Netflix’s Iron Fist: First Impression

So, maybe it is a bit early to write anything about Iron Fist on Netflix, but I thought I would comment anyway. There has been a lot of criticism of the show, almost all of it coming before anyone had seen a single episode, which I think is pretty unfair. Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, having negative comments will likely have a significant effect on the viewership, whether the criticism is warranted or not.

The main issue (at least initially) lay with the casting of  Finn Jones (formerly of Game of Thrones fame) in the titular role of Danny Rand/ Iron Fist. A rather vocal group of supposed fans made it clear that Danny– a caucasian character in the comics– should have been changed to an Asian one, both to allow for increased diversity in superhero fiction and to avoid cultural appropriation. The argument was made that by casting Jones, Marvel overlooked as opportunity to avoid the White Saviour trope. Other argued that Marvel was doing the right thing by casting in accordance with the character’s appearance in the comics.

As I often do whenever this sort of thing arises, I have conflicting thoughts; on one hand, as a comic book fan, I love when they stay as close as possible to the source material. On the other hand, I do agree that we need more diversity in our superheroes (and fiction in general). My wife is Asian and thus my kids are half Asian, so I think it would be great to see more Asian characters, but I also think that rewriting characters isn’t always the way to go.

I happen to like Luke Cage. I enjoyed the Netflix series quite a bit, and also was a fan of the character in the comics. I think it is more effective to have (or create) a great black/ Asian/ gay/ whatever character than it is to co-opt an existing character and change them. Obviously, as a white guy, my opinion may differ from that of a person of colour, but it seems to me that by simply changing a character’s skin colour, ethnicity or sexuality for the sake of diversity, creators are saying that it would be too difficult to create a new, interesting character that fans would care for. I find that entirely false and need only to point to Kamala Khan as an example.

Danny Rand, however, is a bit more problematic, being a white guy who enters the mystical city of K’un L’un where he is trained in martial arts and ultimately gains the power of the Iron Fist. So, in essence, the white hero takes the ancient Asian martial art to go save the world, presumably because only a white guy can. The thing is, I don’t think that is what they are trying to imply. Unfortunately, these days we tend not to look at intentions, only what we perceive, and people are perceiving this is a largely negative way.

I have only watched the first episode so far, so it is hard to judge. The series may turn out to be horrible, or it may be amazing. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed what I have seen so far. I expect to like the rest of the series, although I know it is not without flaws. I don’t think the show is going to be anything groundbreaking, but I also don’t think it deserves to be hated. Comic adaptations are having a bit of a difficult time in the sense that if they change the source material, there is a negative reaction. Now in the case of Iron Fist, staying true to it is doing the same.

Finn Jones is not making any friends either, with his attempt at defending the show. I feel for him, because he presumably went into the show thinking it would be a good role for him and instead is having to play at politics as people attack him for simply being cast as Rand. I’m sure he was excited for the part. I’m sure he did his best with it. Bad enough that he should face the vitriol of angry fans, he must be aware that the work of virtually everyone involved with the show is now being looked down upon because of him. That can’t be easy.

Some suggested that a good compromise would have simply been to make Danny half-Asian. That would also have allowed them to play with the notion of him being caught between two worlds in a way that could appeal to a large part of the show’s potential audience. I think that could have worked, personally, but I am not sure how much it would have helped. It’s pretty clear that there are those who are determined to hate the show simply because it isn’t what they feel it should be.

I’m going to continue watching. I’m going to hope that it’s good. I’m also going to hope that enough other people watch it to make it successful, because we all know that the studios are entirely likely to assume that one “failed” series means that the bubble has burst for superhero shows, which could spell trouble for future projects.

Most of all, though, I hope that they find a way to appeal to all of the fans, though I know that’s unlikely.

What are your thoughts on Iron Fist? I’d love to hear from anyone who has watched it.



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