Asians ARE NOT ‘Oriental’, Co-Creator of Iron Fist!
Earlier this week, I argued how casting an Asian-American as Danny Rand might have benefitted Marvel/Netflix’s adaptation of Iron Fist. It seems Co-Creator of Iron Fist, Roy Thomas had a few words of his own as well. And they were…. Well, let’s just say that my blood boiled.
In an interview with Inverse, Thomas, age 76, doesn’t hold back on his thoughts about how people of today could be offended by the casting choice.
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.
“Or whatever word”? You’re kidding right? I know this guy is from a different era and all, but plenty of other 70-yr-olds know better now than to use “Oriental” to describe an Asian person. Because they’re just polite like that. Oriental is used to describe a certain furniture that you walk all over. Last I checked, you can’t and SHOULDN’T walk all over human beings!
Oriental is a term used to describe rugs, not people.
— Jessica Henwick ? (@JHenwick) March 21, 2017
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, referring to a person of Asian descent as “Oriental” is racist. It sits right next to “Gook,” “Chink,” “Rice-Paddy,” among other racial slurs. All of which I’ve been called, by the way. That fact that Thomas can’t think of “ASIAN” as the correct word to use says to me how little he cares about people’s feelings.
Thomas goes on to say that he wouldn’t have minded if Marvel killed off his character and replaced him with someone else who wasn’t white. He’s also not ashamed for what he’s done, either. “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.”
He shouldn’t be ashamed for the character he’s created. Iron Fist debuted at the height of Kung-Fu film in the United States. Everyone wanted a peace of that action. But you can’t blame someone for wanting a bankable character to evolve in such a way that keeps up with the times. He mentions Tarzan, a character who has been done to death for decades. As inherently problematic as that Tarzan is in his own right, creators have been able to update even him (see Legend of Tarzan starring Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgård).
I just think some people have too much time on their hands, I guess. They have an infinite capacity for righteous indignation. By and large, that tends to be misplaced quite often because if you’re becoming all upset over things that are just stories, and if you don’t like it, instead of trying to change somebody else’s story, go out and make up your own character and do a good job of it. That’s just fine, but why waste time trying to run down other people’s characters simply because they weren’t created with your standards in mind?
Now if something is really racist or degrading to a sex or race, an ethnic group or something like that, that’s something else, but Iron Fist isn’t that and never has been. It’s all about a fictitious race, a fictitious place like a Shangri-La, and one person who happens to be its emissary. There’s no reason why he can’t be Caucasian.
I agree with the fact that fans do tend to get butt-hurt over the tiniest things, but not wanting to expand inclusivity beyond the default vanilla white hero is not a small issue. That’s not representation. That’s furthering the idea that white people are the heroes. That white people are the only people who get shit done in this country. That white people are the center of our focus and everyone else is just secondary.
You say [insert white male comic book character’s name here] is a work of fiction, don’t worry about it? Great! So we agree. You shouldn’t be angry if/when we change his racial status when he’s reinterpreted on the screen, then. Being a fictitious character, and all….
Listen. While I would have preferred it if Marvel cast an Asian actor such as Lewis Tan to play Danny Rand, I also would have accepted if the show had white Danny spend the majority of the season in Kun Lun. Making the rich white kid earn the ever-living sh*t out of that Iron Fist power over every other worthy contender would have been a fine story. It would have showed us that he deserved to inherit that power.
Oh well. We got what we got. Iron Fist isn’t terrible, it just missed out on some golden opportunities in favor of cashing in on The Defenders team-up. Maybe next time creatives will gain insight from this whole thing.