by Genevra Littlejohn
An apocryphal story about the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi tells that while he was staying at an inn, he chanced to overhear the man next door exploding in rage after receiving a letter and a peony from the city’s most skilled swordmaster. The message was a polite rejection of the man’s invitation to duel, accompanied by a flower to soften the blow, but incensed, he threw letter and flower into the garbage. Musashi claimed the flower, and realized instantly that the peony–a flower with a delicate stalk, easily bruised or mangled–had been cut with a single crisp sword stroke, so smoothly that the stem had kept its shape.
The man in the next room over did not have the knowledge to recognize what he had been given; unequivocal proof of the samurai’s mastery. All he saw was the story his own ego was telling him. He could not see the cut.
Upon seeing the teaser photos for Netflix’s new live action Iron Fist adaptation, my immediate thought was of the Japanese martial art of kendo. “Kendo without respect is just grown men playing with sticks.” Bow to shomen, bow to Sensei, bow to opponents, fight with sincerity, swing with 100-percent effort. Our kun, the dojo motto that we repeated after every practice, began with a phrase which translated to “Please cut me.” Please challenge me to grow, please cut away the parts of me that prevent me from being a better human being. Even if it stings.
Those first release photos show actor Finn Jones, the titular Iron Fist, to be using a shinai–the bamboo practice sword used for swinging and sparring, meant to represent a katana–which does not fit him. It is the size which would be handed to a ten-year-old child. Even though a practice sword is made of bamboo and leather it is held and swung like the real thing. There’s a dedicated “cutting” edge. Jones is holding his child-sized shinai upside-down, with the edge pointed at his own face.
These are the first-release photos for this show, meant to court potential audiences and raise a buzz. They are supposed to show Jones’ character in his mastery, the intimidating martial arts superhero, but what I see is a grown man playing with a stick.
A new shinai is bound tight with red cotton string. The very first thing done upon receipt of it is that the string is cut to allow the separate bamboo staves to have room to flex on impact. A tied shinai is too dangerous to use against another human being. The four staves are locked together into one solid piece, which in sparring could cause a concussion or shatter a wrist. Every shinai visible in any of the photos is still tied with its little red strings.
It’s jarring to witness, this thing which is obvious to a kendoka, invisible to someone with no cultural or personal martial arts experience. It’s like a secret story being whispered inside the presented narrative. Because untying a shinai is such a simple thing, the work of thirty seconds, and in a show purportedly about martial arts the studio didn’t care enough to get it right–and now every shinai in that supposed dojo is a tool it would be disrespectful to use in an actual practice, if not straight-up murderous. We want to play with your toys, but we don’t want to have to work to understand them, the whisper goes. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you what it all means.
Iron Fist was an opportunity to challenge American audiences to believe that Asian people are individuals, capable of the full complement of human emotions and motivations. It was a chance to show that the Asian-American experience is as valid and real as the white American one, even if that made viewers a little uncomfortable. Whether through ignorance, or laziness, or greed, the showrunners transformed what could have been subtle strikes into the blows of blunt instruments good only for causing injury. I can’t help but wonder what other elements of the show will display the same lack of care, the same double story of congratulation when seen through white eyes and disrespect through Asian ones.
My second thought, upon seeing those photos, was “Wait. Is he doing kung fu?”
I consulted an instructor with twenty years of practice behind him, and he agreed that what we were looking at was an attempt at wushu or kung fu. In particular, Finn is performing a straight sword form. The Chinese straight sword is a double-edged weapon, unlike the single-edged Japanese katana; it is used for horizontal motions, figure-eight cuts, slashes and wicked flicks with the thinner and more flexible blade. A comparably stiffer katana would recoil or, worse, twist in its wielder’s hands and lodge in muscle or bone if used in this form. In an emergency, against great need, it could be done, as my instructor friend demonstrated for me with my own shinai. But even with his decades of practice, it was easy to see that the form was not well-matched to the weapon. His usual fluidity took on a subtle cramping, the motion of his wrist lost its suppleness due to the length of the hilt.
Iron Fist is only the most recent example of a mismatch that can be seen across many movies and television shows down the years. Forbidden Kingdom, The Last Samurai, David Carradine made more famous by a role designed for Bruce Lee. Filmmakers who would never confuse German culture with French casually demand Korean actors to show up to auditions in kimono, or only invite popular Chinese actresses to audition for the roles of Japanese historical figures.
