by Andrea Tang
This weekend, between bouts of story-editing, I meandered my way through the first four episodes of Netflix’s Iron Fist, which I’m actually quite enjoying so far, probably for the same reasons I’ve seen Vampire Academy three times. I’m pretty sure the writers pitched this series as, “What would happen if you put a goldendoodle puppy in the body of a WASPy ten-year-old blue blood, then traumatically dropped him off in the Himalayas for Fifteen Whole Gap Yahs? Probably, he would die, but that is boring and untrue to comics canon, so what if we made kung fu magic happen along the way in a manner most likely to bring the wrath of Edward Said’s ghost down on our heads? LET’S FIND OUT.”
Danny, when we meet him, doesn’t actually appear to have mentally aged past ten, and is also still basically a goldendoodle on two legs with a fifth grader’s education. Mind you, this doesn’t stop him from wanting to run a multinational corporation. Professional and educational qualifications are for pussies!
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: Hello, New York! I’m back from Fifteen Whole Gap Yahs in Asia, where I became fluent in Mandarin and the ways of the Chinese people. I have now returned to claim my rightful seat at the helm of my dead parents’ corporate empire, but failing that, I’ll settle for being a research intern on the China desk. Have I mentioned that I’m fluent in Mandarin?
PEOPLE OUTSIDE MARVEL LAND: Oh, you mean the RAND Corporation? I didn’t realize you owned a think tank! That’s weird, but they do always need Chinese speakers.
RAND: No dictionaries allowed on the language exam. Begone!
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: But. But I studied abroad!
RAND: Begone! Who do you think you are, Mark Zuckerberg? PERA PERA POPUP LANGUAGE APPS ARE FOR THE WEAK.
Not to be discouraged, we follow Danny the Iron Goldendoodle to a random street corner, where he meet-cutes the first Asian person he sees.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: Ni hao! I have just met you, and I ai you! That means love in Chinese, btw.
COLLEEN: Oh boy, here we go.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: *eagerly spouts gibberish*
COLLEEN: Failed RAND’s Chinese language test too, huh.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: *spouts slightly sadder gibberish*
COLLEEN: Hey, no shame, dude. They don’t even let you use a dictionary on that shit. Downright unfair, if you ask me.
However, no Marvel adaptation is quite complete without Terrible Dads and Corrupt Corporate Drama. In what may or may not be an homage to the Game of Thrones alumni on this show, we get both neatly wrapped up in one, villainous package of Fuckboys, Father & Son. The Meachum men appear to be what would happen if Steve Bannon tried to cosplay Tywin Lannister, and acquired a slightly milquetoast Jaime substitute along the way.
STYWIN BANNONSTER: Let me tell you something about cultivating loyalty, son.
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Oh, I know this one! A Lannister always pays his debts!
STYWIN BANNONSTER: False. A Lannister always poaches unsuspecting millennials from Big Four firms, then traps them in psychological horror films! They’re already pre-conditioned by utilization rate anxiety, and buried under a mountain of student debt, so really, it’s an upgrade for them. Say hi to Hollow-Eyed Due Diligence Intern #24601!
MILQUETOAST JAIME: … What happened to Hollow-Eyed Due Diligence #1 through #24600?
STYWIN BANNONSTER: Oh, Jaime. Dear boy. Read some Sun Tzu. The English translation, obviously; classical Chinese is hard, and also un-American.
DUE DILIGENCE INTERN #24601: *sings sadly* Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave. Look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.
It’s rather unclear if Due Diligence Intern #24601 has a home or family at all, or if he just lives in Stywin Bannonster’s creepy underground villain lair, performing Google-fu all day.
STYWIN BANNONSTER: Have you found anything at all about this obscure monk order? Try this search string: “Order of the Crane Mother” AND (“Edward Said” OR “Orientalism”) AND (“Rolling In Grave” OR “Despairing Screams of Rage” OR “Angry Ghost Swears to Haunt Marvel Forever”).
DUE DILIGENCE INTERN #24601: No adverse or noteworthy information was found regarding your search inquiry.
STYWIN BANNONSTER: Really? Did you try LexisNexis? Goddammit, 24601, if you messed up your Boolean search order, I’m going to Sun Tzu the shit out of you.
DUE DILIGENCE INTERN #24601: Sorry, milord Bannonster. Er, Lannister.
Meanwhile, Danny, in true Iron Goldendoodle style, has decided to follow the complete stranger he met ten minutes ago back to her dojo.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: I was hiding under your dojo because I ai you! Also, have you considered teaching kung fu?
COLLEEN: That might be a little weird, since this is pretty specifically a Japanese martial arts school. Like, you know those sketchy-looking Chinese restaurants run by white people in tiny midwestern towns that serve sushi buffets? And how you always regret all your life choices when you accidentally eat there?
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: I’m not sure I follow. Hey, want to check out my kung fu?
COLLEEN: I would really rather not, Goldendoodle.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: *pulling a pose* Look at me, look at me, I’m so good at yoga~!
COLLEEN: Look at you, look at you, take these shoes and get out.
In a shocking turn of events, the homeless-looking dude running all over New York committing shoe-less physical assault on various white-collar workers and security professionals eventually winds up in a mental ward. He tries to convince a rather skeptical therapist that he’s secretly Danny Rand. This goes about as well as you’d expect.
DR. SKEPTIC: Your passport says you’re from Toronto, dude.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: I paid extra for it in Morocco during my Fifteen Gap Yahs! The street vendor there says the True North is all the rage these days. Canada is the new America. Smoked meat is the new burger. Trudeau is the new Kennedy. The Moroccan shopkeeper says actual Americans seem too provincial, and so do shoes. That’s why I had to pay double the usual price and give him all my footwear. Great deal, huh? Moroccan people are so wise in the ways of the world.
