The superhero genre is slowly expanding its insular universe with Wonder Woman and the highly anticipated Black Panther. Though just a drop in the bucket compared to white male superheroes, such images can significantly impact audiences who have never seen themselves portrayed as (s)heroes. Recently at Comic-Con in San Diego, one Asian American girl, Ashley Keller, teared up when she met Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman) in a video that went viral, demonstrating the real-life impact of on-screen role models:
To get to my failure, I should start with a childhood that took place in Los Angeles. Hawthorne, California is a small community situated in Southwest Los Angeles. With Inglewood to the north, Gardena to the east, Torrance to the south, and the glamorous beach communities to the west, it was basically the edge of working class/POC Los Angeles butting up against the elite.
What this meant is that I’d had some familiarity with celebrity. Not with myself, mind, but, like most Angelenos, I’d run into famous people while out and about. My most hilarious sighting being Los Angeles Laker Luke Walton at a local Target, while I was shopping for a few things with my mother. My mom was incredibly upset that I did not tell her that the tall and maddeningly handsome Walton had just waltzed right by her with the grace of a ballerina (Walton did have decent footwork) and the obviousness of a panzer tank.
Needless to say, my life here should have prepared me for meeting Lewis Tan. It, however, did not.
It’s been nearly two weeks since Iron Fist debuted all 13 episodes of its initial season on Netflix. Prior to its release, the first half of the season previewed for critics received a drubbing the likes of which is unheard of for a Marvel/Netflix property. I’ve since watched the whole season, and yeah, it wasn’t good. Setting aside my issues with the casting of the lead, Iron Fist suffers from the worst sin of any piece of entertainment: it’s boring! Worse than that, it has absolutely zero point of view. I still don’t know what Scott Buck is trying to say with this show. To that end, I wrote a post about different Asian American showrunners who could have brought a unique perspective to the Iron Fist story that the current show lacks. In response to my article on twitter, one of those writers, Steven Maeda, even revealed he actually pitched an Iron Fist concept to Marvel!
I reached out to the former X-Files and Lost writer to get the skinny on what happened to his pitch to Marvel.
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).