Our Asian and Asian-American religious traditions, our architecture, our cuisine, are all indistinguishable from one another in the stories being told about us. You’d think that we’d get used to it. But when I heard that Netflix was doing an Iron Fist adaptation, I thought about everything that they got right, first with Jessica Jones, and then with Luke Cage almost immediately afterward. A show about a woman where she behaved like an actual woman might do, right or wrong, conflicted and angry and real; a show about a black man where the character was allowed nuance and depth and an authentically black upbringing that white viewers might find a little out of their experience. I thought that at last we might get to see an Asian-American character portrayed like a human being instead of an incense-scented, silk-clad set piece there to dispense black tea and opaque wisdoms only understood in retrospect. There was such potential!
Instead, we are commanded to cheer for the same weary tale we’ve always been handed, about a white man who goes off to learn from Asian masters and then outpaces them. A man who takes just a little time off from his real life and becomes adept at someone else’s life’s art. We see the main character standing in his street shoes on a Japanese dojo floor, making a very poor attempt at a Chinese fighting stance with a weapon that cannot possibly belong to him.
The show’s creators expect us to see only the flower, not the cut.
Kendo is a little different from many other martial arts in that it is always practiced with a partner. A kendoka can swing on their own, practice footwork on their own, but all kata is paired. All active striking is against another person. Even though they go into every sparring match striving to do the very best that they can, to win, to strike and not be hit, the philosophy of the art demands unselfishness. As development in the art matures a practitioner will begin to see a difference in how others practice. They might begin to overhear the Sensei referring to one practitioner’s kendo as “selfish,” or another’s as “generous.” The phrase isn’t discussing making it easy on one’s opponent, it’s about sincerity, about respecting one’s opponent as a human being inside the armor. About not sparring lazily, about giving good effort no matter whether fighting a stranger or a friend. Part of respectful practice is to think about what is being provided to the other person; a young student hears over and over that if they are on the attack, they must show the respect of striking cleanly, and if they are acting as the receiver of strikes, they must still challenge their opponent, remembering that it is only because there is another person present that improvement can be made. When they drift off and daydream about striking during the time to be struck, when they selfishly begin to think of people just as targets, their kendo becomes weak.
Everything I am seeing about this production demonstrates selfishness. They are simply not even thinking about huge portions of their potential audience, and because they have that little respect for the cultures they are drawing from–and presumably that little respect for their own martial artist stuntfolk, so many years of experience dismissed, knowledge of their own heritage dismissed, treated as useful bodies with no mouths.
It’s not merely the purposeful racism of “we should probably hire an Asian actor to play this role, but we’ll hire a white guy anyway,” it’s an ignorance with no desire to become educated. Since it all looks the same anyway, why bother spending the time and effort on legitimacy? Throw a dojo in there and fill it with people who can’t tie their belts, nobody important is going to know the difference. Make sure the soundtrack has an erhu in it, that’ll make it other enough to be exciting. A sword is a sword, and the portrait of one bearded old Asian man on the dojo wall is the same as any other. And the result is this: the white man walks to the middle of the dojo floor in his street shoes, not caring that his barefooted practicemates will now have to navigate the debris he strews behind him. He picks up a sword meant for a child, and without preparing it for use he clumsily demonstrates a form from the wrong culture with it. And though the show is not yet released, I’d be willing to bet money that we, and everyone standing in that school, are supposed to be impressed.
What kind of story do these showrunners want to tell? Without respect, a story they are telling about a culture not their own becomes nothing but grown adults acting out old racist games, and demanding we applaud.
Genevra Littlejohn is a queer, Filipino-American martial artist who lives in the woods with her partner and a cuddlesome cat. If she’s not at practice or reading, she’s probably in the garden, crooning at her tomatoes.
