Asian American actor Lewis Tan said he worked hard and fought to land the role of Marvel’s Iron Fist but still ended up landing the role of one of the main villains instead.
On Twitter, Tan posted how he “almost” played the hero Danny Rand, but it was Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones who eventually got the role. Tan would instead be the villain Zhou Cheng, a character possessed by the entity Ch’i-Lin, assigned to killing every Iron Fist incarnation.
Marvel, however, would’ve received some enormous props from the Asian community had it chosen to cast an Asian lead for the upcoming Netflix TV series. While it might probably not be enough for fans to forget what it did to the Mandarin in “Iron Man 3″or the Ancient One in “Dr. Strange”, but it should at least be a step in the right direction.
Granted that the character of Iron Fist is white in the comics, and is technically justified for a white guy to play the role on TV, the opportunity to make a badass Asian Marvel hero is now lost. Especially if one realizes that there is nothing about the character that required a white person portrayal.
For his part, Tan said he’s happy playing the villainous character. But expressed the need of presenting more Asian heroes on TV and film.
The actor has expressed such sentiments in an interview with His Style Diary. Clamoring for better Asian roles in the film and television industry, he said:
“The thing is, I want to be the lead, the hero, the love interest character,” Tan said.“I know kung fu, I’ve been doing martial arts for 15 years, and I love it. But I think there are these expectations. These are the roles they are comfortable with Asians doing. They aren’t comfortable in seeing you in lead roles– the ones I want.”
Last year, Comics Alliance published a commentary on the Danny Rand cannon, focusing on this white savior’s appropriation of Asian culture:
“It’s a standard example of the white savior trope, commonly associated with movies Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, and even The Help, in which a white visitor becomes the only one who can save a culture that’s framed as ‘less civilized’, while he or she also learns valuable lessons from the uncorrupted spirituality of the people. These stories treat non-white or non-Western cultures as exotic playgrounds for the improvement of white people, and they assuage white colonial guilt by turning indigenous cultures into grateful beneficiaries of Western ‘discovery’, while also reducing the people in those cultures to props.”
A lot of people have expressed disappointment, ranging from annoyance to complete disgust that Marvel wasted a huge opportunity to win the Asian Marvel fans.
Marvel writer Marjorie Liu also gave her thoughts on the issue:
“Instead of casting the ASIAN ACTOR on the left, Lewis Tan, as Danny Rand in the new Iron Fist show, you downgraded to this human fettuccine noodle on the right. Lewis has a body chiseled out of marble and wet dreams. He can do his own stunts and he wakes up every morning with this toned physique,” posted The Love Life Of An Asian Guy.
The original Iron Fist comic,which was first published in 1974, was an unfortunate byproduct of its time with its use of the white savior trope for the character lead, being an example of white colonialism of the era. But almost half a century hence, Marvel should have grown along with the times and corrected what was meant to be Asian in the first place.
Not taking anything away from Finn Jones, as he is in fact a very capable actor, but this is a definite another casting misstep and Marvel should have known better.