Marvel Hits Back at Iron Fist ‘Whitewashing’ Claims

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By Weinei Ma | 9:01 am, March 17, 2017

Iron Fist, the last of Marvel’s Defenders heroes to be introduced, will debut on Netfix tonight. But not before been tagged with a similar controversy its film cousin, Doctor Strange, was embroiled in.

Accusations of whitewashing have plagued the show before its release. The comic book series features a caucasian character as the recipient of a great power bestowed upon him by a group of Asian monks.

Doctor Strange was lambasted for casting Tilda Swinton in a role based on an Asian character in the comic books.

Jones has hit back at naysayers, asking them to not pre-judge a series they haven’t seen.

“I get that people want more diversity in TV and film and I stand by that,” he said. “I stand in solidarity with better diversity in TV shows, especially for Asian actors. I agree with that 100 per cent.

“What I get frustrated about is people making wild assumptions on our show and our characters when they haven’t even seen it yet. How we’re handling this modern incarnation of Danny Rand is he’s not a white savior. He can hardly save himself, let alone an entire race of people.

“And K’un-Lun [the place where Danny learns his powers from the monks] in our show is a diverse, multicultural alternative realm. It’s not just full of Asian people and Asian culture. It’s full of people from Europe, from South America, from Asia. It’s a diverse place.

“And we tackle the topic of Danny Rand not being ready yet to have the responsibility of the Iron Fist. He isn’t just some dude who comes in and saves the day — he’s a very problematic character with flaws. Using those flaws, hopefully we can tell an intelligent story about the origins of the Iron Fist and do it justice.”

Iron Fist and Doctor Strange aren’t the only recent Hollywood properties to be hit with this controversy. Much was also made of Matt Damon’s casting as the lead in The Great Wall, a monster flick set in China.

Iron Fist cast Jessica Henwick, a British actor whose mother is Singaporean-Chinese, to play Colleen Wing. Rosario Dawson, an actor with a Puerto Rican-Cuban background, reprises her role as Claire Temple while Hong Kongese actor Wai Ching Ho returns as Madame Gao, a character introduced in Daredevil.

Jones points to this as part of the show’s commitment to diversity in cultural and gender representation.

“Iron Fist is quite a feminist show,” he said. “The women we have in this show, the female roles are incredibly strong. We have Colleen, we have Claire, we have Joy [played by Jessica Stroup] and we have Madame Gao.

“They are four very diverse, very strong female figures in our show. It’s actually the male ones that are in chaos. The men need to be help up by the women. I have so much respect for Marvel and Netflix for creating these roles for women and for people of diverse backgrounds.”

Henwick said she was excited to be playing a character with so much physical and internal strength.

“It’s fun to get to harness that part and portray it on screen,” she said. “It’s a message I want to send out into the world. There aren’t enough characters like this.

“There’s a scene where I’m fighting a woman and that was something I pitched to them because they kept putting me up against male fighters and I said ‘OK, I get it but you don’t need to only fight men to show strong a woman I am’. There are women who would be just as much of a challenge to take down.”

Jones added: “Women are the strong people in this world, not men. I think TV is finally catching up with that reality and thank god. Women are stronger than men. It’s true.”

Jones also talked about what a crossover between the street-level Marvel Defenders heroes and the Avengers of the films might look like.

“The more interesting perspective would be to have the movie heroes come down to our level,” he said. “The interesting storytelling is in TV right now where you have 13 episodes to really get into the characters’ minds.

“There’s nothing interesting about seeing our characters for an hour and a half do some flashy flying in the sky and beating up on some buildings. It’s boring and people don’t want that anymore. They want character and they want story.

“I think it’ll be really interesting to see Doctor Strange come down and we get into his head. Or Captain America. I think that’s the interesting flip, not the other way around.”

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