I really enjoyed this article but I’m no sure I feel as pained on this issue. Kindly allow me to explain: I am a Kenyan male, living and working in Nairobi. Hollywood has long had issues portraying Africans on film. Movies like Tarzan, ‘Captain America Civil War’ (the Black Panther character), ‘The Last Emperor of Scotland’ and others try to give a good portrayal of Africans but fall short in the very way that you are describing. Take Chadwick Boseman in ‘Civil War’ for example – we could start off by saying there is no such country in Africa as Wakanda situated on the Northern part of Kenya. Sure you could say K’un Lun doesn’t exist either but no one goes out of their way to place it anywhere except vaguely in the Himalayas. With Wakanda there’s a placement on the World Map!! Chadwick Boseman attempted to learn some Xhosa for the role and to his credit executed it well. But Xhosa is a language spoken all the way in South Africa while Wakanda is, allegedly, in East Africa!!! Why in the first place is Chadwick playing a Wakandan when we have people actually from Kenya (e.g. Eddie Gathegi) who could do the same thing and be authentic with it? Chad’s accent while speaking English was way off for someone speaking Xhosa too. I could go on and on and mention similar happenings in ‘The Last Emperor’ where Kerry Washington plays a Ugandan even though there are many Ugandan actresses who could ably carry the part. I could even go ahead and blast Lupita Nyong’o for playing ‘The Queen of Katwe’ when she wasn’t even able to show how to make a basic Ugandan meal!!!
Anyways, my point is – there is a place for critiquing art when it reeks of appropriation. However, as at now – I do not think Iron Fist deserves the amount of flack its getting. Directors will always look at the most marketing acting lead they can get who fits the character they want. Lewis Tan didn’t make the cut and Finn Jones did – it is what it is. Everyone rubbishes the idea about the source character being white but that’s EXACTLY why Iron Fist makes sense when partnered with Power Man Luke Cage. Privileged corny white guy with skills meets street smart black guy with issues. The production team only had 2 months to get Finn Jones up to speed after the casting was done and there will definitely be mistakes made in this initial iteration of the Iron Fist – up to and including kung fu stances and poses. I really think we should wait for the series to come out before bashing it whole sale. Jessica Henwick seems to feel satisfied that her concerns on typecasting were laid to rest and I think that should serve as an assurance that the show runners thought about these things.
All I’m saying is give Iron Fist a chance. You may find out that you like it.
as an asian person that grew up in asia and then moved to america, i can say that it was easier to laugh things like this off when i was living in a place where i was the cultural majority. willfully ignorant portrayals like this combined with the fact that asian people are virtually invisible in american media can and do affect asian people living in america, both in how the popular culture views them and how they grow up viewing themselves.
Thanks for your reply Shelley. That said, I really think this article should be revisited AFTER people have watched the series so that we can all argue from an informed perspective. Right now the only gripe that people have is the casting (which could be debated) and which may turn out to be correct (or wrong too) when we DO watch the series. Who knows? Maybe Lewis Tan had all the martial arts skills and none of the acting range required to act the part. Maybe they messed up wholesale and the Jones portrayal is a fraud! We won’t know until we watch the series. that’s all I’m saying.
Kindly forgive any errors in my grammar and the long post. Thanks for the platform.
I understand most the issues you seem to have save one of the last.
If you knew the comic that Iron Fist is based on, you would have already known that he was white.
Of course, if you do Filipino Martial Arts, you learn to do any form with any weapon.
We do our knife forms with shovels just for the exercise of making it work.
You know, Hollywood gets white people wrong, too — ask an Englishman sometime about Dick Van Dyke’s accent in “Mary Poppins,” or James Marsters on “Buffy,” to name a couple of obvious examples. My family of New Englanders used to have fun watching “Fringe” and pointing out the absurdities in their locations — they were clearly picking the names of towns off a map with no idea what those places were actually like. They got everything wrong on “Boston Legal,” too — nobody on that show talked or behaved like a Bostonian. One series of ads gave Colonel Sanders, the quintessential Kentuckian, a Louisiana accent.
They present Transylvanians as speaking German, or at least with German accents, when Transylvania is in Romania and its people speak Romanian or Hungarian. They also set Frankenstein stories in Transylvania when Dr. Frankenstein was Swiss in the original novel.
All the forensics shows get their science wrong. Hospital shows get procedures wildly wrong. Hollywood computer hackers might as well be using black magic.
But other countries don’t do much better, like the Hong Kong films supposedly set in New York City where you can see the mountains of the New Territories in the background.
I can sympathize with getting upset because they’ve screwed up an area you know and obviously care about, but it’s not so much racism as normal Hollywood ignorance and sloppiness. They get EVERYTHING wrong. Yeah, they can’t tell Korean from Japanese, but they don’t know where Transylvania is, either, and can’t tell Louisiana from Kentucky.
