Netflix dropped Iron First, the latest Marvel series over the weekend, and while we were promised a show that would address the orientalism and the white saviour complex of it’s source material, what we got was more of exactly that.
Overall, the newest Netflix Marvel collab failed at almost every turn, let us list the ways!
1. Casting A White Lead
Ever since the possibility of this series was announced, fans and bloggers alike had been rallying for Marvel to break the rules a little and cast an Asian American in this role. You can read all about it in a wonderful & detailed essay on Nerds Of Color.
Danny Rand’s comic origin is rooted in the American obsession with Kung-Fu & Asian culture & the simultaneous distrust of Asian people. This then explains the overt Orientalism and cultural appropriation present in the comics. If Marvel had cast a non-white actor in this role, they could have apologized for the overt racism, modernized the story, and allow the Asian community to reclaim a space and a story that was theirs to begin with.
An Asian American actor would have brought so much more depth to the story. Not only would Rand’s story be a fish out of water one, but there would also be an element of reconnecting with his culture and heritage – which SO MANY people can relate to!
2. Changing The Wrong Thing
In response to all the backlash they were facing, showrunner Scott Buck told The Daily Beast that K’un Lun, the -very Asian in the source material – city where Danny trains, is now a “diverse” place.
“We certainly modeled it after Tibetan monasteries, but it felt like we just naturally wanted to open it up to make it a little more diverse just because it gives us a lot more options in writing about it, I believe.”
Not only did they keep the White Saviour parts of the story, they contradicted their own “we kept it because it’s canon” narrative by changing a core part of the story to erase Asian culture from it even more! As if the backlash over racism and whitewashing would go away after further whitewashing…
They also make Colleen Wing a vague ambiguous Asian woman, who turns into whatever Danny needs at the time, and learns about her own culture from the white male – so messy.
3. Lazy Writing
Beyond that, the main character is kind of a douchebaggy dude-bro that you don’t want to root for or care about. At one point, he mansplains punching and fighting to the woman who owns/is the head of the dojo!
“A white male character explains his martial art — which was made up by white men in the 1970s as a nonspecifically Asian but definitionally more powerful technique than those invented by actual Asian cultures — to an Asian-American, female expert in actual martial arts developed by actual Asian cultures.”
At another point in time, Danny immediately starts speaking mandarin with a random Asian person he sees on the street, like really guy?!
The fighting is another issue, Finn Jones is clearly not meant for this type of role, his fight scenes are so painfully edited and weirdly shot, that it’s hard to keep up with what he’s doing. That wouldn’t matter so much if his ENTIRE schtick wasn’t about how good he is at martial arts!
Overall, even if the show wasn’t racist, it would still be bad, but it’s made SOO MUCH WORST by the overt and unapologetic racism that no one will even take blame or apologize for!
Honestly, the Rosario Dawson cameo is the best thing to happen to the entire season of Marvel’s Iron Fist – they really need to give her her own series ASAP.
Danny comes off like that annoying spoiled rich dude in your Religions Of East Asia class who dated an Asian once and meditates so thinks he knows everything there is to know better than everyone, and no one likes that guy, no one wants to spend 13 hours watching that guy’s life unfold!