My heart breaks to find out that Lewis Tan (actual martial artist) had to fight to play Iron Fist. He ended up playing Zhou Cheng in the show, who is a villain.
So I’m writing this because Iron Fist was a mess of cultural appropriation and the argument defending a white Iron Fist is absolutely ridiculous.
The most dominant argument seems to be that Iron Fist was white in the comic. Well, that has no place here. Even when we complained about the Ancient One being canonically Tibetan, everyone else also brushed it off. Don’t tell us things like you-don’t-know-anything-about-the-comic.
Iron Fist was an invention of the 70s, when under- and misrepresentation of minority groups were not a widely discussed problem. In older comics, stereotypes, slurs, demeaning characterizations, and cultural appropriation that are considered to be outrageous today were abundant. However, those have stopped appearing in modern comics, so why should something as archaic as a white savior trope appear in modern TV shows? What were socially acceptable then may not be acceptable now. Time has changed; comics have changed with the time. Staying true to source material shouldn’t be as important as staying true to the time. (and if we’re talking about staying true to source material, the arc of this whole first season couldn’t be further away from Iron Fist’s actual comic origin)
Additionally, Danny being white doesn’t have much to do with his whole storyline. The trope of being an outsider could have easily been adapted for an Asian-American actor. A second generation Asian born on American soil, grew up the American way, who might get teased at school for the color of his skin, or the shape of his eyes, who hears stories about his parents’ homeland but never really gets it, who sometimes, secretly, wishes he looked more like his friends. He then is thrust out of that world, into the culture he heard so much about, surrounded by people who look like him. But here, he still doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t speak the language, he couldn’t get used to the food or the clothing, and he is teased for his cluelessness. An outsider no matter where he goes. Yet he perseveres, he works hard at fitting in, learns the language, the traditions, and everything in between. Eventually, he comes out on top and becomes a fitting Iron Fist.
It could have been so much more meaningful. It could have resonated with so many people who can never quite identify with any particular culture, with people who question themselves when they are asked to tick a box for their ethnicity. It could have helped the show avoid the cringiness of blatant cultural appropriation. It could have achieved so, so much.
And while an Asian Iron Fist would be perpetuating some stereotypes, it could also break a lot of stereotypes. As a lead role, we could’ve seen a nuanced male Asian character, who demonstrates different sides of himself throughout the show. We could have seen an Asian character who isn’t just comic relief or the smart one in the group (which we did get, somewhat, through Colleen Wing). He may know martial arts, but he didn’t start out that way (because really, us Asians were not born with kungfu embedded into our brains). We could’ve had a Black-Asian friendship between Luke Cage and Danny, which is rarely portrayed in media. Hell, we could’ve had a Black-Asian romantic relationship when they make Misty and Danny a couple, which is virtually never seen in mainstream media! Ever!
Danny’s race doesn’t matter to the core of the character. After all, he is fictional. In the end, what matters more is the fact that there are real people out there who are disappointed to see their traditions on screen, but (once again) not on a face that they associated with those traditions. It’s about the multiple times when there was a chance for an Asian or Asian-American (or Asian-British in Tan’s case) actor to be cast, and they fight hard for the role, but ultimately they were let down. It’s about the fact that this continuously happens to Asian characters, leading me (and perhaps many others) to feel like we don’t exist or we are invisible in the entertainment industry.
I could go on, but all I really want to say is representation matters.
Marvel, you can really take a page from other Disney projects, or even Star Wars, on this matter.
Is there anyone else besides me bothered by Prince of Persia's whitewashing?
You are not the only one who was bothered by the whitewashing in Prince of Persia! You’re talking about the movie right? Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It was super gross all the white actors were in fake tans to make them brown instead of using actual brown people.
Why, seriously why, is it okay to ignore that they aren't spraytanning Daisy to make her look like a poc? Her character isn't from Jakku, so there was never an intention of making her look like she was from a desert planet, just that she had been on one for a long time. Fun fact: white people get darker when they're out in the sun. Real thing, actually happens. I think Rey should have been a woc too, but not because she's from Jakku, because she's not. She was just left there.
No one is debating that white people tan. Fun fact: I’m olive skinned and I tan to a brown color. In fact lots of PoC tan and get darker in the sun. That has nothing to do with the fact that they wanted Rey to look golden/brown and they choose to spray tan the hell out of a pale as milk woman going to the point of using brown pigment cream on her (”Rey’s make up consisted of Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation, with some brown cream pigment and “By Terry Brightening CC Lumi-Serum” in “Sunny Flash” for her cheeks.” from x).
They had a perfect opportunity to actually cast a brown woman no spray tanning needed an they didn’t. You can say you “think Rey should have been a WoC too” all you want but you’re completely defending the casting of white woman when they could have used a WoC. This in a franchise that has yet to cast a dark skinned woman in anything other than a cameo or in body paint. You’re defending racist casting.