Diversity Spotlight: Iron Fist
By Joe DellaPenna
There has been a recent call for diversity in the Marvel cinematic universe and a push to cast an Asian-American as the lead in Iron Fist.
In comics, Danny Rand is a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian male, who is trained in martial arts in a mystical city and obtains the ability to focus his chi into a fist unto iron. At this point he turns down immortality in order to satiate his thirst for revenge.
As a white male, I actually have no problem with changing Danny’s ethnicity. I will admit that my preference is for Iron Fist to remain a white male mainly due to his relationship to Luke Cage, which I think is important with the current racial issues in our country.
However, I believe there is a need for more roles for Asian-Americans and am glad that reports were that casting met with Asian-American actors for the lead. My hope at this point is that the people in charge don’t let an actor’s ethnicity eliminate them from contention if they’re best suited for the role.
The biggest reason I think this role is important to Asian-Americans is due to the recent white washing of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. At this point, changing Danny’s ethnicity might be a nice way to apologize for that.
At the end of the day I love Iron Fist. I am fully behind an Asian-American Danny and will devour the show when it’s released. If they cast a white Danny, I will do the same. The fate of Iron Fist is in the hands of Marvel casting either way and I accept that.
But I will say that if they cast a white Danny, then they damn well better work Davos into the storyline and cast an Asian-American in the role. We have seen that the Netflix series have crafted compelling villains that are as compelling as the heroes. As a result, this could really be a break out role for any actor.
If it were me writing the story, I would harken back to the revenge driven Danny Rand and make sure the viewer honestly isn’t sure whether Danny or Davos is more sympathetic. I feel this would be a new take that could make for more interesting storytelling. Just because he’s the antagonist, doesn’t mean he has to be evil.
One last reason that it would be great to have an Asian-American Iron Fist is that this is a different medium and the creators shouldn’t be beholden to the comics other than to honor the core of the character. Nail the characterization and the main character not being white should be no big deal to any fan.
I have years worth of excellent comics and in 2016 I will be reading a new Power Man and Iron Fist comic (my favorite comic book duo). For the fans who want a white Danny, you can pick up the book. The rest of us can enjoy an Asian-American Iron Fist on Netflix. The adventures of white Danny can also be seen on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, which my daughters are loving.
If you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment, but I also urge you to leave your reasons. I think 2016 will be a good time to add more diversity to a line that is growing in popularity. I feel confident in Marvel’s casting that if they cast an Asian-American for Iron Fist, that it will be the right choice.