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The Case Against an Asian American Iron Fist

Fwoah! Look at me, getting political. Well, I guess first off, let me just say: I really don’t care about race when it comes to casting. Pretty much none of the past “controversies” interested me in the least. So why the whole article about race in casting? Well, I’m going to stay out of race politics as much as possible. My reasons against an Asian American actor are story-based, as you’ll see.

So first off, when it does come to race in casting, my rule of thumb is thus: if the race is not an integral part of the character, then it really doesn’t matter. For instance! The Human Torch, Ben Urich, Night Nurse, MCU’s Heimdall, and even Spider-Man are independent of race. In fact, the whole point of Spider-Man is that it could be anyone under the mask!

But what of the opposite? Daredevil, for instance. Being an Irish catholic is a central tenant of  his character, so being white is simply an extension of that. Same with Luke Cage, Black Panther, Gambit, and a great many others. To alter their race is to alter a lot of what informs that character.

There are other, uh… other examples.

Now before we apply that rule to Iron Fist let us break down the character origin. When Danny Rand was a young child, his crazy obsessed father led his family into the snowy mountains in search for the magical lost city of  K’un-Lun. He ends up falling off a cliff and his wife, Danny’s mom, is eaten by wolves. Danny, meanwhile, finds himself right there at the gates. He lives there, trains, and something something kills a dragon with his bare fists and plunges his hands into its heart to gain magic kung-fu powers.

So, with all that said, what does race have anything to do with any of that? Why can’t an Asian-American actor play Danny Rand? The fact is: a huge part of the character is his outsider status. This magic Chinese heaven city is completely alien to Danny. In its language, its culture, the way everyone looks, even the mere function of the city is different. I think to make Danny of Asian decent takes away some of that impact. Sure, you can make the rest alien to him, but being a different race is a strong visual reminder of that. A reminder I think hurts the story if its taken away.

I’m not arguing for one specific race for the Danny Rand characters, Arabic, black, white, Inuit. All good. Outside his outsider status, Danny’s race is kind of a non issue. I know a lot of people out there are calling to keep him white, and I don’t really care either way, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Now, I know that as far as demographics go, Asian people are often under represented. There aren’t that many Asian roles out there. However, if done right (I’m really hoping they spend a whole bunch of time in K’un-Lun) pretty much all other roles will be played by Asian-American (or just full-on Asian) actors.

But what do you think? Am I mistaken? Is there a really solid reason Danny Rand needs to be played by an Asian-American actor? Is having him another race a case of cultural appropriation? Where do I get off? Let me know if the comments below!

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