Does the newest Netflix blockbuster show deserve the criticism it's getting?
Based on what we've seen, absolutely.
With the premiere of Iron Fist arriving March 17, you may have heard about the glaring issue lurking in the latest Netflix-Marvel collaboration: the original comic book character is a rich white billionaire who learns kung-fu and ends up besting actual Chinese people at their own form of martial arts.
With a potential image problem like this, it would have been easy for the minds behind superhero Danny Rand’s TV debut to confront the issue, sidestep it altogether, or update the role with an Asian lead. Confusingly, the series instead sticks with its white main character and distills the entire controversy into one oblivious moment in the premiere, “Snow Gives Way.”
The story begins with Danny Rand’s return to New York, over a decade after a plane crash that led the world to believe he and his parents died. The would-be heir (Finn Jones) actually survived his near-death experience and spent his formative years in the magical city of K'un-L'un, where he learned all of that kung-fu we were talking about earlier.
Due to plot points we don’t want to spoil yet, Danny eventually ends up running from a group of men who are trying to kill him, which is how any burgeoning superhero’s day usually ends.
This is when Iron Fist takes a turn directly towards the problematic. In an attempt to hide from his pursuers, Danny runs into a crowd of Asian people who seem to be celebrating Chinese New Year, as previously teased in the season 1 trailer. In an unfortunate metaphor for the tension surrounding Fist, he shoves people out of his way as he attempts to escape.
The awkwardly clueless symbolism only gets more extreme when Danny tosses on an Asian mask to hide in the crowd. Although the billionaire is wearing the trappings of Chinese culture, he can’t cover up his conspicuous blonde curls. In this one scene, he embodies everything that's wrong with his casting.
With only six episodes released to the press, only time will tell if Iron Fist can bounce back from such a tone-deaf moment. We'll let you know after we watch!