After making some questionable sleeping decisions last night, I woke up this morning with a migraine that descended from the very bowels of hell and rendered me incapable of leaving my bed. Due to my confinement, I decided to explore the depths of the internet, bright ass computer screen aside. While doing this, I was sent the new Daredevil trailer and was elated at how it looked.
Overall, I have been very pleased with Marvel’s assembling of their street-level team. Charlie Cox looks like he is going to be a fine Daredevil, Krysten Ritter, and Mike Colter were PERFECT choices for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage respectively, and the former is even showing some serious gains in the gym (eat your heart out, Gal Gadot).
That being said, I found myself asking one thing: will Marvel have the balls to make Danny Rand Asian American?
It’s a question that I have wondered about for the longest time (especially as I read about similar takes on the issue from Nerds of Color and Comics Alliance) and such a desire becomes stronger as we get closer and closer to the debut of all of these Netflix shows. The diversity that Marvel has on the horizon is great…but it is only a start. Because, being completely honest, if I were to sit here and compile a list of how many characters were actively involved in the MCU (and/or a part of the Avengers) who weren’t White, male, or straight, I would have a pretty short list and it might not even take me more than five minutes to finish.
And that is a problem.
So, without further ado, I present to you three reasons why Iron Fist should be Asian-American:
1. There are not enough Asians/Asian Americans in the MCU.
The fact that I can put all of Marvel’s Asian/Asian-American characters–across SEVERAL mediums–in this one picture above makes me very, very annoyed and simultaneously angry.
Granted, people are obviously going to call foul on this and mention Skye and Agent Melinda May of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But I’d like to clarify that I will be sticking with the movies and what is visible.
So, I’ll say it again: there are not enough VISIBLE Asian-Americans in the current slate of Marvel movies (and no, I am not counting the upcoming Asian-American scientist in The Avengers: Age of Ultron yet, as that film has not come out. I am also not talking about the titular character of Big Hero 6, Hiro Hamada).
The only person that comes to mind is Hogun, who is portrayed by Tadanobu Asano in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Hogun hails from Vanaheim (whose inhabitants happen to be the sister race to the Asgardians) and happens to be one-third of the Warriors Three. I was initially super hype for him…until his time in the movies—especially Thor: The Dark World—was seemingly cut short.
Like, he literally shows up in the first 5-10 minutes, does a little bit of fighting, and then leaves to go home to Vanaheim. We don’t see him again during the film. At all.
Which is funny, considering that though Fandral and Volstagg—and even Sif—have their time cut short, they (in the very least) continue to somewhat make glorified cameos until the middle of the second act.
Although, if you were not Loki, Thor, or Jane in this movie (the order in which these characters are listed is purposeful), you were IMMEDIATELY shafted when it came to screen time.
There are also two more people that come to mind in this regard: the two (or three) Asian extras at the beginning of The Avengers…who were immediately killed off by Loki in dramatic fashion.
If that doesn’t say it all, I honestly don’t know what does.
2. This whole “White Guy goes to some mystical, Asian place and becomes better than the Asians at whatever they do” trope is tired as hell.
Or as a close friend of mine put it, “The ‘White guy goes to Asia and out-Asian’s actual Asian people’ trope is played out as f*ck”.
Marvel fans (and comic book fans in general) should be VERY familiar with this goddamn trope as it continues to rear its ugly head with characters like Danny Rand/Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Wolverine, Batman, Elektra, Oliver Queen (the newer version/TV version), Malcolm Merlyn (the newer version/TV version), and etc.
The list literally goes on and I quite frankly do not have enough space in this article to list them all.
If it was not already obvious, I despise this trope and just so people do not think this hate is unwarranted, here’s why.
And let me tell you: Hollywood LOVES a good White Savior (see films like Avatar, Amistad, The Blind Side, District 9, and many more for proof).
