An Asian Iron Fist: Representation Or a Stereotype Just Waiting to Happen?

Here, here. People have been calling for an Asian Iron Fist since the announcement of plans for an Iron Fist series on Netflix. But it’s the end of 2016, Finn Jones has already been chosen as Danny Rand although arguably, he probably wasn’t the best choice.

There are people who are of course, upset with the casting decision, and then there are people who are celebrating their favourite hero, Iron Fist, remaining white. These people have felt the need to defend the casting choice. One of the more common arguments you’d find is that Iron Fist being Asian is just an offensive stereotype waiting to happen. Here’s what I have to say as someone who’s Chinese.

An Asian Iron Fist: due representation or a stereotype just waiting to happen? Listen up folks, if an Asian Iron Fist were to be offensive to Asians, Asians wouldn’t be calling for an Asian Iron Fist in the first place.

Asians know what is offensive to them, to their cultures, usually more so than non-Asians.

Secondly, let’s ask ourselves, what makes a character into just another stereotype?

Simple. It’s mostly depth. Character concept, backstory, personality, flaws, level of character development; The truth is, a character only becomes a stereotype if any of these fail to attain a certain quality. A Chinese character doing Kung-fu isn’t a stereotype unless doing Kung-fu and being Chinese are the only traits the character possesses.

How would changing a character’s race, Asian to white, white to Asian, diminish or affect its depth? If the character is Asian, and he lacks the depth required for him to be presented as an interesting and substantial character, his being written as white wouldn’t improve the character at all. You would still end up with a horribly written, one-dimensional character.

Thirdly, let’s take a look at Danny Rand, and then more importantly, why Danny Rand being an Asian character would be so out of the ordinary, that he would never actually be considered as a stereotype by other Asians.

Danny is a sexy and cocky young man, with a terrific sense of humour, and with love interests. And he’s a lead character.

Danny Rand could be a Chinese noodle making, table tennis playing, Kung-Fu warrior, and he’d still be a peculiar enough character in american media for him to never be considered as an Asian stereotype, and here’s why:

From Chang in The Community, to Tom in Parks and Recreation, American media has all but killed the Asian male sexuality in recent decades. When was the last time you’d seen an Asian male with a love interest on TV or in cinema? If people want to discuss stereotypes, why not handle the elephant in the room? Asian characters are often sidelined, created without any depth, and barely get any lines. Furthermore Asian male characters are almost always desexualized, usually making them awkward but quirky side characters that are mostly there for comedic purposes, and bluntly put, they’re usually just comedic props.

A well developed Asian character, who is built on a deep, intriguing mythos like that of Iron Fist, who is the centre of interaction with other amazing characters, who has numerous love interests, will never be considered an Asian stereotype in a media climate that commonly denies Asian characters these attributes.

While it’s admirable that more people are trying to have greater social awareness, avoiding stereotypes by denying people of colour a substantial role is not a solution.

“The Ancient One in the comics is a very old American stereotype of what Eastern characters and people are like, and I felt very strongly that we need to avoid those stereotypes at all costs.” — Scott Derrickson

Yet from the responses he and the show itself had received, we know that it wouldn’t have been considered a stereotype if the character was well-written and well-researched. It’s true, the movie’s been released, and far too many Asians can see how different and well-crafted the character would’ve been compared to the existing characters that are regarded as racial stereotypes, for her to exist as her own interesting character.

His fear was unfounded, and only denied an amazing opportunity for the Asian community in Hollywood, but he would have known this if he had listened to the community he wanted to help elevate.

On another note: Here are some Chinese actors that would have made an amazing Danny Rand:

Ludi Lin
Lewis Tan

Written by: Nathaniel Tan Jie Ying

Edited by: Taara K

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.

From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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