Last week, we hosted a special live-streamed edition of Hard NOC Life with filmmaker John Brougher about his new short film Iron and Rage. John talks about his inspiration for creating his own #AAIronFist and why representation of Asian American humanity on screen is so important.
This past weekend, Netflix finally dropped all 13 episodes of Iron Fist. For the most part, the internet was not pleased. While a smattering of Fist Stans tried their damnedest to pretend what they watched was, you know, good, the consensus among critics (and fans too) was this was Marvel’s first big miss. There was one awesome outcome of the Iron Fist debacle, however: a slew of awesome comics artists began sharing their takes on a redesigned Asian American Danny (or Dani) Rand! And it all started when Jen Bartel shared her riff on Kris Anka’s original:
Doctor Strange. Iron Fist. Ghost in the Shell. It’s hard out there to be an Asian American actor. Or an Asian American consumer of media. Or someone who would prefer to see more Asian Americans on screen (and behind the scenes). That’s why guest host Valerie Complex (whose #IAmMajor clapback recently went viral) gathered an all-star panel to talk about being Asian in Hollywood: feminist pop culture writer Clara Mae, Geeks of Color Creative Director (and Finn Jones’ favorite person on Twitter) Asyiqin Haron, Man in the High Castle actor Lee Shorten, and (the man who should’ve been) Iron Fist’s Lewis Tan.
We are rapidly approaching the release of Iron Fist, the fourth Marvel series on Netflix, and reviews have been less than kind. When the show announced it had a (non-Asian American) showrunner, NOC re-introduced the hashtag #AAIronFist. It was an attempt to get Marvel to acknowledge that Iron Fist is a character whose origins are Asian, and should be played by a person of Asian descent, to increase representation in media.
For my part, I wrote an opinion piece about why we need an #AAIronFist. I submitted that being Asian, or even half-Asian, would give Danny Rand a depth to his character that we hadn’t seen before. The “stranger in a strange land” trope where the white man is the foreigner has been done to death, and is vaguely insulting. An 8-year old orphan comes to magical Asian land and becomes the ultimate martial artist? That right there is the definition of the white savior.
Why would my approach have been more interesting? Let me educate you on what it’s like to be an outsider.
Filmmaker Releases Iron and Rage to Contribute to National Conversation of Fairer Asian American Representation in Hollywood.
Three years ago, when I initially wrote about casting an Asian American in the lead role on Iron Fist, I had no idea the NOC would become ground zero for the #AAIronFist movement. I just never thought an Asian American Danny Rand was that radical a notion! Now that we’re on the eve of the show’s debut on Netflix — in addition to its star’s recent twitter tantrum — years-old arguments are starting to resurface on twitter and elsewhere. Coupled with early reviews savaging the series, I figured now was as good a time as any to resurrect one more Iron Fist thinkpiece before (hopefully) never having to talk about this goddamn show ever again.
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).
Like the rest of the nation, I woke up this morning to an unfathomable reality. Despite our best efforts, the country has chosen hate and division. Those dystopian science-fiction novels don’t feel so far off anymore. Still, we at The Nerds of Color must soldier on. I’m doing that by participating in CTRL+ALT, the Smithsonian’s pop-up Culture Lab on imagined futures this weekend in New York City. Though, to be honest, I’m having a difficult time imagining the present, much the less the future.
So in desperate need of attention and relevance, Rob Liefeld has decided to weigh in on the #AAIronFist controversy.
For those of you just joining us, this summary here breaks it down.
Created at the height of the 1970s kung-fu movie craze, Iron Fist is an American who learns martial arts from masters at the hidden city of K’un-Lun. He becomes their best student and earns the power of Iron Fist, the ability to channel superhuman energy into his fists. Basically it’s a story about a white guy being better at martial arts than everyone else, steeped in tropes that critics regard as examples of cultural appropriation.
According to Liefeld, Iron Fist “has never ever been considered racist,” (never ever never ever) and casting an Asian American actor would be “reverse white-washing.”
On a recent episode of Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada revealed that Marvel Studios has retained the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Of course, this isn’t the first time Quesada has assumed the rights to Namor had returned to Marvel — and Namor’s movie rights are some of the most confusing in comic book movie world. Still, it’s long overdue for a movie featuring one of the high-profile members of Marvel’s Illuminati, not to mention the fact that Namor is a perfect opportunity to cast an Asian American male as a lead in the MCU!