After the casting controversy, two shows, and a guest appearance in Marvel Luke Cage season 2, we ask again, is Marvel Iron Fist Racist?
Yes. Marvel Iron Fist is Racist.
This is not to say the character in the comics, or Finn Jones is racist. This isn’t even to say that there is any hate or bigotry. Just saying, whoever is in charge of writing and directing this character for the Netflix series either aggressively thinks little of Asians and their culture, or they are egregiously ignorant. I know this is going to trigger people to come to the character’s defense because they like the character/show so they feel if it’s racist they are somehow also associated with being racist or they can’t fathom race issues involving Asians as actual issues because we’re a model minority. Either way, if you got something to say drop me a line in the comments because I’m batting 1000 shutting down that noise.
Now before getting triggered by hearing “IRON FIST IS RACIST,“ hear me out.
The casting of Finn Jones as Iron Fist, is not racist. I defended this, and have seen moments of potential for him as the character. I think Lewis Tan would have been a better choice, both for performance and social issues, but it was not wrong casting Finn Jones. Iron Fist is a white character and created by white people. I think Asians need to step up and create Asian characters instead of complaining about how Americans create characters who do “Asian things” and make foreign properties with Americans. I mean yes it would be nice if they would use American Asian talent more, but I’m not going to fault a movie because they use a major star in a role of a foreign property. I’m referencing the Ghost in the Shell debacle, which again I was in full support of the casting. However, after watching the movie and seeing they “upgraded” an Asian girl into Scar Jo, that’s where it is ACTUALLY RACIST. The actual story/philosophy behind that is racist, Scar Jo’s casting is racist because of that, but I still say the principle of using one of the biggest celebrities to bring attention to risky IP is not.
But back to IRON FIST IS RACIST. I think I need to clarify what I mean when I say IRON FIST IS RACIST. I’m am not referring to red hat, BBQ Becky, go back to your country racist. I am not speaking about obvious bigotry and hate. I am talking about Skylar who copied my math test and failed with me because he heard Asians were good at math type of racism. It is a problem of willful ignorance and condescending lack of respect. It is racism, but it is not like the hate and bigotry most often associated and depicted with the word ‘racist.’ It would be much more accurate and polite to say Iron Fist is egregiously ignorant to Asian people and culture, but it doesn’t pop like saying IRON FIST IS RACIST. I also don’t feel like watering down my piece to distinguish where in the spectrum IRON FIST IS RACIST falls. But know I do not put the character in the hate and bigotry category. That is the usual reason people get triggered when they hear “racism” and why they vehemently defend themselves/things they like to not be associated with or seen in that light (which, good for you). So you’re like Iron Fist, not a bigot, but IRON FIST IS RACIST.
How is Marvel IRON FIST RACIST? It’s this kind of racism:
Marvel Iron Fist has turned the character of Danny Rand/Iron Fist into Bruce from Not Another Teen Movie. An earnest white kid who likes Asian culture, but understands none of it and insultingly shares his misinterpretation. Which is great for a comedy if that’s for what you’re going for, but insulting and offensive when it’s not. The Danny Rand/Iron Fist has a number of questionably racist moments in his depiction:
- He speaks Mandarin to Colleen Wing when finding out her name, after already starting the conversation in English.
- He whitesplains and mansplains martial arts to someone who runs her own dojo
- He calls a kendo stick a practice sword, which is understandable if you don’t know what it is. But considering he’s been hit with one by a “master” before, it seems ignorant he would call it that as another master is holding it when he says it.
That’s just in the first episode. There are a lot of other problems with the show, like the fight scenes and unrelatable privileged problems Danny seems to have as they try so hard to not be like Arrow (which handled everything so much better), but that’s not the focus of this piece, though I will gladly talk about this with anyone willing. But it’s that, despite the shows efforts to make K’un-Lun a diverse sanctuary of martial arts masters, Danny Rand came back as the white kid trying to be Asian.
