A Carp On Dry Land

The impending release of Netflix’s Iron Fist show combined with some seriously tone-deaf and whiter than white comments from its star Finn Jones have led to a resurgence of the discussions around #AAIronFist. Created by Keith Chow of Nerds of Colour after the announcement of the show (not as a backlash to 45’s election as Finn Jones would like you to believe, oddly enough AAPI’s have wanted better representation for far longer than 5 months) to lobby for an Asian/Asian American Danny Rand it was ultimately ignored by the creators as they went for the traditional rich white boy hero we always get. For the record, it wasn’t because we hate canon or white boys it was because:

The conversation would pick up again in small bursts as announcements were made and cast photos were released but now that the first 6 episodes have been seen by critics and the negative reviews are flowing and the embargo on interviews has been lifted the hashtag has been quite active again with lots of people new to the discourse flooding in to defend Jones and his casting for two primary reasons.

  • Danny Rand is canonically white in the comics (nevermind that he was created to be a white washed Gary Stu Bruce Lee)
  • In order to be a fish out of water amongst Asians Danny CAN’T be Asian.

The first is ridiculous. Comics changes canon constantly. Characters can have 3 different origin stories and readers have to keep up with different multiverses and timelines but a bad decision from the 70s can’t be redone? Please.

But the second people seem particularly earnest about and it’s just as ridiculous. Asia is a big continent with many languages, cultures, histories and religions and that argument is saying that a Japanese Buddhist from the country is the same as a Filipino Muslim who grew up in Manila. It acts like China alone doesn’t have multiple languages and regions. And this is just sourcelanders, when you get into Asians who grew up in the diaspora, either immigrated young or born here, you have a whole other level of feeling out of place in Asia.

Why is the idea that to be a fish out of water you have to look physically different than the people around you so pervasive? Everyone has felt like that for brief and sustained moments. Have you ever:

  • Been the new kid at a school
  • Gone to a different religion’s church and not known the rituals and songs everyone performed so smoothly
  • Visited relatives or friends in a different part of the country, North Easterner to the South, Midwesterner to the West
  • Gone to a friend’s big family gathering as an only child with very few relatives
  • Been the only English major surrounded by STEM majors
  • Been a country kid who moved to the big city or vice versa
  • Been the only sober person in the group
  • Moved to a new place
  • Started a new job
  • Met a significant other’s family
  • Tried to connect with your family’s cultural roots

Think about how you felt in those situations and then examine why you think Danny Rand has to be white in order to feel like a fish out of water. Then go ahead and read some of the excellent conversations happening by AAPI including the one that kickstarted it all. No one is creating backlash just for the heck of it Finn Jones.