Is Netflix’s ‘Iron Fist’ Really Rooted in Racism?

It’s a hot topic here the past couple days surrounding the upcoming Netflix series ‘Iron Fist’ online. The series starring Finn Jones as the legendary kung fu playboy vigilante has come under fire for it’s supposed racist roots and just plain shitty all around reviews. It’s been slammed pretty hard by the critics calling it “boring” and “racially uncomfortable” with it’s white male lead. Apparently Finn Jones shut down his Twitter because of the online backlash from people who’re calling him out personally as part of the problem.

Now I’m not sure whether the show really sucks or not, I haven’t seen it. I’m curious to see if it’s indeed as bad as critics are saying or if perhaps this racial controversy is really the root of all the negative reviews. I thought the previews looked ok but the whole set up looks a bit too familiar. The problem seems that people are upset that the character, who is a white male in the original comic books, should have been recast and played by an Asian actor in the new series. Then it was stated that many were against the idea of a recast because having an Asian actor in the role of the “martial arts guy” played too strongly into racial stereotypes. A bit of a double edged sword it seems.

Perhaps Marvel and Netflix should have just scrapped Iron Fist altogether from the beginning? Maybe they should have pursued ‘The White Tiger’ instead who’s first incarnation of the character was also the first Latino superhero. The White Tiger plays a big role in the Universe of Iron Fist & Luke Cage and likely would have made an intriguing story for the Marvel Netflix universe. I’m personally a bit tired of seeing rich white male and female characters in the roles of superheroes. The Danny Rand character’s backstory in the comics and the tv show is about as run of the mill they come at this point. Yep another handsome mega rich white dude playboy who also is a masked superhero part time. In fact the story I’m expecting from the Netflix series certainly so far appears to mirror ‘Batman Begins’ step by step. So as far as originality goes the series has that already going against it, though admittedly it appears to be representing the source material somewhat.

It’s no surprise that in 2017 this series was going to get some negative attention and leads us to some interesting questions going forward. Should Marvel ignore the source material of it’s classic characters to give us more diversity? Perhaps. However in this case I think Danny Rand is an important part of the Luke Cage saga. Heroes for Hire anyone? The duo’s friendship is legendary, Power Man (As he was once called) & Iron Fist are a bit like peanut butter and jelly in the Marvel Universe. Together in a tv series these two could explore a lot of the current topics concerning race, elitism and privilege. It’s the perfect stage for the conversation and in a way, for that alone, could benefit by the inclusion of a character like Danny Rand who’s already been described as “bratty” in Netflix series. If you’ve read any of the more recent David Walker ‘Power Man & Iron Fist’ comics you can definitely see how this could translate to television quite nicely. The series plays like a classic buddy cop comedy. In my opinion Iron Fist didn’t need his own Netflix series either. He could have been a great supporting character in the Luke Cage series and we could have avoided his whole origin story altogether. 

At the end of the day I respect the decision to keep the character of Danny Rand true to his comic book roots, a character that’s been around since 1974. However I do also understand the people’s gripes on this tired narrative. I totally get it, Danny Rand is another rich ass, hot shot, white guy superhero who’s become the grandmaster of ancient mystical martial arts. Iron Man, Batman, Doctor Strange, etc. It gets old after a while. His origin could’ve obviously benefited from an upgrade. But there’s the perfect opportunity to present a bit of much needed social commentary here if the series indeed brings about the strong friendship of Luke Cage & Danny Rand. Let’s hope they don’t miss their opportunity to do something thought provoking with the two characters and how they relate to the current climate.

I don’t though think Marvel needs to keep changing the popular superheroes races or gender either, I do think they could focus on bringing existing lesser known characters into the limelight and also create totally new ones to create more diversity in their comics. Let’s face it there are sooooo many cool characters to explore that already exist in the Marvel Universe. I mean how many cool comic books are coming out these days that feature new characters from other comic companies that are in fact MORE interesting than most of the shit Marvel and DC keep bailing out?

Marvel and DC need to get creative with new ideas in order to really compete with some of the cool shit that’s on display from the smaller publishers. They desperately needs to let go a bit of the focus on their “cash cow” superheroes, do we really need to see Iron man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Wolverine change genders and races when they think it’ll benefit Marvel monetarily? Where’s the sincerity in that? That’s the easy solution for a company that’s quite possibly run out of ideas yet unwilling to let go of the money they think they can still make from their classic franchises. I’m going to check out Iron Fist myself before passing any real judgement, we’re all so quick to jump on each other lately and at the end of the day this whole controversy just might end up bringing real conversation to the table. Let’s see how this all plays out. Is the series racist? Probably not, BUT one thing for sure is that the bare bones structure of it all at this point is one tired ass tale…

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2 comments

    • Peter Saturday

      I hope they focus a lot on Cage & Rand’s friendship, otherwise this is a bit of a waste to even have them on a show together!

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