Finn Jones has been cast as Iron Fist in the new Netflix series about the Marvel superhero, as The Inquisitr reported recently. In the comic books, Iron Fist is Daniel Rand, a blond, blue-eyed martial artist who conveniently spent part of his childhood and all of his teenage years in the mystical extradimensional city of K’un-Lun, which materializes in the Himalayas once every 10 years. He was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane in the early ’70s, when martial arts movies were gaining popularity.
To fans of the comic book, hiring British actor Finn Jones as Iron Fist seems like perfect casting. Yes, Jones has light brown hair rather than blond, but Hollywood is familiar with wigs and hair dye. Jones is tall, slender, and athletic, like Daniel Rand. Finn Jones is best known in the U. S. for playing Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, in HBO’s popular series Game of Thrones. In addition to Game of Thrones, he also earned his Geek Credentials by playing Santiago Jones, grandson of Companion Jo Grant, in the Dr. Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Some viewers disagree. Susan Cheng, editorial assistant and writer for BuzzFeed, wrote an article on the subject: “People are outraged that an Asian-American isn’t playing Iron Fist.” Although the character of Iron Fist has always been Caucasian, many fans thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring Iron Fist into the 21st century by dropping the cultural appropriation and making both the character and the actor playing him Asian-American.
Pete Ross on Smallville, Nick Fury in The Avengers and other MCU movies, Aqualad in Young Justice, Human Torch in the reboot of Fantastic Four, James Olsen on Supergirl, and Little Orphan Annie in the reboot of Annie have all been recast as African-Americans in modern adaptations. It’s called “racelifting,” according to the Independent. Fans want to know why a character with an Asian background can’t be racelifted into an Asian-American character.
The controversy over Iron Fist being Caucasian instead of Asian-American dates back to the early ’70s. Long before William F. Wu earned his first Hugo nomination, he wrote to Marvel Comics to complain about the missed opportunity they had with Iron Fist.
Last year, Comics Allianceexplained why having Iron Fist remain a Caucasian martial artist who got his training in a mystical Asian kingdom, but wasn’t himself Asian or Asian-American, was a bad idea. Keith Chow of Nerds of Colorexplained the potential benefits of Iron Fist being Asian-American nearly two years ago.
“What does change, however, in making Danny non-white is that it removes the white savior syndrome of the original story. In the comics, it turns out Danny is the most gifted student Lei Kung had ever trained. Because of course he is. For all the fans who might decry an Iron Fist racebend, do you really want yet another white-guy-is-better-at-being-Asian-than-the-Asians story? But if Danny is Asian American, the scenes of him embracing the ways of K’un-L’un can be viewed through the lens of cultural re-connection. In fact, I’d play up Danny’s rejection of his Asian heritage prior to venturing to China. I know as someone who similarly connected to my cultural heritage later in life, that story would be deeply resonant to me. And you know what would be really dope? If the writers also played up the actual Kunlun Mountains of Chinese mythology on the show.”
The New York Times pointed out that diversity improves television. Hollywood has long had a problem with diversity and inclusion. Twenty percent of the American public are people with disabilities, as actor and advocate Danny Woodburn pointed out in recent articles in Huffington Post and The Inquisitr, yet people with disabilities make up less than two percent of actors, directors, producers, and characters in Hollywood. Hiring Finn Jones to play Iron Fist was faithful to canon, but was it the right decision?
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