I live in Atlanta, GA – do you know how much “southern” accents tend to hurt in film? And God forbid white people in the south NOT be racist – we wouldn’t even be recognized!
That doesn’t make it “alright” or “ok.” Calling out directors/writers etc. gives them the insight that what they have done – if not outright appropriation – is at the least, presenting a false vision and they can address it. I have great hope that MOST people aren’t trying to misinform and use cruel stereotypes – they are ignorant of the pain they cause.
Well, the story of Iron Fist was never about an Asian American. Iron Fist was about a very rich, white American, Danny Rand; who ends up in the mystical city of K’un-L’un – which is located somewhere in the Orient. Where he’s taught various forms of Martial arts and receives the power of the Iron Fist.
I’m not really sure why you would think that the character was Asian or Asian American – he’s not he never was. For myself, being a practitioner of Martial Arts, and huge comic book reader; I’ve always found it hard watching people in movies and TV that don’t really practice or study martial arts. It’s unbearable because people look horrible and off balance on camera when they execute techniques. Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones were done very well but the producers and writers payed attention to detail.
I was bothered by the whole Iron Fist thing because they were going to do what they always do. Use an unknown person in the role; who doesn’t know martial arts. Then use a producer, Writer(s), and a Director that doesn’t have an expertise or respect for Asian martial arts. Then they’ll add a stunt choreographer to make the actor look like he’s competent; which never works. It always looks bad but in the Super Hero movie world they’ll use special effects and stunt people to distract the audience. Basically, you’ve got special effect, poorly staged fight scenes, and zero concept of Asian Culture.
They have issues using real martial arts people in movies because they aren’t great actors. Though there are several actors in Hollywood who are devoted practitioners of the Martial Arts. The Producers of Iron Fist went for a young British Actor to jump into the role. Basically, because he can either act, he’s physically attractive, or he has great screen presence. The silly producers don’t get the fact that he should also look like he knows what he’s doing when executing Martial Art forms.
Now what they do with the actual Tv series will be modeled from the other two shows that were produced by Marvel; Luke Cage and Daredevil. The Formula will be the same and the action will be a poor imitation of Hong Kong and Japanese cinema.
I read your article but I have to correct you because the Iron Fist show has nothing to do with being racist.
I’m going to chime in with my view on this too. For reference, I am an Asian male and yes, I’ve studied martial arts as well. Also, am I big fan of comics. 🙂
A few things to add onto what johndrew2013 said: the mystical city of K’un-Lun where Iron Fist learns his skill is actually not a place on Earth. It’s actually in a different dimension (kind of like Outworld in the Mortal Kombat setting). However, periodically it does appear on Earth. So finding the city to study there is tricky. It’s not always there. Also, Danny Rand’s training isn’t like Van Damme’s training in “Kickboxer”, which is a prime example of a White male character going over to Asia, learning the arts in like a summer and defeating an Asian martial artist that’s been doing it all his life. Danny Rand arrives in K’un-Lun when he’s a child. So yeah, he has many many years to train. So his level of proficiency is ‘realistic’.
I agree with johndrew2013 when he mentions that the mistakes the entertainment industry makes is pretty much all over the place. It isn’t just a disrespect for martial arts alone. It’s a disrespect for pretty much everything. Heh heh. Can be anything from how the combat jets fly and fight in sci-fi movies like “Independence Day” or “War of the Worlds” to what the Anglo Saxons would be wearing in the show “Vikings”. I personally don’t approve of the level of laziness some productions display but depending on how off they are, I usually forgive a certain amount of it. I do however give compliments to those that do it well, like Michael Mann. The way his characters handle guns in his crime dramas are some of the most realistic and yet, it doesn’t detract from the quality of the drama. So, to any director who thinks he or she is sacrificing the “cool factor” to make something accurate, I say bull.
Anyways… am I upset that Danny Rand/Iron Fist is White(Caucasian)? Truthfully …no. Then again, I did read the comics and so, I’ve always been okay with it. I did study martial arts myself, and I think it is cool to share cultural things with others. I want my friends who are not Asian to be able to feel comfortable and welcomed when expressing interest in the martial arts. I have many White friends who very respectful of Asian culture.
