Is The IRON FIST Whitewashing Controversy Necessary?
With all of the bad press that has surrounded Netflix’s Iron Fist in recent weeks, one has to wonder where it is coming from and if it is necessary.
Marvel rarely put a foot wrong with their comic book adaptions, so it is unsurprising to me that critics have been waiting to attack them in some way. This sudden animosity is now aimed at the aforementioned Iron Fist.
Before its release, all early reviews were bad with thumbs down and low scores all round. Having only seen 7 episodes myself (I have a very busy schedule) I have enjoyed them and strongly disagree with these reviews.
Now, though, the new argument of whitewashing has crept up. A character who grows up in an oriental monastery and learns martial arts must surely be Asian, mustn’t he? Well, Danny Rand is Caucasian and has been since his inception in the 1970’s.
In an interview with Inverse, creator of Iron Fist Roy Thomas, had this to say on the subject of white washing.
Yeah, someone made me vaguely aware of that. I try not to think about it too much. I have so little patience for some of the feelings that some people have. I mean, I understand where it’s coming from. You know, cultural appropriation, my god. It’s just an adventure story. Don’t these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn’t Oriental, or whatever word? I know Oriental isn’t the right word now, either.
He was a character for a comic book at a different time. It’s very easy to second-guess anything. You can argue about Tarzan, you can argue about almost any character who came up then is bound to be not quite PC by some later standard or other. Okay, so you can make some adjustments. If they wanted to kill off white Iron Fist and come up with one who wasn’t Caucasian, that wouldn’t have bothered me, but neither am I ashamed for having made up one who was. He wasn’t intended to stand for any race. He was just a man who was indoctrinated into a certain thing.
I just think some people have too much time on their hands, I guess. They have an infinite capacity for righteous indignation. By and large, that tends to be misplaced quite often because if you’re becoming all upset over things that are just stories, and if you don’t like it, instead of trying to change somebody else’s story, go out and make up your own character and do a good job of it. That’s just fine, but why waste time trying to run down other people’s characters simply because they weren’t created with your standards in mind?
Now if something is really racist or degrading to a sex or race, an ethnic group or something like that, that’s something else, but Iron Fist isn’t that and never has been. It’s all about a fictitious race, a fictitious place like a Shangri-La, and one person who happens to be its emissary. There’s no reason why he can’t be Caucasian.
Because I did want to reach out to all races. Marvel has always pioneered — for years — in having people of other races in the comics, from Black Panther through Luke Cage and a few others. I made up the concept for another group a little later, I think it was in one of the kung fu magazines we had, “magazines” being the black and white comics, as we called them. I made up a concept — I forget if I made up the name — called the Sons of the Tiger. It was three people: one white, one black, one Asian. I turned that over to other people and let them handle it. I figured if that doesn’t hold, people are just too damn particular, they’re just too damn sensitive for their own good or anybody else’s. But then I really don’t have much sympathy at all to trigger warnings or any of that crap. I think it’s overdone and nobody but a baby needs it, an intellectual baby.
On the other hand, if they had decided to make Iron Fist an Asian, that would have been fine with me, too. I wouldn’t have cared. I didn’t consider myself the safeguard of some kind of Caucasian literary standard or anything like that. But I would have found it easier to write about a Caucasian, so that’s one reason I probably did it. If somebody had suggested, “You want to make it so he’s Asian?” Well, we could have done that too.
He could have a buddy who was Asian. It could have been a trio, like that group I just mentioned. You know, just make up a new character. Don’t worry about trashing another one. Just make up a new one. There’s always room for one, and it’s always better to be creative than to be a critic. I’ve been both. It’s better to be creative. There’s nothing wrong with being a critic, but after a while, you’re basically talking about other people’s work. That’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a perfectly respectable thing, but I think you should try to put yourself in their shoes instead of constantly complaining because they didn’t do exactly what you think they should have done. Rather than having that, you should go out and do it yourself.
So, there you have it. People create this controversy for controversies sake. But, what do you think?