March 23, 2014

There's a petition to change Marvel's Iron Fist to an Asian guy

... for a potential Iron Fist TV series, that is. We've been back and forth on this subject matter; on the one hand, making superficial changes in what seems like a mere nod to political correctness is silly (a la making the Human Torch a black guy and/or Dr. Doom a chick), on the other there's the [legitimate] matter of rectifying issues associated with the times in which most of the classic superheroes were created.

Reading through Andrew Wheeler's article about Iron Fist I was struck with a memory of watching the very good Bruce Lee biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. I recall how incredibly disappointed Lee was when his idea for a TV show -- Kung Fu -- was picked up by a network ... but cast a white actor (David Carradine) to play the title character instead of Lee. Sign 'o the times, unfortunately. And hell, this happened all the time, from the 40s (and before, natch) through even to the present day.

The other aspect that the character of Iron Fist possesses is that of the "Great White Hope" where a white character is "needed" to somehow "save the day" after being placed in an "alien" situation. "Enlightened" Hollywood still follows this mantra religiously, notably with teacher movies like Dangerous Minds where a cultured, white educator comes in to "save" hardened, inner city toughs. Is this not patronizing to the Nth degree? Kevin Chow, who's taken up a petition to make Iron Fist's Danny Rand an Asian guy, notes the "GWH" aspect with regards to Asian culture:

“Never mind Danny Rand, you have Snake Eyes, Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Daniel-san [in The Karate Kid], Wolverine, every Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme movie ever, hell, even Batman for chrissakes!”

Point taken. But Chow would be a lot better received if he didn't dawdle in the ridiculous notion of "cultural approbation," as if that in itself is a bad thing. (Just recall this recent inanity from Salon.com.) If anything, it should be considered a compliment if someone desires to "appropriate" an aspect from another culture; again, the patronizing comes in when the "appropriators" are somehow "needed" to do some "saving."

Chow also glosses over the fact that by making Danny Rand an Asian guy, Marvel'd be perpetuating the stereotype that all Asians know martial arts:

I don’t think so. Look, the problem with the Asian martial artist stereotype is not the art itself. The problem has always been how Asian martial artists have been portrayed in Western media. As someone who has practiced martial arts and admires and respects it, I don’t run away from that aspect of my heritage.

That's pretty lame, if you ask me. It also reminds me of the scene in Revenge of the Nerds where a football player asks nerd Takashi if he "knows karate." Y'know, because he's Asian:

Would Chow say "I don't think so" if one assumed all African-Americans know how to play basketball? Or would that, too, be merely "how it's portrayed?" I doubt it.

All this being said, overall I don't believe it to be a big deal if Iron Fist is altered to be an Asian guy. After all, I.F. is a B or even C-list Marvel character, and this potential series will be on Netflix, not even network or cable TV.

Posted by Hube at March 23, 2014 09:31 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Changing Danny Rand's race probably wouldn't be a big deal to me, either, but at the same time, like you said, changing him into an Asian-American would only perpetuate the stereotype that all Asians know martial arts. I mean, he's not an A-list character (although he and Luke Cage did headline their own title for nearly a decade) and it wouldn't be like casting Will Smith as Captain America, which would've been stupid.

I'm not surprised that Comics Alliance, far-left website that it is, would be promoting this. Wheeler is the same guy who wrote an article on CA promoting diversity for the sake of diversity earlier this year and mocked anyone who criticized the Muslim Ms. Marvel.

Posted by: Carl at March 23, 2014 01:55 PM

I would be fine if the change was to a pretty chinese woman who wore short skirts!

Posted by: Brad at March 23, 2014 05:42 PM

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