With “Iron Fist” continuing to take criticism for casting a white lead actor in a series based on Asian culture, one of its stars, Jessica Henwick, has spoken out, saying, “I’m part of the Asian community. I’m Asian. I’m an actor. If anyone understands the conversation, it’s me. I’ve lived and breathed it.”
The actress decided to join the series as Iron Fist’s closest ally, Colleen Wing, despite whitewashing claims, telling Entertainment Weekly that it was a “hard decision,” but that she ultimately signed on because she was impressed with how Colleen would be depicted.
“When I came on to ‘Iron Fist,’ it was really Colleen Wing that sold it for me,” Wing said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to see a really strong female Asian American. … She’s not a superhero; she’s just an ordinary person who has the guts to fight people with superpowers.”
In the series, Wing runs the struggling Chikara Dojo in New York when she crosses paths with Danny Rand and, after some initial tension, joins him in his fight to take back his father’s company from Harold Meachum. While some critics praised Henwick’s performance, “Iron Fist” was largely criticized for casting Finn Jones in the lead role.
Whitewashing of Asian roles has become a major talking point in geek circles in recent weeks. Along with the poor reception of “Fist,” anime fans lashed out last week at the trailer for Netflix’s American adaptation of the hit manga and anime series, “Death Note.” The film, which tells the story of a high school student who goes mad with power after discovering a notebook that kills anyone who has his or her name written in it, replaced the series’ main character, Light Yagami, with a white teenager named Light Turner.
The trailer’s response on Twitter was overwhelmingly negative, with fans pointing out that, like “Iron Fist,” the new film places a white protagonist in a story based in Asian culture. In this case, the Death Note that Light finds belongs to a shinigami, a spirit of death from Japanese religion.
Anime fans have also criticized Paramount’s adaptation of the 90’s cult film “Ghost in the Shell,” which will be released this Friday. Again, a Japanese protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is being played by a white actress, Scarlett Johansson.
Though the new version has cast Japanese actors in other roles, it is still being criticized for using Johansson as the core of its marketing. Fans of the original manga and anime film hijacked a viral marketing campaign that encouraged fans to include pictures of themselves with the tagline “I am Major.” Instead, critics used the meme generator to post pictures of Johansson with lines like “I am not Japanese” and “I am in love with white feminism.” The meme generator was also used to lampoon other whitewashed roles, including those in “Iron Fist.”