When the Casting Dust Settles – Who Will Be Iron Fist?

It’s for real: Iron Fist is a go as the third component series in a quad that will result in Marvel/Netflix’s Defenders mini-series. After some speculation about its viability, Scott Buck, a well-seasoned (pardon the pun) EP will be taking the reigns as the next comic book hero series begins production.

So it’s a done deal, but the next question being begged regards the background of Iron Fist and whether the series producers intend to stick to canon (Iron Fist is a white guy) or take off in another direction. There are many who would be happy to see a little diversity in casting (Marvel’s doing it in Agents of Shield with great results), but an issue creeping in to discussion is the possibility of casting an Asian-American actor in Marvel’s arguably most martial arts-oriented super hero.

What’s wrong with that? Well, let’s not talk right or wrong, as the the groundwork has already been in place for over 40 years. Daniel Rand (Iron Fist) is a white dude with exceptional martial arts skills that surpass those of his teachers and frankly everyone else. It has been argued that this perpetuates the white savior myth and should be corrected. But how to correct?

Blogs and forums are full of Asian-Americans resistant to casting Iron Fist as an Asian-American precisely because it could perpetuate the myth that Asian actors are only good in martial arts films. While there’s no denying the cultural origins of the martial arts, confining Asian-American actors to roles in that genre of film is narrow minded and represses outstanding talent in the Asian-American acting community.

So are Marvel and Netflix damned if they do and damned if they don’t?

Absolutely the opposite. With such hits as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, they ought to be confident in their ability to cast with abandon and still produce a hit. Now is the time for Marvel and Netflix to throw caution to the wind and shock the heck out of the superhero world with a daring casting choice. The time to cast non-white leads has come and gone and the industry missed it. With few exceptions (that made cultural sense at the time to casting directors), no one has demonstrated the ability to change what viewers perceive as normal. And it isn’t normal for every lead to be white. Shake it up, Marvel. C’mon, Netflix. Let’s do something real.