We live in a world where racial diversity in films and television is a very real issue. The term whitewashing has become commonplace when it comes describing casting choices. Whitewashing refers to white characters being cast in traditionally non-white roles. Seeing as it is 2016, one would think it wouldn't be as much of an issue, but alas it is. The American version of Ghost in the Shell was one of the most recent to broach this subject, though we're seen this issue time and time again in the past, with films such as: Gods of Egypt, The Last Airbender, and Noah (which coincidentally are all terrible). There are countless more examples that you can pile on as well.
This battle for racial diversity seems to be a slow march up a very steep hill, but there seems to be some progress. Disney (in a very intelligent move) jumped out ahead of their newly announced Mulan live-action film stating that they will be looking at both an Asian director and an primarily Asian cast in the months to come. This was widely regarded as a smart choice; if they had chosen white actors the backlash to follow would no doubt bury that film. We saw this response at the Oscars when #OscarsSoWhite was trending across the world.
Marvel has already been accused of whitewashing at least once already. In the upcoming Doctor Strange film, renowned white actress Tilda Swinton will be playing the role of The Ancient One, who was a man of Tibetan decent in the comics. It was suggested that the change could be due to "political reasons" so that they would not lose the Chinese market. Kevin Feige has since defended the choice, stating that it was made for "creative reasons." The character was also created over 50 years ago and thus inherently falls victim to a lot of traditional Asian stereotypes.
For more of the Doctor Strange controversy, be sure to check out:
- Kevin Feige On The Doctor Strange Whitewashing Controversy
- So Maybe Doctor Strange Isn't 'Whitewashing' After All...
The Immortal Caucasian Iron Fist
Returning to New York City after being missing for years, Daniel Rand fights against the criminal element corrupting New York City with his incredible kung-fu mastery and ability to summon the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.
The Marvel Netflix universe is extremely popular among fans and critics alike. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have pushed the boundaries of how comic book properties can be represented on-screen. That said, with the exclusion of Luke Cage, all of our heroes are very white. Sure, Daredevil has The Hand — a criminal organization that is mostly all Asian — however, they are all villains. This could have been remedied with the announcement of Iron Fist being played by an Asian or Asian-American actor, but it seemed better to cast (the Knight of Flowers himself) Finn Jones as yet another white male superhero.
Why Bring Up The Subject Of Racial Diversity When The Character Of Danny Rand/Iron Fist Was Originally Caucasian?
To answer this, we have to look at the creation of the character on the whole. Iron Fist was created in 1974 by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane during the height of the kung-fu craze in America. The character (by all accounts) should be an Asian man. However, seeing as the majority of comic book readers at the time were Caucasian boys, they made the character Caucasian, as countless characters in comics were before them.
This is a common explanation, although it doesn't hold water anymore. The argument "that's the way it was and has always been" is ridiculous, but that is why there are so many Caucasian heroes. We see them so often on screen now because the oldest ones are the most recognizable and we are forever trying to outrun our own past.
Danny Rand/Iron Fist Would Work As Any Race
It has to be said that Danny Rand/Iron Fist is not an offensive character by any means, there is just really no solid reason for him to be Caucasian. The mantle of Iron Fist was passed down 65 times before being bestowed upon Danny Rand and he was the first non-Asian. When it comes down to it and you look at the creation of the character, it is essentially two Caucasian males writing and developing a story about a culture they knew little about. Danny Rand/Iron Fist reflects what Thomas and Kane knew, what they were exposed to, and what would sell: a mystical, Caucasian, kung-fu master.
The biggest influence that bleeds through the character of Iron Fist is the martial-arts culture depicted in Bruce Lee films — one narrow view of Asian culture. Taking one facet of a society and molding an entire character around it is not going to fairly represent that culture. That is akin to judging the whole of American culture by Rambo and Rocky movies; it just doesn't work, and their are bound to be misrepresentations.
The argument has been made that Danny Rand being Caucasian fits the mold of him being an outsider in a vastly Asian society. Although this argument stands on the idea that everyone of one race is automatically included and accepted in that society, you can be an outsider anywhere, regardless of your skin color. He could easily be any other race and still be Danny Rand/Iron Fist without change. He is not Black Panther, Storm, or Luke Cage, meaning his race is not an integral part of who he is.
Iron Fist being Caucasian does not make sense in our modern society. It's Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai all over again. The world grew out of indulging the "white savior" archetype decades ago, so having Iron Fist fit that bill could be viewed as insulting. This is even more true as Danny Rand's best friend and partner in crime, Luke Cage, has already set a precedence in the same universe. Proving that promoting and encouraging diversity is welcomed with open arms (Luke Cage crashed Netflix the weekend it premiered).
Swing-And-A-Miss, Better Luck Next Time
When it all comes down to it, it's yet another missed opportunity to diversify superheroes on TV and film. Luckily the comics are ages ahead and have already done a wonderful job at diversifying their heroes. The Marvel Netflix series are still young and have room to grow and introduce new characters that will diversify their lineup. Until then, they are putting out quality programming and have audiences everywhere waiting for the release of Iron Fist, which arrives to Netflix on March 17, 2017.
Sound Off! Do you think Iron Fist/Danny Rand should be Asian? Should they stick to the source material? Let it be known in the comments below!