Is That Racist? Iron Fist is White (Still)
A brief history on Iron Fist: Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1974, Iron Fist is a martial arts master who wields the mystic powers of the Iron Fist. As a child, Danny Rand was brought by his Father, his father’s business partner Harold Meachum, and his mother Heather, to the Himalayas to hopefully see the mystic city of K’un-Lun. During their journey to look for the city, his father get’s Mufasa’d by Meachum and Heather sacrifices herself to protect Danny from wolves. Danny winds up finding the city of K’un-Lun where he trains in martial arts and wins the mystic powers of the Iron Fist. He vowed to get revenge on Meachum and eventually finds his way back to New York to do so. He has the chance to kill Meachum but realizes he’s better than murder and gets over it because he has bigger things to move onto. *If you want a more detailed history on Iron Fist, check out the Marvel’s Wiki.
For those of us who are fans of the Marvel Netflix Series, which I assume is anyone reading this or on our site, you’re probably aware Iron Fist is on the way. He’ll likely be in the upcoming Netflix series Luke Cage. Iron Fist and Luke Cage have a long history of teaming up and being buddies; you probably know them as Heroes for Hire. His presence in the Netflix corner of the MCU is highly anticipated, as well as his series. Everyone knew that Iron Fist was coming, starting when we found out Netflix MCU shows would focus on the street level heroes, and there are no more popular street level heroes than the Heroes for Hire. They are so good on the streets they eventually do get inducted into the Avengers. Anyway, Iron Fist (Danny Rand) will be played by Game of Thrones alum, Finn Jones. An obviously caucasian actor. So Iron Fist is White… still.
Iron Fist is a character deeply imbued with Chinese martial arts culture and lore. His fighting style, his costume, and his origin scream Chinese Kung Fu. However, Finn Jones is obviously white. So it raises the question,
“Iron Fist is white, is that racist?”
No. Iron Fist/Danny Rand remaining a blonde haired white guy is not racist. In my honest opinion, he is what white people who like Asian culture should be like. He’s not one of those tools who goes and gets a Kanji tattoos because English words look cool as a Kanji symbol. This is not me saying casting him as Asian would’ve been wrong or a bad thing, but I don’t think they have to make a character Asian because the guy is basically living Asian stereotypes. This issue was first brought up by Keith Chow from Nerds of Color, and I completely get where he’s coming from. His piece brings up a lot of good points:
His piece brings up a lot of good points:
– Making Danny non-white removes the white savior syndrome of the original story.
– Do you really want yet another white guy being better than Asians at Asian things
– Want[ing] the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reflect the demographics of the real world as much as possible.
I don’t disagree at all. I want more Asians and other minorities in media in general. I would also prefer people playing a role of a minority to actually be the minority portrayed. What I am not really for is trying to take a character deeply rooted as white to be Asian. I am not a believer in having to race swap established characters who are white as minorities. I would much rather create a new character from scratch and build them up to stardom. Race-swapping a major character to be a minority, to me, is a lazy way to try and make things equal. I don’t believe equality means white people have to lose things to balance the scales. Equality means we can all have it all. Why do we need to make a character look like us, why can’t another character become the peer, colleague, or superior to that established character? That is far more interesting to me than seeing a white person’s story rehashed using a minority.
Don’t misunderstand me, though, I love what Marvel did with Captain America (Sam Wilson), Thor (Jane Foster), and Spider-Man (Miles Morales). But Marvel didn’t change the race of their characters, they allowed minority characters to take up the mantles. The previous characters are still present, valid, and relevant, but we have inclusion now. To me, it not only adds new and exciting story lines, but it allows the characters to develop. I’ve talked about this before, and I feel like I’m getting off track.
Finn Jones as Iron Fist is not racist. Yes, it would have been nice to see an Asian lead in the MCU, but I don’t want one as a stereotype. Also, Shang-Chi could kick Danny Rand’s ass even without the power of the Iron Fist. (This better happen in some form when Shang Chi is introduced). But I don’t think it’s racist for Marvel to cast Finn Jones as Iron Fist, and keep the character white. However, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One… that’s another situation entirely.
I’ve come to sum up the situation of Iron Fist like Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris, despite my disagreeing with his world view, is a renown and amazing Martial Artist. He’s still no Bruce Lee. Like Chuck, there are much more stories and recognition of him, but then no one (who knows anything) would say he’s taking away from Bruce, Martial Arts, or Chinese/Asians.