This being said, would I have liked to have seen Danny Rand changed to be Asian? I gotta say, …I think that would’ve been nice. I’m not upset that he wasn’t, but I am slightly disappointed at the missed opportunity. Why? Well, from my point of view, in America, we don’t have that many Asian male roles where we are … well, frankly… where we’re “cool”. Thankfully there are a few tv roles like Glen from “Walking Dead” that have cropped up recently… thankfully, but it’s still very rare. The few that do arrive still feel like crumbs that fell of the dinner table of cinema roles.
(this next part isn’t aimed at johndrew2013 – just want him to know – this is more for the people complaining about the subject Asian roles being brought up at all) I’m not the “Social Justice Warrior” that is screaming for James Bond to be Asian, or to have an Asian character in an upcoming movie about the Civil War. I’m an adult now and I’ve spent years ….. let me say that again, years …. years of enjoying characters on the big screen where I didn’t even think about their race and they didn’t have to be the same race as I was. I love John McClane from “Die Hard”, I love Ripley from “Alien”, I love James Bond, I love Luke, Han, and Leia from Star Wars. However, how do you think I feel when I go to the internet and people are angry that I want a few more crumbs, a few more lead roles for Asians? I mean … no lead Japanese character for “Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift?” Really people? I’m not saying you need to start forcing Asian roles everywhere but it would be nice …if every now and then, when something that is a subject matter that’s very much Asian, is it really too much to ask for an Asian lead? Then I get yelled at as a militant social justice warrior or something. I’m asking for crumbs and it’s too much? How do you think that feels from my point of view?
How do you think I feel when … Marvel changes Nick Fury from White to Black. Changes Hiemdall (from Thor movies) from White to Black, and its all cool. But change a character from White to Asian ….hmmmm….nah. You know what it feels like from my point of view? It feels like Hollywood is talking like this: ” Blacks and Latinos are cool, but Asians are dorks … oh wait, except when they’re female, then they’re sexy…… we need one Asian? Okay well, make it a girl, they’re hot. Not a guy though, they’re dorks…and not marketable. ”
Thanks guys… thanks ….
So, one could say, that’s fine…I agree but we just can’t change Danny Rand to Asian without really really changing too much. I mean, his last name is Rand and he’s got blonde hair! Well …. you do it like this: Wendell Rand has always been trying to find the fabled city of K’un-Lun. With his wealth he’s made several expeditions to look for it. During these years he’s befriended a local Chinese man who is his guide on these journeys. They become like brothers. Unfortunately, during one perilous attempt to find the city, his Chinese friend dies and leaves and orphaned son. Wendell Rand adopts his friend’s son and gives him a Western name Daniel. He still has his adopted father’s last name and he’s Asian. As for the blonde hair. Well, if you watch a lot of K-pop or J-pop, a lot of youngsters these days dye their hair different colors to stand out and make a fashion statement. A Chinese Danny Rand with dyed blonde hair would be fine. 🙂
Marvel could’ve done it, they just didn’t want to. Am I mad? Nah , I’m not. Is it a wasted opportunity for them to be progressive and lead the way? Yeah … it was.
You do know it’s not real, don’t you? It’s all just made-up.
I was really looking forward to this show. I hated that they didn’t course-correct the white savior complex, but I was willing to at least give the show a chance. Reading this, I realize that a lack of homework on the part of the showrunner, the actor, and the writer has sabotaged this. Having very little knowledge of kendo and martial arts myself, I am probably someone who IRON FIST could have gotten away with entertaining… but now I know that if I watch it, I am watching work that does not respect the source material enough to get it remotely right.
Thanks for cutting me.
You are aware that the original Iron Fist in the comic books was actually white right? So the show did do their homework actually adapting the comic book correctly.
Just because it’s faithful doesn’t make it good. The Twilight movies adapted the books very faithfully, but that didn’t make them not poorly written creepy abusive piles of garbage.
Dunno about Twilight (could never get into those movies) but in this case, if they do stick to the source material then it WILL make the show good as well as future spin-offs involving Heroes for Hire. Danny’s whiteness plays a central part in that series of comics and I think this casting was a good choice for that reason. As many people have said – let’s watch the series first before thinking of critiquing it. We are all arguing from a point of ignorance at present. Who knows, they might handle this in a really amazing manner, or not.
This is a little like how I internally flinch whenever I see Thor with Sif’s long golden locks (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just hope he has her permission to borrow her wig), or a two eyed Odin being portrayed as a goody-two-shoes. I still enjoy Thor but it’s perfectly fine (and fun) to poke fun of the stuff they get wrong.
