Yesterday, Finn Jones, the actor playing Danny Rand on the Netflix debut of Marvel’s live action version of Iron Fist abruptly quit twitter. He wasn’t being harrassed, he wasn’t threatened, there was no controversy. In fact, to most observers, he simply seemed to be having a conversation. This raised more than a few eyebrows, especially since the show is set to debut in less than two weeks on March 17.
On Sunday night, Jones appears to have gotten into a discussion on twitter with Asyiqin Haron, a 21 year old artist from Singapore who also happens to be the creative director for Geeks of Color, (Heron’s comments are from her own personal twitter account and she was not representing GOC or tweeting from their account when she made them).
I reached out to Haron and asked her permission to use her tweets and screenshots and hear what really happened.
Apparently, Finn made a rather ironic comment on the recent speech that Star Wars Actor Riz Ahmed made to Parliament last week about the necessity for diversity in casting and a stunned Haron answered in kind.
The message of Finn’s tweet is to be commended, the messenger, however is not appreciated in this case. Since the announcement that Jones would be taking on the role of Danny Rand in Netflix’s Marvel’s Iron Fist, the Game of Thrones alum has been hit with a wave of criticism, mostly from Asian and POC comic book fans who were none too pleased with Marvel’s casting decision. A point that mainstream media has missed again, is that the trope of “the white male chosen one” and Rand’s character in particular is actually looked upon as racist by many Northeast and Southeast Asians. The things is, this is not new. Posts, articles, think pieces and even artwork have been bandied about the web on this topic for quite some time. The furor escalated however, when Lewis Tan was cast as Zhou Cheng, Iron Fist’s nemesis.
Not only had the actor originally auditioned for the role of Iron Fist (a race-bended version that was welcome by many fans), but the fact that he was instead cast as the baddie, didn’t sit well with many. On top of the fact that he is a trained stuntman and would have KILLED the role.
— Lewis Tan (@TheLewisTan) January 25, 2017
But I digress…
Finn decided to respond to Haron and what followed was a thread where he tells her that although Rand’s character has not been changed, he asks that she should watch the show without passing judgement, because there are plenty of diverse characters to chose from. Including Colleen Wing played by Jessica Henwick. Haron then counters that it’s his casting that she and many other Asians have a problem with, but Finn doesn’t appear to understand that. Read a portion of the conversation below:
Jones then goes on to explain why Haron, (a young Asian woman who is clearly not seeing herself or her ethnic group reflected in the media enough) should change her thinking and instead consider that the show is more intelligent and thought provoking if we leave it as is.
In other words, “Instead of complaining, why don’t you look at all of the diverse characters in the show that we’ve created for you and not worry about the white male lead. His flaws mean he’s not perfect, therefore the diverse characters we do have look even better right?”
Jones clearly missed the point, which is that by changing Danny’s character to Asian, Marvel would have had an opportunity to change the “white-male-savior-chosen-one” trope around for once and make an interesting origin story for an Asian American actor. Apparently, the fanboys who dropped into Haron’s timeline after the twitter exchange attacking her (Asian men included) don’t understand that. This whole issue speaks of a larger problem with diversity and inclusion BEHIND the camera and in the writers’ room. Here’s more from twitter on the subject:
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) March 6, 2017
Look, I’m realistic, (I’m also not Asian), I understand that you can’t please everyone and that every character cannot be written to satisfy everyone’s needs. But you simply cannot ask a group of people who do not represent the ethnic minority that they are writing about, to create a character that will be acceptable to said ethnic group.
Finn never responded after that and that seemed to be the end of it, but then about two hours later, Finn’s account was deleted from twitter.
As of this writing, neither Finn Jones nor Marvel have released a statement explaining his abrupt departure, but it seems that he has reinstated his account. But why did he leave?
The recent white washing of Asian characters in Hollywood such as casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson’s role as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, and even the casting of Nat Wolff as Light in the American live action version of the manga/anime hit Death Note have left many POC (myself included) unimpressed to say the least. Add to that at Swinton’s less than stellar email exchange with Margaret Cho, and it’s easy to see why Jones’ publicist or maybe even Marvel’s publicists might have chosen to have him leave Twitter quickly before he put his foot in his mouth.
When I asked Haron why she thinks Finn left twitter she had this to say:
I tried to be super civil when replying to him but for some reason these people took it as me harassing him. I wasn’t. There was no hostility at all. As for why I think he left, I have no idea. He left on his own accord. I didn’t make him. It was unexpected. — Asyiqin Haron
So one more time for the people in the back. Finn Jones was NOT harassed off of twitter.
There was no fight. There was no dragging. There was no doxing. Neither he nor his family members were threatened. Finn Jones, is still very much employed by Marvel and still very much going to play Iron Fist. For those of you who disagree, I invite you read this article as an example of what twitter harassment actually looks like.
I hope Iron Fist surprises us, I really do. I doubt it will break Netflix. What do you think?
UPDATE: As of 2pm EST March 6. Finn Jones’ twitter account was reactivated.