Casting an Asian-American as Iron Fist
For those who don't know the background behind the character, Daniel "Danny" Rand came from money being the son of wealthy entrepreneur Wendell Rand. As a boy, Wendell discovers the mystical city of K'un L'un (yes it sounds just as racist out loud as it does on paper) and after saving the life of Lord Tuan the plucky future father to a super-hero becomes the adopted son of this mystical realm's leader. Eventually Wendell leaves K'un L'un and has a son with socialite Heather Duncan.
Fast forward some nine years later, Wendell organizes an expedition to find his childhood home with his family in tow and his business partner Harold Maechum. By an unfortunate turn of events, Danny slips off the path and pulls his father and mother down with him, Maechum allows Danny's father to die but tries to save Heather and Danny... since he loved Heather and apparently disillusioned himself to think she wouldn't be pissed about the whole "letting-her-husband-die" thing, As a pack of wolves attack the two, Heather sacrifices herself to save her son... unfortunately losing her life before K'un L'un's archers could aid them.
A grieving Danny meets Yu-Ti, now the ruler of K'un L'un. Expressing to Yu-Ti his desire for revenge, Danny is apprenticed to Lei Kung, the Thunderer, who acts as his martial arts master.
So I get it, Daniel Rand was never an Asian-American character to begin with, but let's not forget the problematic theme behind the source material. When Marvel began publishing the character in the mid 70's, martial arts flicks were all the rage. But with this being the 70's, rather than putting an Asian-American at the forefront of the book, they gave the title of Iron Fist to a blonde caucasian male. I get it was a sign of the times, but what Marvel has a chance to do here is to help improve one of their characters by ditching the tired and overused "white-man-becomes-Asian-better-than-an-Asian-thanks-to-kung-fu" trope that fueled the original character's core narrative.
The thing is, they don't have to change much (if anything) to accommodate this. His name doesn't even have to change. The kid could be adopted or even come from a bi-racial background. Just because Danny Rand is conceptualized as an Asian man... it doesn't mean that he has to be any less American! Perhaps the show could explore an underlying story, what if Heather Duncan was adopted as a child and Danny's training leads him to discover that his mother had in fact come from K'un L'un?
I could think of a handful of actors who could play the character. With Marvel firmly planting the television (and this Netflix) universe in the greater MCU, this could be a chance to bring an Asian American leading man to the big screen... America has no Asian-American leading men, that's the long and the short of it... it's sad but depressingly true. I could see the likes to Daniel Henney, Rick Yune, Godfrey Gao, or even The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun donning the Iron Fist's mask.
I feel that if Marvel doesn't cast an Asian American in this role they'll gain nothing, but to make right on an almost 40-year-old problematic comic trope... here's hoping they don't waste this chance. The fine folks at 18 Million Rising have a petition up, if you agree with this please click here and sign it. So what say you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below...