However, I concede, given the invisibility North american media has inflicted on Asian Americans, and given the problematic white savior archetype, that this is worse. I also agree that even though this is a comic book marshal art they should have done their research. I think the equivalent would have been seeing Donnie Yen play the heir to King Arthur while wielding a Excalibur the rapier. That story might be entertaining but it would, rightfully, raise some eyebrows to say the least.
Thanks for writing this.
the lack of respect and understanding in the source material could’ve been mended at least a little by writers and producers who showed any interest in the culture they’re going to profit from. however, as Genevra demonstrates in her epic deconstruction, those “tells” like the red string on the shinai (let alone a g*d**n shinai for a kung fu form) pretty much destroy any credibility, authenticity or sincerity to the cultures being abused.
my Chinese Martial Arts classmate, who is Chinese American himself, turned me onto the release of this series and i’m not gonna lie i’m looking forward to it (he spotted some lion dancers in a promo so we’re in). but i don’t understand how anyone can call this story anything but appropriation. Kung Fu literally means “deep skill acquired over a long period” and the whole premise of Iron Fist flies in the face of that.
i have delusional hope that those abysmal mistakes are actually intentional ploys to show how far white boy has to go. being a white american person learning and practicing gōngfu, its easy and pretty fun for me to say he has a long ass way.
In the source material Danny is white.
A lot of the source material was cast aside to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bucky wasn’t the same age as Steve Rogers in the source material, but they changed that for the film. Tony Stark’s butler wasn’t an AI in the source material, but again, they changed that. The same goes for countless other characters, major and minor.
There isn’t a single part of the MCU that isn’t differing from the source material in some way, and here was a chance to do something new, instead of retreading the same old tired plot from the 1960s of a white man going someplace “exotic” and becoming better than the natives. We’ve all seen that story. We even saw it last year with Doctor Strange. It’s boring.
There are certain things Marvel won’t change for live action because it would throw the core audience of comic book fans for a loop. The main character with a long-running comic hook history won’t see a significant change. (Nobody cares how old Bucky was in the comics: as long as he wasn’t an old man, it doesn’t t change his story all that much to the average reader/viewer.) Similarly, Black Panther isn’t going to be white or Latino. Thus, Iron Fist was always going to be white.
However, if Shang-Chi shows up and ends up being changed into a non-Chinese person, *that* would be completely absurd and inexcusable.
I will not deny that I would be fine with, maybe even appreciate, if they changed Iron Fist to be Asian.
But to say it is a “problem” that they did not do so is completely ridiculous. Rule for any given adaptation: either being faithful to the original is fine, or the adaptation should not be made and something original should replace it.
Now, there are also cases, such as this one, where changes can _also_ be fine. Whitewashing characters is pretty universally maligned, but making them more diverse is cool. But that doesn’t mean it’s mandatory. It’s completely stupid to think it’s mandatory. If any character has to be turned non-white in order for the series to get an adaptation, then the original series was too racist to deserve an adaptation at all. Full-stop. (incidentally, I don’t see that as being the case for this series–if you want to argue that it is the case, feel free, but that would be an argument for “do not make iron fist, make some other superhero show that is less racist”, not an argument for “turn iron fist asian”)
And the motivation for including this series at all (that is to say, the argument that “the adaptation should be made”) is actually *positive*–Luke Cage. Luke and Danny were partners for a while in the comics. And Luke was faithfully portrayed as a black superhero. Having a new show appear with the introduction of “we’re telling you this white guy’s story because he is relevant to this black guy you already care about” is already more than socially-conscious enough for me, because it doesn’t leave a single ounce of room for anyone to assume that the black guy is the sidekick.
I don’t disagree with being able to change things, but I do want to point out that Edwin Jarvis was a real person in the MCU and the AI was based off of him. It is highly possible he was Tony Stark’s butler, like in the comics, but died before the first Iron Man movie. In any case, even the comics retcon timelines all the time. Like punisher is always from whatever the latest war he could possibly be a vet from, and as a result his age compared to other heroes is in flux. The movies have to play around with age to get the movies to flow right because actors age over time, and you can only do so much with the time this media allows. Changing the age of a character is a relatively harmless thing to do. However, changing the race of a character is much harder and has a much larger tendency to backfire. I personally think that thinking that Iron Fist should be Asian because he is a master martial artist is kinda a racist way of thinking in the first place, and having to walk the line between honoring the culture and making him a stereotypical kung fu master is not always an easy one to walk.
