Changing the Iron Stance: Marvel and the Casting of Iron Fist

Without Iron Fist being Asian American, the whole thing just stinks of cultural appropriation.

 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.

Our friends at 18MillionRising are pushing Marvel to make this change through a petition run through their site.

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.

Samantha Estoesta

Samantha is a 23 year old in Waterloo, ON, Canada. A graduate of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Waterloo, and currently the Executive Director of a Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), she is going to start her Masters in Intercultural Communications in the fall. She is 50% Filipina, and 50% Azorean Portuguese.

6 Comments

  • Reply April 24, 2014

    Todd

    This sentiment makes me want to pull my hair out. There are hundreds and thousands of fans who have history we love with these old characters. Years of backstory and history. I began reading Iron Fist in 1975. He is my favorite character by far in the Marvel Universe, changing his ethnicity changes him at his core. He is a fish out of water. So you would prefer yet another Asian Kung Fu hero….talk about your stereotypes?

    Please stop the madness.

  • Reply June 8, 2014

    Taj

    No no no no. The whole point of Iron fists origin is that he is not Asian. He does not belong in K’un L’un and when he returns to America he does not belong there anymore either.

    In fact the whole motivation for his arch enemy Steel Serpent is that the “outsider” doesn’t deserve to be the next Iron Fist.

  • Reply June 11, 2014

    Kwill

    Stop creating new characters and just reinvent old ones……….Clearly this was written by someone with little knowledge of Iron Fist’s backstory or comics in general. Comic writers are constantly reinventing their characters to keep these heroes fresh for each generation. Most writers refer to the history of the character and respect the continuity as best they can.

    When a character’s history is totally rewritten it is usually a marketing disaster. However, in some cases it is a success as it was with Miles Morales. Miles Morales replaced Peter Parker following Peter’s death in the Ultimate universe. Miles is a completely different Spider-Man not a minority Peter Parker. Nick Fury’s race was changed in the Ultimate comics and it worked because the Ultimate Universe is a separate entity from mainstream Marvel continuity. Later in mainstream Marvel Fury was replaced by his minority son who conveniently lost the same eye. Many fans rolled their eyes as it was a blatantly obvious move to change the character’s race to match the movies.

    The Marvel cinematic universe seems to bridge both the mainstream Marvel continuity and Ultimate universe while putting its own spin on some great stories. They are at the top of the food chai and definitely want to stay there. They will do whatever it takes to get people into theaters including changing the race of yet another caucasian Marvel hero.

    This petition is just another piece of liberal propaganda at work but guess what, Marvel and Disney will probably fold on this issue. They are all about the “spirit of the character ” and money in their pockets. They are thinking about all those nice greenbacks they will be taking from Asians around the globe. $$$$$Sad how little they care for what the actual history of the characters means to real fans.

    By changing Danny Rand’s race you ruin the history of the character and also likely negate any chance of seeing Shang Chi the Master of Kung Fu as they would then be too similar in abilities and appearance. These petitioners are shooting themselves in the foot without even realizing it.

    • Reply December 10, 2014

      nate

      So hold off casting Iron Fist as a Asian so Asian can hope and dream Marvel might bring Shang Chi? Please think before you write because damn that was a stupid comment. I hope to God your not a minority.

  • Reply November 16, 2014

    Jimmy

    I think what caucasians don’t understand is that being being born a visible minority is the ultimate fish out of water. You get discriminated by white people for how your look and the parts of your heritage you keep while people from your culture shun you for being too white. You don’t have a solid identity and this is something all visible minorities born in the west feels. They can’t a easily pretend to be American/Canadian/British, etc as a white person born in those countries would be.

    The new Ms. Marvel series talks a lot about that lost identity struggle.

    • Reply December 9, 2014

      nate

      I agree with you. White people don’t care when they white wash example Dragon Ball Z and The Last Airbender. Then studios tried to do it again with Akira but the couldn’t because Asians in American finally got sick of white washing. Iron Fists entire history is Asian culture. You didn’t see white people jumping up and down when they cast Johnny Storm, Heimdall, Nick Fury black. I promise you if Marvel cast Iron Fist white, the PR they’ll receive will be double what Akira got.

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