News broke the other day about Marvel and Netflix casting Finn Jones (Game of Thrones) to play Danny Rand/Iron First in the upcoming Iron Fist series hot on the heels of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Why the uproar you may ask? That’s because some fans and creators are disappointed in Marvel/Netflix not casting an Asian actor in the lead role, and they go so far as to say that Marvel is “whitewashing” again. I don’t see how this is possible since the character of Danny Rand has always been a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white guy.
Here’s a little about Iron Fist: Danny Rand was 9 when his father, Wendell, brought him and his mother to the mystical city of K’un-Lun (which only materializes in the Himalayas once every decade) where Wendell trained and learned the art of the Iron Fist. Tragedy struck and Danny’s parents were both lost to tragic accidents. He was found by the citizens of K’un-Lun who took him in. Danny then studied martial arts under master Lei Kung and over the years got increasingly better. Then at 19 he requested an opportunity to win the power of the Iron Fist by fighting Shou-Lao the Undying. Danny defeated Shou-Lao and gained the power. Jealousy caused certain K’un-Lun figures to attack Danny and take the power for themselves. Danny then was able to flee back to Earth when the city reappeared in the Himalayas. He then went on to become the hero Iron Fist who teamed with Luke Cage to form Heroes for Hire and later joined the Defenders and Avengers.
This part was not “whitewashed.” Marvel held true to the comic book version of Iron Fist and Finn Jones is primed to have a career breakthrough if this series is anything like Daredevil or Jessica Jones. Other characters have changed races in Marvel properties (and DC as well) and the only one that caused as much uproar was Michael B. Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm in the doomed Fantastic Fourreboot. We’ve had:
- Samuel L. Jackson cast as Nick Fury in the MCU. The character has been a white male in Marvel comics for 53 years and is still so. Marvel recently introduced a man named Marcus Johnson who ended up being Fury’s son and took over the mantle for his father when the senior Fury retired.
- Guy Pearce cast as Killian Aldrich in Iron Man 3 and later on in the film claimed to be the Mandarin, an Asian villain for 52 years and still so. Prior to Pearce revealing himself as the Mandarin, Ben Kingsley was claiming to be the Mandarin.
- Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the comics Dillon is a white male with read hair.
- Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/Human Torch in The Fantastic Four. This was a major issue with many comic fans as Storm was the first major hero to be changed in such a way. Some wanted to boycott the film while others said it was inspired casting. Jordan wasn’t horrible in the role but the film as a whole made it difficult to see the good in the bad.
- Lynn Collins as Silver Fox in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. A character that in the comics is Native American should have had a Native actress to play the role. This was not as troubling to most fans as it was to Native Americans who continuously battle to be cast in parts of Native characters.
- Laurence Fishburne as Perry White in The Man of Steel. Oddly enough there were a few detractors but mostly this casting was met with positive reactions.
- Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen in Supergirl. Initially met with resistance from die-hard fans, this casting has grown on many people and is seen as a bright spot in the show. Rumor originally had the character being changed to a female for the movies.
- Will Smith as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot in The Suicide Squad. In DC’s comics Deadshot is a white male. The Suicide Squad has had black members and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t cast Smith in the role of long time SS member Bronze Tiger. He was the Squad leader for a good portion of time and Smith could have brought some star power to a lesser known character.
The Iron Fist controversy shouldn’t be an issue for a character who was cast just as he was portrayed in the comic books. If you want an Asian superhero, develop a Netflix series based on The Master of Kung-Fu, Shang Chi. Now that would be an awesome show. A Chinese mob based kung-fu show? Yes! Then you can cast a Chinese actor like Wu Jing or Jon Foo as Shang. Then if Marvel cast Jason Statham in the role you can cry “whitewashing”. Until then, chill out.