Returning to New York City after being missing for years, Daniel Rand fights against the criminal element corrupting New York City with his incredible kung-fu mastery and ability to summon the awesome power of the fiery Iron Fist.
What it doesn’t have, yet, is a cast, and it’s widely speculated that this is why it took so long to get Danny Rand’s show together. And it’s a tougher question than you might think.
At issue is the fact that Danny Rand, in the comics, is a blond-haired, blue-eyed white guy who derives his powers from a mystical Asian city of K’un L’un where he spent time as a child. In some respects, he’s the comic book equivalent of that guy you know who moves to a new city and is suddenly an expert about it to everyone on Facebook. And so, of course, an argument has broken out over whether Marvel should stick with the original comics, or recast Danny Rand.
This isn’t new territory; M. Night Shyamalan, for instance. faced similar complaints with his whitewashed The Last Airbender and Lionsgate has preemptively apologized for its suspiciously pale-looking forthcoming film Gods of Egypt. And despite the immediate wails that people are too sensitive that always rise when this comes up, it’s a particularly sticky issue because Asian-Americans aren’t exactly commonplace on television. One can hardly some for seeing a white guy running around as the representative of a mystical Asian civilization as a slap in the face.
It has to be asked, though: Why not recast Danny Rand? The Marvel Cinematic Universe does this all the time. Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Nick Fury, Kenneth Branagh turned Asgard into a far more diverse place with Thor, and Jessica Jones switched the gender of Jeryn Hogarth. What’s important about Iron Fist is his ability to punch dragons in the heart and his tendency to team up with Luke Cage. Unless we learn something really depressing about Luke in his upcoming Netflix series, he doesn’t have to be a white guy to do any of that.
Another option, of course, is to just rewrite his origin altogether. Although Marvel has hinted at the existence of K’un L’un in Daredevil, they’ve been reluctant to talk about it beyond that, and with reason. On paper, it’s a rather silly place, a city in the Himalayas built on top of a crashed alien spaceship that’s regularly threatened by dragons. Translating that to the screen without becoming campy is a challenge in and of itself, and the show might be better served by making him a member of the Hand or a disciple of Daredevil’s teacher, Stick. If nothing else, it’d be a fun way to tie the two series together.
Either way, Scott Buck has a tough job in front of him, and we’re excited to see what he does with it. Keep an eye out for Iron Fist late in 2016.