How Finn Jones Took On The ‘Iron Fist’ Race Convo And Failed

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This could be the closest we'll get to Iron Fist's most popular costume in the comics. Marvel

Should comic book adaptations stick to their source material, or should traditionally culturally appropriated characters’ origins be changed to tell stories and experiences from different perspectives?  That’s  the crux of the Iron Fist white savior controversy that has been going on since Finn Jones was first cast as Iron Fist. The conversation picked back up this weekend on Twitter.  

Finn Jones posted a link to Riz Ahmed’s speech last week about why representation is more important than diversity in TV shows.

“If you’re used to seeing yourself reflected in culture, I really want you to take a minute to understand how much it means to someone who doesn’t see themselves reflected back,” Ahmed says.

Geeks of Color’s Asyiqin Haron replied to Jones’ tweet, referring to the irony (though I’m not sure Jones understood the irony). Considering how the Iron Fist comics are kind of the definition of cultural appropriation and Marvel chose against updating the very core of the problem: the fact Danny Rand is white.  

“Are you for real?” Haron asked.“Yes, I am,” Jones replied.

"Please don't make assumptions on our show before you have seen it," Jones continued. "The characterization of Danny Rand may have remained true to its source material, but our show incorporates and celebrates actors from all different backgrounds."

Haron stood by her point as Jones began whitesplaining why Iron Fist doesn’t follow the classic white savior narrative. Jones eventually deleted his Twitter account instead of continuing the conversation. The account has since been reactivated as of late Monday afternoon.

Let’s preface this conversation with the fact that nobody, aside from Jones, has seen the series -- so it’s impossible to tell if the show’s content is as problematic as the comic book, well, pretty much every comic book made during those years.

It’s also worth noting the author who conversed with Jones names Iron Fist as her all-time favorite superhero, as she writes in an essay published earlier this year where she argues Marvel missed an opportunity to cast an Asian-American actor in the series. She in no way attacks Jones himself in her post, but she rightfully points out an Asian actor could have suited the series better, while also breaking the Hollywood mold of a lack of people of color in lead roles.

Iron Fist undeniably, on the surface, appears to follow the same formula we’ve seen on film and TV in the last decades. Just watch The Last Samurai, Karate Kid 2 , trailers for The Great Wall, and many many more -- all feature white men appropriating Asian mysticism and culture. That’s the problem. The best way for Marvel to change this trend 100% would have been to cast an Asian actor.

There are those who agree with Haron and those who don’t. Would I myself absolutely love to see a version of the story like the one she describes? Yes, it sounds a hell of a lot more interesting. But it’s important to remember Haron’s perspective is in no way a direct attack on Finn Jones -- well, until he made it one by deleting his Twitter.

That’s what makes this situation so disappointing. Finn Jones just left… because he can, leaving Haron looking like she was ranting, raving and harassing him -- which couldn’t be any further from the truth. Grievances are brought up and folks end up feeling attacked, instead of owning a problem exists and moving forward. Reacting genuinely with compassion, like Jones did, tends to be paired with a defensiveness, like his response was. Telling people of color why they shouldn't feel a certain type of way is the wrong approach.

Marvel could have significantly altered Danny Rand’s origins, transforming him into a character Asian-Americans could relate to -- a voice and perspective media needs more of. But instead, if we take Jones’ words as truth, Iron Fist will attempt to address that cultural appropriation and issues that come with it through narrative and storytelling. One way the show seems positioned to do this is by giving characters like Colleen Wing (played by Jessica Henwick) a role with more impact and using characters like her to keep Danny in check. This is more satisfying, some argue, than changing the whole story that readers, like Haron, fell in love with in the first place.

The thing is, either way, the show would feel out of touch -- with a white guy or Asian guy. There’s plenty of stereotypes for the latter, too. We can’t go back in time and fix Iron Fist’s story, but we can adapt. There’s different ways to do it and it’s easy for Jones to feel the way he does about his character, because he’s ultimately not affected and would be out of a job otherwise.

We could change the actor’s ethnicity, keep the story and change the nature of the man himself (like Jones’ claims Iron Fist is already doing), or create more original stories that center around more diverse experiences. When it comes down to it, the latter would have the most impact. Shit, Haron should write a comic book. But the fact of the matter is, a Chinese Iron Fist in the MCU would have been a great start to alleviating underrepresentation.

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