Since “Iron Fist” debuted Friday on Netflix, and received less-than-stellar reviews, conversations have been swirling once again about whether protagonist Danny Rand should’ve been cast as Asian-American.
Well according to Roy Thomas, who is credited as a co-creator of “Iron Fist,” discussions really don’t matter.
In an interview with Inverse, Thomas, who was the editor-in-chief of Marvel comics back when Iron Fist first appeared in 1974, said that people who complained about whitewashing had too much time on their hands.
“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,” he said.
He goes on to say that Rand, who is white, was created as such because he was a part of a fictional city and culture and, therefore, wasn’t defined by his race.
Thomas points to other characters of color Marvel has created — such as Rand buddy Luke Cage — and how he’s spearheaded concepts that included people of color. If people didn’t like it, he said they were probably just “too damn sensitive.”
“But then I really don’t have much sympathy at all to trigger warnings or any of that crap,” he said. “I think it’s overdone and nobody but a baby needs it, an intellectual baby.”
Thomas doesn’t say that Iron Fist can’t be Asian-American. If Marvel had, for example, killed off Rand and replaced him with somebody of Asian descent, it wouldn’t have bothered him. In fact, Marvel has done this a lot recently. Characters such as Ms. Marvel, the Hulk, Wolverine, and others have either been killed off, incapacitated, or moved on, which left the space for Marvel to introduce new characters, which often includes people of color or women.
The emphasis here is on the idea of a new character. It’s not about fixing Danny Rand, since he was a character from a different time. Thomas states that if people want to see a new character, they have to create them themselves instead of criticizing what’s already there.
“You know, just make up a new character,” he said. “Don’t worry about trashing another one. Just make up a new one. There’s always room for one, and it’s always better to be creative than to be a critic. I’ve been both. It’s better to be creative.”
There are a lot of problems with what Thomas is saying. For one, not everybody has the time or the skill to write fanfiction, or to create a character that others can enjoy. Thomas had an entire comic publisher behind him when he co-created “Iron Fist” (although he says he mostly just added the dragon tattoo in regards to Rand’s physical appearance) and most people don’t have that.
There isn’t anything wrong with being a critic — as Thomas says — but it’s insensitive to state that people have better things to do. When a reader or viewer sees a character that looks like them, or comes from a similar background, it creates a sense of comfort and familiarity. There’s a relief that goes along with identifying with a character. Not everybody’s a white guy (and no, a white guy doesn’t reflect all races), and there’s nothing wrong with people wondering where the women, the people of color, or LGBTQ+ characters are.
Read the full interview here.