Poor Finn Jones hasn't had the best week. First he was chased off Twitter after he defended Iron Fist against accusations of whitewashing and cultural appropriation, then his show was absolutely slammed by critics after the first seven episodes were released to the press.
The fourth #Defender's debut series has been called "hollow" and "laughably bad", with too much exposition and nonsensical story telling. io9 even went so far as to call it "Marvel's first real failure." No publication posted a good review, and the show currently sits at a shockingly low 14% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Like any loyal actor might, Finn Jones hit back at the press in a recent interview, using what has now become Hollywood's ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card: The actor argued that Iron Fist was "made for the fans", not the critics. Sigh.
"These shows are not made for critics, they are first and foremost made for the fans. When the fans of the Marvel Netflix world and fans of the comic books view the show through the lens of just wanting to enjoy a superhero show, then they will really enjoy what they see."
What was at first an almost valid point, challenging us to wonder what makes a superhero story good, has now become a hollow argument. This "we made it for the fans" defense was used to hand-wave away the problems with Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman, but so far #Marvel hasn't produced anything so bad that only the most dedicated fans could love it. If Jones has to use this argument to defend Iron Fist, that really doesn't bode well for the show.
There's also some pretty insulting implications in Jones' comments. Does this "lens of wanting to enjoy a superhero show" really blind fans to signs of objective quality like writing, pacing, and characterization?
A Weak Excuse
The answer to that question is no. Plenty of fans are just as discerning as critics, and some can be even more critical, demanding the best possible adaptation of the source material that they love so much. Just because people want to enjoy a superhero show doesn't mean that they'll necessarily like it — just wander into any Reddit thread about any TV show and you'll see plenty of debates over storytelling quality. Is Jones really suggesting that fans should turn off their brains just so they can enjoy the show?
Of course, this whole debate ignores the fact that many of the critics that tore apart Iron Fist are actually fans themselves — in this boom of pop culture, no-one would choose to write about TV and film for a living unless they actually enjoyed the source material.
It's surprising to see a #Netflix Defenders show use the "we made it for the fans" excuse. When Daredevil first aired in 2015, it was lauded as groundbreaking, a series that redefined not only how we tell superhero stories but how TV is narratively structured. Daredevil shot to fame because of the positive critical reception — the same could be said of the unflinching survivor-story that is Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage's frank portrayal of race issues in the USA today, as both of these shows were greeted with a glowing critical reception.
And what does Iron Fist add? Some (more) ninjas and, by all reports, lots and lots and lots of corporate meetings. Not exactly genre re-affirming stuff.
Sorry, Finn Jones, I know you're doing your best to defend a show that you no doubt worked really hard on. But the "it's not for critics" excuse has worn paper-thin, and it was never a real argument in the first place. Sometimes, if a show is bad, we all just have to accept it and move on. After all, there's always The Defenders.
Will you be watching 'Iron Fist'?
[Poll image credit: Netflix]