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UPDATE: BEfore this posts even hit its publish time, Jones was back on twitter, as predicted. Iron Fist premieres March 17th.

Uh oh.

Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand in the upcoming Netflix Iron Fist series. Since Jones’ casting, the show has come under heavy criticism for not casting an actor of Asian descent for the series’ lead role. Although some feel that a person of Asian heritage starring as a martial arts expert is another kind of typecasting, given Hollywood’s consisting whitewashing of Asian characters– even in Asian-created media (ScarJo in Ghost in the Shell for instance)– it’s a touchy subject. Moreover, the entire origin of Danny Rand – a white kid who goes to a mystic Asian city and learns their ways – is steeped in the tropes of the white savior and cultural appropriation. Throw in Marvel’s casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange playing a role that could easily have been played by Michele Yeoh, and you have a shaky background.

Jones, who is English, has embarked on interviews for Iron Fist, which arrives on March 17th. Some of these interviews include discussion about the racial politics of the show. But when Jones tried to explain himself to a critic on Twitter…it didn’t go well.

https://twitter.com/AsyiqinHaron/status/838591524141064193

Don’t get me wrong, Jones has a right to talk about his show, but when he explained to an Asian person, Geeks of Color’s Creative Director, Asyiqin Haron, how to feel about race…he got busted whitesplaining. Then, when the heat got too much for him, Jones just deleted his twitter account.

Pretty much the same thing happened when Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho had a tense email exchange over the Ancient One.

Haron is the author of a piece called Why Iron Fist/Danny Rand should be Asian American, btw, which lays out the case reasonably.

Keep in mind that martial arts originated from Africa and was brought to Asia. If an Asian character is reduced to only being good at martial arts and has no quirks or any other winning aspects to them, then yes, that is a racist stereotype. Stereotypes are one-dimensional. Stereotypes happen with bad writing. If you have amazing writers, you will have complex, three-dimensional characters. Danny Rand is intellectual, spiritual, compassionate, and empathetic even when he has been through so much turmoil and hardship. Even then he’s still such a fun and down to earth character. Reducing the character to just “a guy who knows Kung Fu” is an injustice. Danny is so much more than that.

I feel a little bad for Jones, who is an actor and not an activist. He probably had no idea what would happen when he stepped out of the publicist’s cocoon. However, in his Twitter conversations, he just dug himself a deeper and deeper hole trying to explain what’s progressive to a person of color. Trying to cover up the problematic nature of the character by saying the show is feminist didn’t help matters.

Hopefully, he’ll be back to promote the show before the 17th, but after learning how to listen and not become defensive when talking about cultural issues.

https://twitter.com/thatmuhajababe/status/838529201724481536

Producer Lauren Warren delivered the finally eulogy to Jones’ former twitter account with the thread starting here.

Hollywood’s hesitance to have Asian actors play Asian characters is well documented – Ghost in the Shell, Avatar, Dragonball, 21, Doctor Strange, and the on again off again remake of Akira with non-Japanese actors. While Danny Rand the comics character was originally white, he comes from a time period when cultural appropriation was the norm, and reflects the Orientalist and colonialist attitudes of the time. Danny Rand was white for many of the reasons Hollywood thinks white audiences won’t relate to an Asian protagonist. In many ways we haven’t progressed much further than that.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. To Wlater:

    Iron Fist, as in Danny Rand, has always been white. However, there have been multiple other Iron Fists before (and after) Danny, the vast majority of whom are Asian. But this is not why people even asked for an Asian-American Iron Fist to begin with – it has always been about cultural representation, and for most Asians, seeing their culture represented by a white actor has become an annoying cliche with no end in sight.

  2. @Walter Strong he hasn’t been Asian in the past, but does that mean that they can just race-bend Nick Fury and NOT expect the audience to expect more diversity? They could’ve done something really great since this is a Netflix show where there aren’t as many problems, and Netflix producers/higher staff really should’ve voiced their arguments too against the casting of the show.

  3. Anyone want to “educate” me as to how Haron can claim that Asian martial arts originated in Africa? I mean, with a straight face?

    But of course “appropriation” is perfectly OK when it’s done by anyone but a Caucasoid.

    If I were Asian, I’d be a lot more irate to think that the origins of a major part of my culture was being cavalierly ripped off, just for the sake of making common cause against non-POC. But I suppose a lot of people will buy into anything.

  4. I won’t be watching this show and don’t care about its casting, but…

    In which of the screencapped tweets does Jones tell Asyiqin Haron “how to feel about race”? He seems to be giving further info on the show, not instructing “how to feel.”