The Marvel Iron Fist series listened to the controversy that surrounded Finn Jones’ casting, and the potentially racist issues that surround the character of Iron Fist in general. In the comics, K’un-Lun is Asian AF, and it is offensive that Iron Fist is an embodiment of the “White Person better at Asian things than Asians are” trope. So, the show made K’un-Lun diverse, with people from all backgrounds. Yet Danny Rand seems to have only taken warped understandings of Asian (particularly Chinese) culture.
But, after The Defenders, which essentially was “The Roast of Iron Fist,” it helped people forget about Danny’s fake/ignorant Asianess because he’s pretty much just young and dumb.
Then this happens:
Marvel Luke Cage Season 2 Episode 10, Danny Rand enters a barbershop and takes off his shoes…
THAT IS A PLACE OF BUSINESS YOU THUNDERING DUMBASS!
It is a widely known cultural staple of Asian/Eastern Culture that we take off our shoes when we get home or go to people’s houses. I understand it is weird to other cultures, for some reason y’all think it’s normal to track your dirty shoes through your living room and kitchen. Whatever, it’s different cultures, to each their own. Danny Rand having a heavily martial arts influenced and, let’s face it, Asian influenced upbringing would take off his shoes when entering someones home. It makes sense. I mean social conjecture is to ask what people prefer in their homes, but whatever I can accept that he would have a natural tendency to take off his shoes when going into a home.
BUT THAT IS A BARBERSHOP AND STOREFRONT!
Even if he did know Luke was currently living at the Barbershop, the living quarters are in the back! You are obviously at a place of business, you do not take off your shoes there! I mean was there no Asian person on the crew to tell the director how stupid that is? What the hell man? How little does Danny Rand understand Asian culture? On top of that, how inconsistent is the character? The first episode he’s barefoot everywhere, now he takes his shoes off at a place of business. If he came in with no shoes on it would make sense. But the fact that they hyper focus on him taking off his shoes means they think its funny, or worse, they think that’s normal.
It would be funny if he was called out on it because anyone taking their shoes off when entering a place of business is weird. I mean DW calls out EVERYTHING, he’s not going to call out someone who just took their shoes off entering his store and the barbershop? Luke checks Danny’s privilege throughout the episode, and I think that’s a great direction to take the Danny Rand character that would make him endearing and redeemable. And honestly, cultural ignorance is funny. I mean watch: (If you don’t want to watch, it’s the scene when Bruce Banner asks if he should bow before T’Challa)
But there’s a difference when it’s done respectfully versus the insulting way they have Iron Fist portray it and no one calls it out.
I’m sure out of context, I’m making mountains out of molehills. Probably even in context, it was 4 seconds of an hour+ long episode. But it’s these things that normalize the disregard and disrespect of Asians in the media. It’s not Tilda Swinton being the Ancient One that hurts us, it’s literally the white person saying Asians take their shoes off everywhere that hurts us. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One is fiction, and the real reason that happened is because there’s no way China is going to mass screen a movie portraying a Tibetan in a positive light. That has 0 effects on Asian American life. But stupidity like Danny Rand taking off his shoes at a place of business is why Asians are always asked if they eat dog. Because our cultural values are devalued and made weird so it’s only natural for us to be devalued and made weird with it. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and Scar Jo being cast in Ghost in the Shell are effects of disregard and disrespect of Asians, Danny Rand taking his shoes off at a barbershop is a cause.
Again, it sounds like I’m making mountains out of molehills here. I’m not saying this is THE cause, but it’s fuel to the fire. I am sure that whoever is responsible for that scene put nowhere near as much thought or time into it than I am now. I’m sure very few people are even thinking about it, or even noticed it as more than white noise. It was 4 seconds of 0 importance. And hopefully, it is just a one-off miss-step that has 0 significance to anything. I hope I’m crazy for going this deep into this and I hope I’m completely wrong about all of it. But I’ve got 5 dollars on Danny Rand eating McDonald’s with chopsticks in Iron Fist Season 2 (or something as ignorant). Any takers?