DR. SKEPTIC: … Wow, no wonder you failed RAND’s Chinese test. I’m pretty sure a Beijing bargaining showdown would actually kill you.
Meanwhile, Milquetoast Jaime attempts a corporate carrot-and-stick routine on Colleen to get her to throw Danny under the bus. I think we’re supposed to find this menacing, but the Milquetoast of it all kind of ruins the effect.
MILQUETOAST JAIME: I have appeared, in my extra metallic-looking helmet hair, to FORCE YOU TO SIGN FALSE TESTIMONY AGAINST DANNY MWAHAHAHA.
COLLEEN: … Who?
MILQUETOAST JAIME: That dude who called you from the mental ward and hid under your porch once! I bet you are in love with him!
COLLEEN: Oh, you’re talking about that goldendoodle who failed RAND’s Chinese test!
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Sure, whatever. Are you gonna sign or what? I’ll pay you!
COLLEEN: … You mean illegally bribe me.
MILQUETOAST JAIME: A Lannister always pays his debts. What do you say?
COLLEEN: I’m pretty sure I can rate how bad my day is based on how many white boys have put their shoes on my dojo mat. Also, no.
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Goddammit, dad, I knew the villain laugh would be too extra!
Milquetoast Jaime also has a sister, oddly named Joy, who might be the most compelling member of the Bargain Bin Lannisters, though this is a decidedly low bar when your dad — who is also pretending to be dead, btw, for Reasons of Plot — is basically living performance art titled, “You’ll Never Guess What Happens When Steve Bannon Reads Too Much GRRM & Goes To Comic-Con (Spoilers: He Traumatizes Everybody).” She and Jaime, our own homegrown “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Incest!” pair are, as the moniker suggests, marginally less screwed-up than actual Jaime and Cersei. Probably because Joy, while a bit spoiled and impulsive, does not appear to be a full-blown, Joffrey-mothering, direwolf puppy-murdering sociopath. That said, girl’s got her priorities.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: Why would you care about something so tastelessly middle-class as money, Joy?
JOY: Um. Because it pays for my fabulous shoe collection, and also, I am an adult human with a job and living expenses? Besides, real talk: being a rich white girl has worked out pretty well for me so far. Have you seen how swank my apartment is?
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: A POX ON YOUR SWANK; I CARE NOT FOR SUCH BOURGEOIS DECADENCE.
JOY: Dude, I know you’re woke after your Literal Fifteen Gap Yahs, but like, some people have student loans and shit. Though not me, obviously. I’m a Lannister.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: Ugh, AMERICAN WOMEN. SO BASIC. I knew I should have kept that Canadian passport. Other countries are so much worldlier than the United States. I wonder how Morocco is this time of year.
Not that Iron Goldendoodle’s relationship with Milquetoast Jaime is much better.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: You threw me out a window?
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Oh, you like that? I call it the Bran Stark-en-ing!
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: I can’t believe you THREW ME OUT THE BLOODY WINDOW.
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Look, it was either that or bang my sister, and I’m not sure how far I actually want to go with my dad’s weird Game of Thrones LARP fantasies. I have issues, but not those kinds of issues, you feel me?
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: No! I don’t feel you! And I don’t want to! Y’all are gross!
MILQUETOAST JAIME: Hey, has anyone told you that you look exactly like the Knight of Flowers? You could totally play —
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: IRON GOLDENDOODLE OUT.
That said, we do get cameos from some faves in the established Netflix Marvel canon! They seem decidedly unimpressed with what they’ve stumbled into, though.
TRINITY, JD: As the single smartest person on this show so far, I’m in major-key judgment mode at all times, but now that the Tyrell heir has given up his life as a passive-aggressively bitchy flower knight to assume the form of a ten-year-old crossed with a particularly slobbery puppy, I can probably more easily leverage him for my own advantage, assuming he doesn’t muss the carpet first.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: J-MONEY!!!!!! 😀 😀 😀
TRINITY, JD: … I still kind of wish Jessica were here to punch him, though. The horrid nicknames and alarmingly goldendoodle-like attempts at physical affection are getting tiresome. Also, I think he might have gotten children’s sticky glue on my pencil dress during our last client meeting. Suppose I should be grateful it’s not dog slobber.
Colleen, meanwhile, has gotten into the cage fighting business. Iron Goldendoodle periodically offers her cryptic sparring tips, some more useful than others.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: You could just stay in child’s pose.
COLLEEN: Or I could assume kicking-you-in-the-balls pose.
IRON GOLDENDOODLE: This tattoo will protect me from harm!
COLLEEN: … I hate you, and everything, so much.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more of this rollicking, postcolonial scholar-baiting kung fu adventure! In the mean time, enjoy these exclusive bonus missing scenes from the show:
I’m So Good at Yoga, or how Danny actually performs his Goldendoodle Fu.
This Tattoo Will Protect Me From Harm, or how Danny got that dragon tattoo.
Gap Yah, or: what really happened during Danny Rand’s missing years.
Andrea Tang is a DC-based writer, recovering liberal arts graduate, and professional international affairs nerd. She likes asking questions about how different cultures – and by extension, different people — collide, meld, mix, or otherwise converse with each other. She’s particularly keen on exploring the impact of diaspora, immigration, politics of violence, and colonialism & post-colonialism on the individual — both in the world we live in, and those we as storytellers imagine into existence.