You’ve probably heard this week’s big news about a woman taking up the Thor mantle and African American hero Sam Wilson/Falcon becoming Captain America. While advocates for comics diversity are cheering (and racists/misogynists are raging), people like Keith Chow have a more tempered reaction. Yes, it’s a big deal that these blue-eyed, blond white male superheroes are being replaced by women and minorities, but remember that we’re talking about comics here. Changes like these last for half a year before the characters return to the status quo.
What about television and film? The Fantastic Four reboot recently racebent the character Johnny Storm by casting Michael B. Jordan instead of the canon blue-eyed, blond white male superhero (seeing a pattern?). In his Nerds of Color post, Keith Chow suggests another racebend in Netflix’s upcoming Marvel miniseries: an Asian American actor as Danny Rand aka the Iron Fist. As Chow argues, an Asian American Danny Rand wouldn’t change his backstory of a man seeking revenge for his father’s death.
What does change, however, in making Danny non-white is that it removes the white savior syndrome of the original story. In the comics, it turns out Danny is the most gifted student Lei Kung had ever trained. Because of course he is. For all the fans who might decry an Iron Fist racebend, do you really want yet another white-guy-is-better-at-being-Asian-than-the-Asians story? But if Danny is Asian American, the scenes of him embracing the ways of K’un-L’un can be viewed through the lens of cultural re-connection. In fact, I’d play up Danny’s rejection of his Asian heritage prior to venturing to China.
Moreover, as Chow points out, an Asian American Iron Fist would add much-needed diversity to Marvel’s every-growing roster of superheroes. Netflix’s Marvel series consists of four individual miniseries featuring Jessica Drew, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil, as well as one giant team-up series called The Defenders. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a team consisting of a female hero, an African American hero, a blind hero, and an Asian American hero? You’re pretty much ticking off every progressive box.
18Million Rising created a petition to urge Marvel to cast an Asian American lead. If you’d like to show your support, sign here. Maybe we’ll get a little closer to an Asian American female hero.