‘Iron Fist’ Star on K’un L’un Diversity Altering ‘White Savior’ Narrative
There’s an ominous cloud of skepticism surrounding Marvel’s Netflix Iron Fist, that for as many trailers and featurettes precede the March 17 premiere, the fourth Defender series invariably co-opts Asian culture with its white lead. Now, star Finn Jones offers in-depth response to the controversy surrounding Danny Rand’s “white savior” role, including changes to the diversity of the comics’ K’un L’un, and why viewers should give the series a chance.
Speaking with BuzzFeed, Jones recounted how his excitement at winning the role was quickly tempered by the flood of negative reactions; most of which called for an Asian-American Iron Fist casting to offset the 1974 comic character’s appropriation of Asian culture. In the comics, the white Danny Rand ends up in the ostensibly Asian mystical city of K’un L’un, though Jones suggests that more visible diversity in Netflix’s rendition alters the notion of his Danny co-opting any specific race:
In the comic books, that place is essentially an Asian culture. Now K’un Lun in our version, it is a very diverse place. It’s a mystical kingdom in an alternate dimension, but it is populated by people from all over the map. You’ve got South Americans there, you’ve got Europeans there, you’ve got of course Asians there. It’s a diverse space, and we address Danny’s inability to honor and hold responsible the Iron Fist — like, that is part of the story, the fact he has this title, but is unable to harness the responsibility of what that means. And Danny is on a journey to hopefully better himself and hopefully learn to earn the right to hold the Iron Fist… and hopefully in that journey, we address the issues which people are concerned about.
It’s similar rhetoric to what we heard of Doctor Strange populating Kamar-Taj with characters of all races, though even director Scott Derrickson admitted to some missteps altering the race of Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. In Iron Fist’s case, at least, Jones expressed that Danny’s unworthiness to hold the title character’s moniker feeds into its dissection of a “white savior.”
Danny Rand is not a white savior. Danny Rand can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people. He is a very complicated, vulnerable individual. He doesn’t just show up, like, ‘Hey dudes, I’ve just learned martial arts! I’m going to save the world [said in a surfer voice].’ Actually, it’s the complete opposite. He’s gone through and suffered immense trauma and he is struggling to claim his own sanity and identity back.
Jones also suggested that the series would delve further into “those philosophical ideas of identity and culture” by an eighth episode addition of certain new characters, but will fans be willing to wait that long?
Stay tuned for more on Iron Fist as we approach the March 17 premiere, and catch the trailers below.