If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but have been living under a rock in the past year or so, you might not be aware of the controversy that surrounded Marvel/Netflix when it was announced that the very British Finn Jones was announced as Danny Rand. Although Rand has always been white in the comics, many felt that Iron Fist’s origins should be updated and that Rand should be portrayed by an Asian-American actor. The casting has spawned hundreds of think-pieces for and against the choice. While we don’t think this is the time or place for us to weigh in on the issue, Finn Jones himself addressed the racial implications of his casting when he sat down to speak with Buzzfeed. Jones assured fans that those involved with Iron Fist gave the topic of race and privilege a lot of thought:
I get where that frustration comes from. I get the need for diversity and equality in television and film… well, actually in every aspect of life. Right now we live in a culture and a world where we are very unequal in politics, in economics, and in culture. We are being fucked over massively by the top dudes. I stand up for people, I stand up for people across all borders.
The “top dudes” to which Jones is referring is another topic of inequality that will be addressed during Iron Fist. Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb has referred to Iron Fist as “a very hard look at the One Percent” which includes characters like Danny Rand and the Meachums.
Jones continued his explanation of how Iron Fist will handle issues of class and race:
With this instance in particular, what I struggle with and what frustrates me is that people are commenting on the headline without understanding the full picture, without understanding the full story. What you’ll find with the way that we’re telling this story is we’re addressing the issues that people are very concerned about in a very intelligent and modern way.
Danny Rand is not a white savior. Danny Rand can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people. He is a very complicated, vulnerable individual. He doesn’t just show up, like, ‘Hey dudes, I’ve just learned martial arts! I’m going to save the world.’ Actually, it’s the complete opposite. He’s gone through and suffered immense trauma and he is struggling to claim his own sanity and identity back.
While that answer probably won’t be enough to satisfy every concerned fan, it’s nice to know that these issues are at the top of the minds of those involved with the series. Another thing fans have been wondering was how K’un-Lun would be portrayed by the show. Although it’s technically an inter-dimensional city that exists on another plane, K’un-Lun has always been portrayed in the comics as being part of Asia. The K’un-Lun of the show, however, will be slightly different according to Jones:
In the comic books, that place is essentially an Asian culture. Now K’un Lun in our version, it is a very diverse place. It’s a mystical kingdom in an alternate dimension, but it is populated by people from all over the map. You’ve got South Americans there, you’ve got Europeans there, you’ve got of course Asians there. It’s a diverse space, and we address Danny’s inability to honor and hold responsible the Iron Fist — like, that is part of the story, the fact he has this title, but is unable to harness the responsibility of what that means. And Danny is on a journey to hopefully better himself and hopefully learn to earn the right to hold the Iron Fist… and hopefully in that journey, we address the issues which people are concerned about.
Some fans might not be thrilled to hear that K’un-Lun is no longer being portrayed as an entirely Asian culture, and may make comparisons to the similar treatment of The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, who was portrayed as a Celtic woman instead of an Asian man. While diversifying the city definitely helps avoid the problematic stereotypes created in the 1970s, it also reduces the number of roles for Asian actors on the show. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s a tricky situation for Marvel to navigate. Finn Jones understands that the answers he offers might not be enough for everyone, but he encourages those who still have concerns to give the show a chance before making up their mind:
Just because we have this color skin, it doesn’t mean we have to conform to preconceived notions of our culture. We are human beings on this planet, and we all individually have different attributes. We’re not stereotypes, and hopefully, that’s what the show does. Hopefully the show doesn’t — I don’t think it does — deal in stereotypes, which I think people are worried about. It’s not until [Episode 8] where you have other characters come in from other places that we really start playing around with the idea of Danny being the Iron Fist and addressing those issues. Then you’re really like, ‘Oh shit, now we’re getting into those philosophical ideas of identity and culture.’
Iron Fist drops on Netflix March 17, 2017.