Very well put. Thanks for writing this. It’s amazing to me the excuses people make. These productions overpay for every lunch they buy for the stars, and they can’t take afford to consult anyone who knows anything about Asian culture or the martial arts they are portraying? That’s a result of just laziness, lack of time, or some other excuse. It’s a willful disregard for the coherency of the cultures or arts they are portraying because they believe that their interpretation, their fantasy, is more “resonant” and meaningful. They know they can’t do a show about basketball players and show them bouncing a volleyball. The assumption that because a lot of people in the US don’t know the difference between Asian countries and cultures, they can just mash it up–paint all Asians with one brush–is the textbook definition of racism.
Last post had a major typo (writing on my phone). Meant to say: Very well put. Thanks for writing this. It’s amazing to me the excuses people make. These productions overpay for every lunch they buy for the stars, and they can’t take afford to consult anyone who knows anything about Asian culture or the martial arts they are portraying? That’s NOT a result of just laziness, lack of time, or some other excuse. It’s a willful disregard for the coherency of the cultures or arts they are portraying because they believe that their interpretation, their fantasy, is more “resonant” and meaningful. They know they can’t do a show about basketball players and show them bouncing a volleyball. The assumption that because a lot of people in the US don’t know the difference between Asian countries and cultures, they can just mash it up–paint all Asians with one brush–is the textbook definition of racism.
I think your first example sums up this article perfectly. You are so upset over the supposed “lack of respect” towards your culture, you risk ignoring the actual quality of the show or how it actually will treat these cultures in the show. Much like the angry swordsman in the story ignored the masterful cut of the rose because of the letter. The show is not yet out, so I don’t know for sure if it will even be a good show, or respectful. But I really think you jumped the gun with this article.
And although it seems to upset you, I personally like the idea that they are mashing up different styles of martial arts in this show. In real life, nobody can punch through a brick wall like Iron Fist can in the show. But mashing up different fighting styles to come up with a new one for the show not only comes up with a practical solution for that, but also pays homage to the original styles.
It’s like if Luke Cage was done by a bunch of white guys who didn’t like hip-hop and just filled the episodes with Vanilla Ice and Limp Bizkit songs. The White Dude Better Than The People Who Came Up With The Shit is so Batman, so Dr. Strange, so boring. This is the first misstep Marvel made on Netflix.
wanting an Asian actor just because is also racism and danny has been white for over 40 years so nice try but no one cares about an Asian danny because he doesn’t exist in any marvel universe but heres an idea why not push marvel to make/do something about Shang-Chi who is an Asian character so you wont need to complain about a white comic character being white on your tv screen.
why didn’t you push for luke cage to be Hispanic or Jessica jones to be Samoan just for diversity or whatever you sjw’s are calling it nowadays.
Why do you think there wasn’t a push for Luke Cage to be Hispanic or Jessica Jones to be Samoan? Do you think also there was no one pushing for a Shang-Chi series? Any thoughts on those two questions?
[…] Criticisms of the lack of respect for martial arts on the show also seem (to this untrained observer) to be unfounded, as Danny sticks to Kung-Fu while other characters use other marital arts. Danny’s ignorance of these form part of his character. Finn Jones does well during the actions scenes, effortlessly avoiding blows and slapping guns out of goons hands with a grace and ease not seen in Daredevil or Luke Cage, but none of these scenes pop quite as much as Daredevil. The sixth episode features an improvement with a trio of fights and some new aspects to Danny’s personality, but you can’t help the feeling that these are development that could have been made much earlier. […]
I’m not really keen on the lead. However, the original comic book character was white: I just not quite buying the lead. I admit I have no idea who he is. As this is based on a 70s characterization of Asians, it is what it is and the modernization of the story makes sense. I’m a huge fan of the series (thanks brother, RIP) and I’m happy as each character is brought to life (thanks Netflix). Now it’s time for Misty!
[…] White Men Playing With Sticks: Iron Fist, Martial Arts and Respect […]
First off, in the show he walks around barefoot with no shoes. Second he was taught Kung fu not Japanese. Which is further hammered home by him speaking mandarin. He spent 15 years living and learning (in the show/comic). And much of his strength is granted through his connection to a mystical undying dragon.. so you argument there holds no water.