Fear of an Asian Martial Artist: The Thing about Stereotypes & #AAIronFist

Lately, this site has been All Iron Fist Every Thing, so apologies if you don’t give two shits about that particular character. Also, you might want to click elsewhere because we’re going to drill a little deeper into the reasons why we’ve been on the #AAIronFist train — that would be Asian American Iron Fist and not Alcoholics Anonymous, btw — for the last 20 months. Two things came up in the last week or so that have led to this resurgence in interest in an Asian American Iron Fist. First, Marvel and Netflix finally announced a showrunner for the series. Secondly, Comic Book Resources published this essay by Albert Ching on why Danny Rand shouldn’t be Asian American.

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Fixing Marvel’s Iron Fist: Introducing Danny Rand to a New Audience

by MC Nedelsky in collaboration with MCU Exchange

We’re continuing our look at how Marvel can adapt Iron Fist for Netflix, and while an earlier post looked at the supposed difficulties of incorporating the mystical elements of the Iron Fist mythology into the Netflix world, perhaps Marvel’s issue is a more basic one — the challenge of how introduce a character to a new audience given a complicated and convoluted continuity.

This is of course an issue any comic book adaptation must grapple with, but Iron Fist has a particularly convoluted and dense continuity. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the basics of the character — a young boy shaped by the trauma of the death of his parents, trained in a mystical city, who returns to Earth to seek vengeance — is a phenomenal origin story for a superhero. Rather, its the labyrinthine and often contradictory history that has been built up around the character over time. Any adaption will necessarily make changes to smooth out continuity, and I have five small but crucial suggestions on how to do just that. Best of all for purists, these changes leave Danny Rand himself almost completely unchanged — instead, they focus on his father, who presents the majority of the backstory issues.

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Marvel, Please Cast an Asian American Iron Fist

[UPDATE: Our friends at 18Million Rising have crafted a petition to get Marvel/Netflix to cast an Asian American Iron Fist.]

[UPDATE 2: I talk more about Marvel Studios considering an Asian American Iron Fist with Andrew Wheeler over at ComicsAlliance.]

Yes, I am proposing that a major comic book institution change the race of one of its popular characters as it transitions to a new form of media. In this case, I want Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American actor to play the lead in the upcoming Iron Fist show it is developing for Netflix. It seems logical enough to me, though as always, there are fans who are urging Marvel to resist changing his race.

Now, I know the topic of cross-racial casting has come up time and time again here at The Nerds of Color. And while there are a contingent of fans who don’t think such things matter — or worse, are vehemently opposed to such casting choices — I can’t help thinking that Iron Fist gives Marvel a chance to add even more diversity to its interconnected cinematic universe. Not to mention that this is a case where changing the race of the character has the potential to actually add layers of depth to the story of said character.

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