As Marvel and Netflix begin the preliminary stages of the production of the made-for-Netflix original based on Marvel’s Iron Fist, there is a fantastic chance for Marvel and Netflix to change the culture of comics and make the hero not white.
I will give credit where credit is due. Marvel makes huge strides in eliminating gaps in representation. Superheroes in Hijabs, superheroes in leg braces; there are Asian, African American, Native, and Latino superheroes. Superheroes with all body types, superheroes from nuclear families and single parents, and there are even superheroes who have visual impairments. With a large spectrum of LGBTQ characters, Marvel even had the first canonical gay marriage!
There is one thing that could make Marvel’s representation gains even better: stop making new characters and reinvent old, well-known ones.
Marvel is no stranger to this concept, but the biggest representation gain in a character revamp comes from the Ultimate Spiderman reboot with Miles Morales, an Afrolatino teenage boy, taking on the role of the title hero. And guess what? PEOPLE LOVED IT.
There is another reason for why Marvel should have Iron Fist be portrayed by an Asian actor is that the character, if not portrayed by an Asian, just stinks of cultural appropriation. From the martial arts to his ability to concentrate his chi in his fists, the character Daniel Rand, the son of a wealthy American businessman, this is one step away from having someone use the word “oriental” to describe a person.
Absolutely nothing would change if Rand’s racial makeup is Asian. Zero. Zip. Nada. But you know what would change? His martial arts abilities could be connected to the region where his family is from (and not just the fictional place that his father once found), the designs would personalized to both his heritage and mystical land of K’un L’un, and some Asian kid is going to be clicking through their Netflix cue and think, “Oh wow! Here’s a show that has someone like me in it!”
I bet that kid is going to talk to their friends the next day about this awesome show. It will come to replaying the awesome, flying fists of fury scenes, this kid will proudly say, “I’ll be Iron Fist!” And in those moments, they will be Iron Fist because Iron Fist is just like them.
So Marvel, as a wise character once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Be responsible, and cast an Asian actor for the role of Daniel Rand/Iron Fist.
If you wish to sign the petition to get Marvel to cast an Asian actor, please click here.