Why I can’t and won’t finish watching Iron Fist
Before anyone tries to jump down my throat about being a stupid SJW who only cares about the race angle, I would first like to point out that I enjoyed the hell out of Daredevil, another Marvel Netflix show starring a white man practicing Asian martial arts. It’s all in the execution, guys. And the execution here is garbage.
Let’s start with the martial arts. For the love of fuck, if you just HAVE to get a generic white man to play the lead, the least you could do was get one who was good at traditional martial arts. There are a lot of them. Charlie Cox, one Netflix recommendation over, pulls off some of the best fight scenes I have ever seen in a TV show (also, the man can act, so that helps too). Last month, I watched a red-belt student of mine in a local production of Macbeth. At twelve, that kid has more talent (in the acting and martial arts departments) than this Finn Jones tool.
Jessica Henwick’s form is nothing to write home about but at least she’s better than Jones. And both our action heroes would benefit greatly from some less shitty fight choreography and editing. (Guys, just adding loud ‘swoosh’ sound effects isn’t going to trick me into thinking the sword is swinging faster. I can see it).
To add insult to injury, the show condescendingly tries to make me believe that this pasty-ass piece of mediocrity is a better martial artist than Colleen Wing?? Just has him casually trounce her in her own dojo. With those wibbly-wobbly stances, son? I don’t think so. This is not real life, nor is it good fiction. This is some flabby-ass white guy’s jerk-off fantasy of being super awesome and showing up the hot Asian chick without any understanding martial arts whatsoever.
The acting in this show ranges from serviceable to painfully inept (lookin’ at you Meachum Jr. or whatever the fuck your name is, I’ll have forgotten your whole existence by tomorrow for all the impression you leave). Even the competent performances in this show only serve to remind me of more interesting characters from Netflix’s other Marvel shows. For example, Jessica Stroup’s acting is similar to Deborah Ann Woll’s performance as Karen Page, only serving to remind me that Karen Page alone is a more interesting character with more compelling scenes than half the cast of Iron Fist put together.
I will say that Colleen Wing is quite appealing and I applaud Henwick for making her both tough and charming, not an easy line to walk. If I wanted to be mean, I could point out that she is essentially just a Claire Temple 2.0 in terms of her temperament and her role as shelter and support to the Main White Guy at the point of her introduction. But I don’t actually want to pick on Colleen. She’s cute and I like her.
Now, back to being mean: STOP trying to make white characters look cool by having them speak Chinese (or any language they can’t speak for that matter, though I feel Mandarin generally gets a special kind of mangling for the crime of being a tonal language). It doesn’t sound cool. I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, guys. It makes you sound like a fucking idiot. Okay, sure, maybe you succeeded in making your white English-speaking audience think, ‘yeah, that’s really cool, he must be super smart and badass, I want to be like that.’ But White people, I am telling you this for your own good: you don’t want to be like that. Because as cool as that butchered-ass Mandarin may sound to you, it’s like a band-saw to my eardrums. It brings everything to a cringing, teeth-grinding halt in the middle of what might otherwise be a perfectly good scene. Remember when Wilson Fisk had a conversation with Madame Gao in ‘Mandarin’? That was the worst part of Netflix’s Daredevil. Worse, it made me embarrassed for an actor I greatly admire. So, to whoever decided it was a great idea to have Wilson Fisk show off his Mandarin, thanks dickhead. You wrecked an entire scene for my favorite Marvel villain.
Oh yeah, and if any of you want to try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, fucking come at me bro. I have a black belt and 10+ years of training in traditional martial arts. I am a Chinese-American woman, proficient in Japanese and Mandarin, and I double majored in East Asian History and Buddhist studies.
Oh, did I mention that our protagonist keeps condescendingly spouting mystical pseudo-Buddhist bullshit to everyone he meets? And then throws temper tantrums when they (shock!) don’t take him seriously? God, I hate this show.
If I want to see better acting, I can go see a middle school play. If I want to see better fighting, I can go to the dojo and watch my seven-year-old green belts spar. If I want to hear Buddhist philosophy mangled by self-impressed white people, I can go to the yoga studio next door.