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Netflix courts controversy by enlisting legendary Asian gamers to help promote Iron Fist

Netflix courts controversy by enlisting legendary Asian gamers to help promote Iron Fist

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Netflix’s Iron Fist debuts tonight at midnight, and despite the critical shellacking the series has taken over the past week, the show must go on. As part of the series’s launch, the company has teamed up with Twitch and two of today’s most celebrated fighting-game players, Justin Wong and Daigo Umehara, to stream several rounds of Street Fighter V and Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Twitch announced the matches between the old rivals on Twitter last night:

The promotion makes some sense. Wong and Umehara are well-regarded in their field thanks to their skill, and in part to what’s now known as Evo Moment #37. That bout, in which Umehara won a stunning come-from-behind victory against Wong at the Evolution Championship Series 2004, is considered iconic by people in the fighting-game community to this day:

And given how much overlap there is between comics culture and the fighting-game community, seeing the two do battle with, say, Iron Fist facing Ryu is an easy way to promote a show about Iron Fist fighting evil ninjas. However, the fact that the series has been dressed down by critics for how it handles Asian identities — like its tendency to undermine the otherwise exceptional Colleen Wing — makes it immediately uncomfortable to have the Chinese-American Wong and Japanese Umehara promote a series that falls short in the representation of Asians and Asian-Americans. Intentionally or not, it makes it seem like Netflix is happy to have them support the show, but not cast an Asian-American actor as the series lead.

That problem hasn’t been lost on some observers:

We’ve reached out to Netflix and Twitch for comment.