The A.V. Club, an online entertainment review publication, has made the connection that the main character in Marvel’s Iron Fist has more than a few similarities to Donald Trump; a phrase that should be at least a little concerning about a superhero. So where did Marvel and Netflix go wrong?
Everywhere. This show is a fucking trainwreck.
Since the character’s creation in 1974, Daniel “Danny” Rand has always been the son of a rich white guy. While casting Finn Jones as the title character does stay true to the original content, it ignores the bigger trend of Marvel capitalizing on Asian culture.
Around the time Iron Fist was created, American media was seeing a huge rise in the popularity of kung fu movies thanks to stars like Bruce Lee. However, many companies used this popularity and inserted white heros with mysterious backgrounds in martial arts to further their sales. Enter Danny Rand.
Fast-forward to today. In the year 2017, at least some people have realized picking and choosing aspects of a culture you don’t fully understand is wrong (especially when applying them to a prick like Danny). Marvel, apparently, doesn’t have any of these people making casting decisions. The show almost cast Asian actor Lewis Tan to play the lead but at the last minute chose Jones instead; a missed choice that could have ended the white saviour complex Iron Fist has carried for 40 years.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tan is a much better actor (and fighter) than Jones, as noted by his guest appearance in episode eight.
Let’s talk about the fighting for a second. Ignoring the fact the lead actor is white — which, as previously stated, is a problematic, but somewhat defensible choice — why on earth did they cast a guy who is terrible in fight scenes as a hero that is the world’s greatest martial artist? Even if it wasn’t grossly stereotypical that all the Asian actors are basically ninjas, it’s insulting that Jones’ sad ass is beating them.
In interviews, Jones has even admitted to not receiving as much training as he’d like. As an actor with no previous martial arts training, you would think that step is kind of important. While Jones’ blames his own schedule and the faster shooting timeline than previous series, it doesn’t change the fact that all of the Iron Fist’s fight scenes suck. Jones’ also commented that sometimes he’d only have 15 minutes to learn the fight choreography before the camera started rolling and, let me tell you, it shows.
So we now have an explanation as to why the white saviour who’s terrible at martial arts is awkwardly beating up Asian actors who very clearly know what they’re doing. The question now becomes, where does Donald Trump fit into all this?
Jones himself has accused the president of hurting the show’s popularity and maybe that’s true; after all, Danny Rand is a white, privileged billionaire and always has been. Is the current political climate the only reason fans are making this connection? I’m guessing not.
In the original comic books, Danny’s parents die during a trip in the Himalayas to find K’un-L’un (the mystical realm where Danny receives the powers of the Iron Fist). Danny’s father dies when his jealous business partner lets him fall to his death. Danny’s mother dies when, after running away from said business partner, they are attacked by wolves. Danny is saved by the monks of K’un-L’un and he trains to be the Iron Fist. 15 years later, Danny returns to seek revenge on the man who caused both his parents’ deaths, but ultimately can’t kill his father’s old partner — so a ninja does instead and Danny gets blamed, but that’s not really the point here.
The point is that in the Netflix version, Danny finds K’un-L’un completely by accident after his parents die in a plane crash organized by the villainous group The Hand. Danny still trains hard and becomes the Iron Fist, but his main goal upon returning 15 years later is to claim his inheritance: 51% of a multi-billion dollar company. Danny does all sorts of deplorable things to gain his money including assaulting security guards and breaking into the home of that old business partner’s daughter — all the while being an entitled dick.
This new backstory changes the character of Danny Rand drastically. While before, his goal was to avenge his parents’ deaths, the TV show has turned that into more of a side quest after he gets his money. This Danny thinks only of himself, having no time to consider that the reason the people he once knew don’t want to help is because they thought he was dead; he showed up looking like a homeless person, assaulted their security team, and is now stalking them.
I can’t say why fans don’t like this show (there are so many reasons to choose from!) — but I can say, having looked at a lot of the online forums, that this show is not popular with critics or fans. If you haven’t seen the show already, you might enjoy it, but I sincerely doubt it.