If Marvel Comics has proven anything over the past few years, it’s that they have no problem changing things up a bit if it makes for a good story. Sure, there are always those sticklers for decade-old continuity, but True Believers generally seem to be enjoying things in the comics like a Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, a female Thor, another African-American Captain America, and a Korean-American Hulk. The same goes for aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since there is a good amount of praise for Idris Elba as the Asgardian god Heimdall in the ‘Thor’ movies, Carrie-Anne Moss as the no-nonsense (no longer male) lawyer Jeri Hogarth from ‘Jessica Jones’, and (to a lesser degree) Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in the upcoming Phase Three film ‘Doctor Strange’. However, with the exception of Chloe Bennet’s Daisy Johnson/Quake in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, there is a lack of diversity in the leading superheroes of the MCU on both film and television. Luckily, ‘Iron Fist’ is coming along on Netflix and it has the potential to change that. And though some may not be on board with changing a popular character’s race (:cough:HumanTorch:cough:), there is a small possibility that the House of Ideas may do exactly that to Danny Rand.
Despite Marvel’s mystical martial artist being traditionally portrayed as a blonde-haired caucasian male, fans have been asking for an Asian-American Iron Fist when the character stars in his upcoming Netflix series after ‘Daredevil’, ‘Jessica Jones’, and ‘Luke Cage’. Nerds of Color has been leading the charge on this movement since March 2014 with the argument that the chi-wielding warrior from K’un L’un wouldn’t lose any elements of his classic origin other than the “White Savior” trope embedded in the story, but this is something that has been catching on all over the fandom. Now, it appears that the executives at Marvel have been listening because The Hollywood Reporter tells us that they’re at least considering it. In their own piece about casting an Asian-American as the lead in Scott Buck’s piece of the ‘Defenders’ puzzle, the outlet reveals the following:
“The clamor actually reached the ears of Marvel and Netflix, who met with Asian-American actors in consideration for the lead, but that the series[…] is now leaning toward keeping Iron Fist white. Marvel declined to comment on that detail.”
To counter NOC’s piece about making the hero Asian-American, Comic Book Resources published a piece before this casting news was released that calls for Iron Fist to stay white, so they’re likely in favor of the direction Marvel is supposedly taking. They cited Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and David Aja’s acclaimed run with the character in ‘Immortal Iron Fist’, “which established Danny as one of multiple Immortal Weapons — not simply a white guy who was better than all Asians at something that had been part of their culture for centuries”. They also said that it could be a problem that the first major Asian-American hero in a modern superhero property is associated with martial arts because “it frequently feels like the only part [of Hollywood] Asians are allowed to participate in”.
But at the end of the day, when was the last time an Asian or Asian-American even starred in a martial arts film or TV show that solely produced by Hollywood aside from ‘Into the Badlands’ or ‘Green Hornet’? Some of the most popular films in that genre starred Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tom Cruise, or Uma Thurman. It also applies to movies like ‘3 Ninjas’, ‘Karate Kid’, ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’, ‘The Last Airbender’, and ‘Batman Begins’.I’m sure that we could come up with more examples, but the bottom line is that the underrepresented audience of Asians and Asian-Americans likely won’t mind if the star of ‘Iron Fist’ looks like them.
Additionally, Danny Rand isn’t just a martial artist. He’s a businessman, a playboy, an Avenger, a Defender, a Hero for Hire, and more. There are other layers to the character that should make him as interesting as the other heroes inhabiting Netflix’s corner of the MCU without even taking the kung fu into consideration.
Though reports are saying that Marvel TV is “leaning” towards a white actor for the role, nothing is set in stone yet. With a showrunner already chosen for the project, it’s possible that we may know who will be playing Iron Fist sooner rather than later, especially if he pops up in his best friend Luke Cage’s show. But as we have done with all the other offerings from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have to trust that they’ll make the best decision possible. After all, many were skeptical about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘Daredevil’, ‘Ant-Man’, and ‘Jessica Jones’ too and they all exceeded expectations.
What do you think about casting an Asian-American actor as Danny Rand in ‘Iron Fist’? Do you think that Marvel Television would pull the trigger on something like that? Sound off in the comment section.