    Why even start a conversation with someone if the only response you’ll accept is that you’re right about everything and he has no thoughts worth sharing? Perhaps because your presumption is that “many of you aren’t smart enough [rather than simply too ignorant] to understand the depths required to have a convo on why people have an issue with the show.” I know, spare us all from another futile attempt to explain to a SWM who just won’t get it and will probably share his views in response. JUST SHUT UP. After you tell me I’m right.

    This storm of tut-tut tweets will be another “fantasy circle jerk fever dream” just like all the Twitter circle jerks. What a wasted platform.

  5. “seeing their culture represented by a white actor has become an annoying cliche with no end in sight.”

    Sort of how I feel when I see a British actor playing an American character — and speaking in the same growling, guttural voice that Brits use when playing Americans. Hello, Christian Bale and Henry Cavill, and the guy who plays Daredevil on Netflix.

    The last time I read Iron Fist was in the early ’80s, when Danny Rand was blond and white. Not surprised there have been multiple Iron Fists since then. Marvel has multiples for all its characters these days

    The origins of Iron Fist and Dr. Strange are based on old comics, pulp fiction and radio shows of the ’30s, where a white traveler to the “mysterious East” acquires martial arts and/or mystical skills. (See also: The Shadow and Chandu the Magician.) I believe that Iron Fist’s 1974 origin was cribbed from a Bill Everett character called Amazing Man, created circa 1939.

  6. “Genie says
    03/06/2017 3:14 PM AT 3:14 PM

    To Wlater:

    Iron Fist, as in Danny Rand, has always been white. However, there have been multiple other Iron Fists before (and after) Danny, the vast majority of whom are Asian. But this is not why people even asked for an Asian-American Iron Fist to begin with – it has always been about cultural representation, and for most Asians, seeing their culture represented by a white actor has become an annoying cliche with no end in sight.”

    Thank you Genie, that what i was thinking…

  7. “Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange playing a role that could easily have been played by Michele Yeoh”

    Yeah, because casting a Chinese actress to play a Tibetan character wouldn’t have been offensive at *all*.

  8. Thad said:

    “Yeah, because casting a Chinese actress to play a Tibetan character wouldn’t have been offensive at *all*.”

    Like I said, I don’t know if you’re gained a victory against Caucasian assimilation if you eradicate the boundaries between POC cultures.

    Contra Genie: how does Iron Fist “represent” Asian culture by being a white guy who learned martial arts? If real-life actor Jim Kelly learns martial arts and uses that skill to act in movies, is he too “representing” Asians in some faux appropriation-manner?

    Understand: I don’t have anything against seeing more Asian characters. But I would rather just keep it at that basic, human desire, rather than finding illogical ideas like ‘appropriation” to justify the desire.

  9. Anybody know what that “Cancel Colbert!” lady is up to lately? Somebody told me she is currently in the Presbyterian Seminary. How can that be true?!

    It surprises me that she has signed up to be a full-blown woman-hating misogynist (religion is the #1 killer of women in the world). Plus, an Asian woman joining the religion of her culture’s conquerors? Disgusting. She’s an uncle tom.

  10. Anyone else think that Danny Rand is not a great character to recast as Asian? His power is super-karate. I’d much rather see an Asian actor play Iceman or USAgent or someone else who A) has a powerset that doesn’t evoke a specific ethnicity and B) has a generic enough appearance/ethnic background that race bending doesn’t really pose an issue.

  11. Not sure there are easy answers here. Iron Fist as a property definitely appropriates Asian culture but isn’t part of the appeal that it ISN’T authentic? There are lots of real Chinese martial arts films on Netflix. Not sure any have a world only accessible one day a year. Maybe Iron Fist should accentuate its differences and weirdness and make Danny and K’un Lun not just whited-out, watered-down kung-fu but its own weird thing combining multiple influences.

  12. “which lays out the case reasonably”

    Not sure I would agree with the use of “reasonable” here. This looks to me like another episode of the never-ending PC Police social media outrage.

    The guy is white in the comics, it’s okay that he’s white on film. If you have an issue with Asian representation in film & television, that’s totally valid. But making arbitrary demands on projects such as this doesn’t further your cause.

  13. Jones was back on Twitter before this article even hit publish, tweeting about bands. So thread closed. However y’all REALLY REALLY REALLY need to check your privilege. The idea that other people hold opposing views based on their cultural viewpoint shouldn’t be a stunning revelation, people.

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