What do recent films like ‘Hidden Figures’, ‘La La Land’, and ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ have in common? Here’s a hint: It also applies to ’Avatar’, ‘The Last Samurai’, ‘Elysium’, and way too many others throughout history. In all of these films, a caucasian messianic figure rescues people of color from various plights. This is otherwise known as the white savior trope and the majority of people in the world today are sick of it. That’s why people have made such a big deal over movies like ‘The Great Wall’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’, which both feature white leads in front of a predominantly Asian cast. But fans aren’t only concerned about this trope manifesting on the big screen.
Despite the character being white in the source material, True Believers were hoping that Danny Rand would be Asian-American in the upcoming Netflix series ‘Iron Fist’. One reason they clamored for this race change (which is something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t been afraid to do in the past) is so that the House of Ideas could skip the white savior narrative and other stereotypes that have plagued the Living Weapon since his inception. Instead, the studio cast Finn Jones in the role and now we’re a little more than two weeks away from seeing what he can do as the Last Defender. But before the show debuts on the popular streaming service, the former ‘Game of Thrones’ star does his best to assure fans that they took great care in crafting the MCU’s version of the immortal warrior of K’un-Lun.
In a recent interview with Buzzfeed, Jones discussed how excited he was to land the lead role in ‘Iron Fist’. Although, that new car shine faded away fast as other issues took center stage and he teased what the show is trying to do to remedy those concerns:
“You know, here is what I’m going to say about it. I get where that frustration comes from. I get the need for diversity and equality in television and film… Well, actually in every aspect of life. Right now we live in a culture and a world where we are very unequal in politics, in economics, and in culture. We are being fucked over massively by the top dudes. I stand up for people, I stand up for people across all borders.
There needs to be more diversity in television and film, especially for Asian actors. With this instance in particular, what I struggle with and what frustrates me is that people are commenting on the headline without understanding the full picture, without understanding the full story. What you’ll find with the way that we’re telling this story is we’re addressing the issues that people are very concerned about in a very intelligent and modern way.
Danny Rand is not a white savior. Danny Rand can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people. He is a very complicated, vulnerable individual. He doesn’t just show up, like, ‘Hey dudes, I’ve just learned martial arts! I’m going to save the world. Actually, it’s the complete opposite. He’s gone through and suffered immense trauma and he is struggling to claim his own sanity and identity back.”
Of course, this could end one of two ways. We may very well have another ‘Great Wall’ situation on our hands where the story ends up being literally everything we anticipated it to be. Or it could end up being like ‘Doctor Strange’ where it still isn’t perfect, but it takes the necessary precautions to be much better than expected. Considering that ‘Iron Fist’ is a Marvel/Disney production, I’m inclined to lean towards the latter since they both are better than most at addressing these issues and turning them on their heads to pleasantly surprise their audience (for the most part). But neither studio is infallible, so you don’t truly know what you’re getting until we finally get it. For now, we’ll just have to hope for the best.
What do you think about Finn Jones’ comments regarding Danny Rand being a white savior in ‘Iron Fist’? Do you think that the Netflix/Marvel series will deviate from the character’s questionable history with people of color? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below.
‘Iron Fist’ starring Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, David Wenham, Jessica Stroup, Tom Pelphrey, Rosario Dawson, and Carrie-Ann Moss hits Netflix on March 17, 2016.