‘Iron Fist’ Creator Dismisses Cultural Appropriation Claims as ‘Crap’
Anyone who’s watched Netflix’s Iron Fist could recognize that series’ issues extend way beyond its casting. Still, Netflix and Marvel’s choice of Finn Jones as white martial artist Danny Rand (over possibilities like Asian-American actor Lewis Tan), has drawn heavy criticism in some circles, which in turn has irked the co-creator of the character, who, in a new interview, shared his harsh response over “cultural appropriation and crap like that, which just makes me furious.”
Speaking with Inverse, Iron Fist co-creator and longtime Marvel Comics writer Roy Thomas admitted to little familiarity with the controversy (or involvement with the Netflix series overall), but nonetheless pushed back aggressively on his work:
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.
In particular, Thomas pointed toward Iron Fist’s K’un L’un as a fictional city of no explicit race, with Danny as “one person who happens to be its emissary.” Thomas also noted his participation in the creation of multi-cultural comic group Sons of the Tiger, and claims indifference over Danny Rand’s racial depiction:
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.
Creators are understandably defensive of their work, but with respect, Thomas is definitely missing a key component of the current controversy. While it’s true that industry standards were different when he created Iron Fist decades ago, what’s important today is that Marvel and Netflix had an opportunity to create something more inclusive, and deliberately chose not to.
The questions surrounding Iron Fist’s future will continue to swirl as we gear up for The Defenders, so stay tuned for the latest.