Musician and ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ star Riz Ahmed recently gave an amazing speech in front of the British Parliament about representation in the media. He eloquently explained how representation is fundamentally important to our culture and how things can get extremely ugly when that representation is viewed as simply “an optional extra”. Naturally, many people of color inside and out of the entertainment industry have shown their support for the actor’s message. However, when a particular caucasian star of an upcoming Marvel Television series shared a video of the speech to show his support, people jumped down his throat as they cried, “Irony!” (which as it turns out isn’t really the case).
After ‘Iron Fist’ star Finn Jones retweeted Ahmed’s speech over the weekend, he was bombarded by fans with messages about diversity, representation, and displeasure with his role not being cast as Asian or Asian American. Though Jones engaged in civil conversation with his critics, he was forced into a brief social media hiatus in order to focus on his work, which included shooting scenes for the upcoming Marvel/Netflix superhero team-up series ‘The Defenders’. While he may be back on Twitter now, he did take some time to explain why he dropped out of those talks seemingly out of nowhere. Here is his official statement on the hiatus courtesy of Deadline:
“I’m currently in the middle of filming and I need to stay focused on bringing to life this character without judgment, so I decided to remove myself from Twitter for the time being.
There is a huge benefit to engage and help shape conversations on social media, especially when it comes to giving a voice to social matters. My original intention was to amplify a speech made by Riz Ahmed at the House of Commons. It was a very articulate and important speech on representation that I wholly agreed with. After posting I was inundated by people accusing me of not being allowed to share his voice based on an assumption that our show is going to play into the problems of racial inequality on screen. I engaged politely, diplomatically and attempted to bridge the divide. I’m currently in the middle of filming and I need to stay focused on bringing to life this character without judgment, so I decided to remove myself from twitter for the time being.
I am very proud of the work everyone has done on this series and I’m excited for people to see how we’ve adapted the story. We have gone to great lengths to represent a diverse cast with an intelligent, socially progressive storyline. I hope people can watch the show before making judgments. In times, as divisive as these, we need to stay unified, compassionate and understanding in our differences.”
First of all, if you have been following our coverage of ‘Iron Fist’, then you already know that I am most definitely one of the many fans that hoped that the House of Ideas would seize the opportunity to build one of their superhero franchises around an Asian American hero and thus give Asians some much needed representation in the media. I was a vocal advocate for Danny Rand being Asian because it would have added an additional layer to the outsider narrative that lives at the core of the character. And though it would have been easy to fall into stereotypes with an Asian martial artist as the protagonist of this series, I felt like it would have been a small step in the right direction. But Marvel opted to stay true to the source material and keep Danny Rand as a white dude. It was certainly disappointing, but it’s fine. I’m still a bit frustrated by the decision, but it’s not like I’m not going to stay up late on March 17th and binge as many episodes of the show as I can before I pass out. And that’s not going to change the fact that I’m going to keep pushing for more Asian and Asian American stories featuring Asian and Asian American faces in mainstream media.
With all that being said, it’s pretty troublesome to see that people would attack someone for showing their support for representation in the media. Marvel didn’t whitewash Iron Fist like Paramount did with ‘Ghost in the Shell’. The character has always been white. Even if they did, it wouldn’t have been Finn Jones’ fault just as it isn’t really Scarlett Johansson’s fault that she was cast as the Major (though her recent comments aren’t exactly helping her case). In order for representation to really happen, people of color need allies in high power positions to champion the cause as well. Sure, it’s very possible that Jones has been so outspoken about ‘Iron Fist’ because it’s actually like ‘The Great Wall’ where it is everything that detractors said it would be and the protagonist is a white savior despite many comments saying otherwise. But until we’re given reason to believe otherwise, why don’t we accept Jones’ retweet as genuine support?
Plus, Marvel hasn’t given us much reason to doubt them before. I mean, ‘Doctor Strange’ turned out to be much better than anticipated in the area of diversity, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and reserve full judgment on the series until it comes out in less than two weeks. At the very least, let’s be cautiously optimistic about what’s to come from ‘Iron Fist’ rather than attacking someone who is fighting the same fight as we are. Because again, there are bigger fish to fry out there that we should really be concerning ourselves with instead. :cough:GhostInTheShell:cough:
What do you think about the reaction to Finn Jones’ retweet and his subsequent social media hiatus? Do you feel like his support for diversity and representation is genuine? And doesn’t it seem like many of the people reacting to his post are being overly cynical? 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.