Second of all, I find this trope—that has become common place in comic books and other related media—very insulting. Not only does it imply that the people of these various cultures–that are being appropriated from–are not capable or smart enough to defend themselves or appoint one of their own to defend themselves (and/or assume the “Mystical Mantle”…for lack of a better term), but it also assumes that none of their own people are worthy enough to assume this role. That they literally need some White dude-bro from God-knows-where, USA to show them how it is done.
I’m saying this with all sincerity: f*ck this tired ass, offensive ass trope.
3. Being Asian-American could work.
While most people will dismiss the suggestion (and by suggestion, I really mean demand) for Danny to be Asian-American based on the source material, many other fanboys will probably raise questions about its feasibility.
Which, you know, is actually a fair criticism.
And I will address it as such.
There are a multitude of ways to change Danny Rand into an Asian-American man while simultaneously acknowledging the source material AND bringing new dimensions to the Danny Rand/Iron Fist character.
To elaborate, the first generation/second generation Asian-American struggle is such a gold mine. It is such a great opportunity for enthralling story-telling. I mean, not only would you be dealing with heavy, yet relatable subjects like immigration and the American experience, but you would also be tapping into an entirely different demographic and let’s be real here:
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the money and what’s profitable for these studios.
And I’m telling you that not only would this change be compelling, but it would also be profitable.
And furthermore, I don’t want a “White Savior” character in Danny Rand. I want the opposite.
In fact, let’s imagine a rich, one-percenter, Asian-American Danny Rand having an identity crisis. Imagine that his immigrant parents toiled and worked their asses off and did manage to attain the American Dream. However, in their struggle to do so, they neglected to pass down their cherished heritage to their seemingly indifferent son.
Until the movie starts, that is.
Imagine a Danny Rand who just wants to be classified as “American” and not just “Asian”. Who was taught all this bizarre martial arts sh*t as a kid, but wrongfully rejected it because it was “too Asian” and “lame”. Who slowly accepts this and reconciles this with his identity as he uses his innate abilities to become a real hero.
Imagine a Danny Rand who is half-Asian and as a consequence, never knows where he “truly” belongs and desperately craves a tangible identity to align himself with.
Imagine a half-Asian Danny Rand who goes to K’un L’un due to the fact that he wants to figure out his identity. Who struggles to be completely accepted in K’un L’un AND in America.
Hell, just imagine an Asian-American Danny Rand who stumbles upon weird sh*t while he’s on a glamorous family vacation in China and just ROLLS with it.
ALL of this is compelling. ALL of this is something that many Americans (many of who have mixed heritages, who descend from immigrant parents, who struggle to cement their places/identities in the world, who have always had issues when it comes to belonging; who know the experience of being a first, second, or third generation American, who struggle to respect their roots even as they go after the American dream) can relate too.
Now there are people who have already made their assumptions before reading this piece. There are people who will immediately dismiss this piece for daring (EGAD!) to propose such a colossal change to the established cannon. There will most certainly be fanboys who accuse me of “reverse racism” or “purists” who seek to revoke my nerd card and accuse me of being woefully disrespectful to the source material.
So, let me be clear: if you fall into any of the above categories, I am not here for you (and frankly, I don’t a give a f*ck).
I am, however, here for those who are seeking to see people in these movies who look like them. I am here for those who are game for straying away from the status quo and game for welcoming true diversity with open arms (not this token bullsh*t that Hollywood is comfortable with). I am here for those seeking to dismantle the myth of the “model minority”. I am here for those who are sick of the “White Savior” trope, or the “quirky Asian trope”, or the “Cool Asian” trope, or the “School Asian” trope. I am here for those who want to see Asians and Asian-Americans (and other minorities) in more complex and nuanced roles.
I am here for an Asian-American Danny Rand.
What say you lovers of the Zoo? Let me know in the comments below.
***This piece is dedicated to Alison, a fellow Marvel fan and friend.***
Images From: Marvel, Entertainment Weekly, Spotify, Memegenerator.com, Entasia.net, Giphy.com, Hellogiggles.com, Mcucomplex.com