With its upcoming Iron Fist show in development for Netflix, now is the perfect time for Marvel Studios to change this popular character’s race from white to Asian American. As Marvel execs prepare to cast for this show, we urge them to find an Asian American actor to play the lead.
Why does this matter? Since Marvel and Netflix’s slate of superhero series are supposed to inhabit the same world as the billion-dollar grossing Avengers, Iron Fist gives Marvel Studios a chance to add even more diversity to its interconnected cinematic universe. Despite what opponents say about changing characters’ racial identities, this is a case in which changing Iron Fist’s race has the potential to add depth and layers to an already beloved comic book icon. Moreover, a non-white Iron Fist can also help remove some of the character’s more problematic elements such as Orientalism and cultural appropriation.
Casting a young Asian American Iron Fist is not meant to displace the originating story of Danny Rand (the secret identity of the quick-punching, high-kicking superhero). In fact it’s quite the opposite. An Asian American lead can still be all of what Iron Fist was in the comics: the son of a wealthy businessman; a student of a martial arts master; a seeker of revenge.
With innumerable white characters in comic-to-screen adaptations, this is an opportunity to help Asian and Asian American viewers connect with an iconic Marvel superhero. In addition, national racial demographic shifts are inevitably going to impact television viewership; more viewers of color will mean an increased demand in representation. Why not start meeting this demand and inspiring Asian American viewers with an Asian American Iron Fist?
Join us today and ask Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American as Iron Fist.
-- Keith Chow, 18MR member, pop culture critic, writer, and editor of Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (Secret Identities) & the 18MR Team
For more reflections about making Iron Fist an Asian American, check out this piece at The Nerds of Color.