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Who Marvel chooses to play Iron Fist is a big deal

Who Marvel chooses to play Iron Fist is a big deal

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With Daredevil and Jessica Jones now out of the way, Marvel has two more solo Netflix outings left before the eventual Defenders team-up. We know that production for Luke Cage is already underway, with Mike Colter set to star. But we don't really know much of anything about Iron Fist, the fourth and final series. Iron Fist is a classic, if not highly recognizable, superhero — a martial arts master with a deep connection to Marvel's mystical mythos. But what's also significant is the fact that he's, according to canon, Caucasian.

With that in mind, casting for this show is going to be important, and Marvel's head of TV Jeph Loeb recently told Comic Book Resources that news is on the way. We should pay close attention to what's announced. Considering how white the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, it'd be a bad idea for the company to cast its next hero, one with so many Asian influences, as yet another white character. Especially when Marvel is only getting started showing more diversity in its movies and TV shows.

Iron Fist was born during the '70s Kung Fu craze

Iron Fist was created back in 1974 by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, right at the height of the American Kung-Fu craze. People who'd just seen movies like Enter the Dragon wanted to see martial artists in a very big way, so Marvel capitalized on the trend by creating Danny Rand, the legendary Iron Fist.

Iron Fist

As a boy, Danny, we learn, found himself in the mystical land of K'un L'un, and, after meeting characters like Yu-Ti and Lei Kung the Thunderer, was trained for years in the martial arts, eventually earning the power of the Iron Fist. Danny then found his way to New York City, where he'd go on to team up with Luke Cage to take down criminals in the city's gritty underbelly.

But what was fun and trendy in the '70s looks tacky and appropriative in 2015. Danny Rand is a great character, having enjoyed a popular (if brief) run during his disco-era heyday before eventually becoming a key Avenger in more recent years. But there's no question that a white man becoming a pseudo-Asian society's greatest warrior is kind of cringeworthy by today's standards, especially when comics at large are struggling to depict more diverse perspectives.

Marvel will need to take considerable care depicting Iron Fist on TV

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will need to address that, and it will need to take considerable care in doing so. Casting Danny as white would ignore the criticism the company has for years received for its fairly homogenous group of headlining superheroes. But casting him as Asian, the simplest alternative, isn't a walk in the park either. Having an Asian lead actor does a great deal for increasing the visibility of Asians on television, right at a time when a show like Fresh Off the Boat is already making strides. But the company could also run afoul of portraying the character in a stereotypical light. This series will need a deft touch, and right now, we don't have any clear sense of what kind of thinking Marvel is bringing to bear with this property.

Now that Jessica Jones is getting rave reviews, attention is now going to start shifting to Marvel's upcoming projects. The pressure is on for the company to keep delivering quality television while also heeding the critiques it's gotten over the years. Marvel is already moving in that direction; it took ages, but Jessica Jones, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Luke Cage all demonstrate how the company is trying to tell stories with women and people of color in the spotlight. Hopefully Iron Fist does the same.

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