Even before Netflix’s latest Marvel-derived series, Iron Fist, premiered to largely withering reviews (Yahoo TV’s own Ken Tucker suggested binge-watchers spend those 13 hours revisiting classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes instead), the show was already taking its lumps in the press. At issue was the decision to cast Game of Thrones star Finn Jones as martial arts master Danny Rand — a character who has always been Caucasian in the comics, but who many hoped would receive a revised origin story that would better reflect the diversity of modern-day fandom. In fact, Vulture recently reported that Asian-American actor Lewis Tan very nearly landed the role before Jones was ultimately chosen. (Tan does have a one-shot appearance in the show’s eighth episode, using a Drunken Master-inspired fighting style against Danny’s iron fist.)
One defender of the status quo is Iron Fist co-creator Roy Thomas, who teamed up with artist Gil Kane to craft Danny’s first adventures in the pages of Marvel Comics in the mid-’70s. Speaking with Inverse recently, Thomas expressed “little patience” with the whitewashing complaints that have dogged the show from its production to release. “I understand where it’s coming from,” he adds. “You know, cultural appropriation, my God. It’s just an adventure story. Don’t these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn’t Oriental, or whatever word? I know Oriental isn’t the right word now, either. He was a character for a comic book at a different time. … He wasn’t intended to stand for any race. He was just a man who was indoctrinated into a certain thing.”
It seems that at least one star of Iron Fist is upset with the terminology used by Thomas. Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing in the series, took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to say: “Oriental is a term used to describe rugs, not people.”
Oriental is a term used to describe rugs, not people.
— Jessica Henwick ???? (@JHenwick) March 21, 2017
Speaking with Yahoo TV earlier this year before Iron Fist‘s March 17 premiere, showrunner Scott Buck told us that he hadn’t been aware of any larger debates surrounding the character before signing onto the series. “When [Marvel Television executive vice president] Jeph Loeb pitched me the show, it was about this billionaire kid who is torn between two worlds,” Buck explains. “I only heard about the [controversy] afterwards, but not during the process. Finn was one of the very first people we saw, and we knew we had our guy. I absolutely understand the concerns of cultural appropriation, and it’s certainly something we tried not to do. Hopefully nobody is offended by what we have done; I hope they will see it and judge it by itself.”
‘Iron Fist’ is currently streaming on Netflix.
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