were lovers long before Luke and Jessica even met.
This is an interesting topic, and one that I think shines a light on a problem in Hollywood storytelling in general. Basically the martial-arts genre, in American film, has become a minefield, and the “Iron Fist” show stands right in the middle of that minefield.
If you have a white character who is “the chosen one” in one of the martial arts, even being better than all his Asian colleagues, that can’t help coming off as just a wee bit racist. Even if you write the character with a lot of love and development (and I grew up enjoying the “bromantic” adventures of Fist with Cage), the martial-arts genre and Hollywood’s shoddy track record with diversity have conspired to make the modern American filmgoer cast a suspicious eye on any new “chop-socky” shenanigans. In other words, in 2015 the martial-arts genre in American film is pretty much branded as a racist construction, and casting a white man as the lead ass-kicker only amplifies that impression.
On the other hand, an Asian-American actor gets his big break as the lead in an action series, and it’s a goddamn martial-arts show? Where he would have to embrace and portray some white writer’s fetishized ideas about far East mysticism and “peaceful warriors”? And where he might possibly have to fake some generic Asian-sounding accent, even though he grew up in Encino? I mean, it’s a paycheck, sure; I’m never mad at someone getting paid for their hard work. But in an age where the internet lost its collective mind at the mere suggestion that Glenn had died on “The Walking Dead” – – a guy who’s a Georgia native, a former pizza delivery guy, a grizzled survivalist and respected ass-kicker, and most importantly NOT a martial-arts expert — doing a martial arts role would have to sting just a bit for that actor.
Don’t get me wrong; I prefer your option, and I can’t wait to watch “Iron Fist” when it finally airs, especially if Marvel & Netflix opt to think outside of the box when they cast Danny Rand. I’m just saying it might not be the most attractive kind of role for an Asian-American actor who’s looking for that big role. (And regardless of how I feel about the martial-arts genre, I will happily support an American actor of color with my dollar / viewership).
Keep it up. This blog is great so far!
“Select your language/culture setting”. I wonder if that helps to ease the problem a bit..
I have your solution. Charlie Hunnam as Danny Rand. He can carry a show. There are no Asian actors that can carry a show. I am Asian. I don’t support Marvel making a stereotypical martial arts hero Asian. Make someone lesser known like Moon Knight or Darkhawk Asian. Martial Arts doesn’t always have to equal Asian.
If it’s not too late and still an option, a video we made to show what could be.
Thank you Keith for your articles. It inspired this video!
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