Netflix’s latest Marvel-based series, IRON FIST, debuts today, and I won’t go too much into the plot I’ve learned so far, because the setup of episode 1 is entirely ARROW + BATMAN BEGINS, with a little bit of IRON MAN. Rich kid (Danny Rand, played by Finn Jones) returns from life-altering exile to regain his family fortune and become a superhero. According to Me the Marvel Fan, it’s the least interesting angle to approach Danny Rand’s character from, and also coincidentally seems very derivative of three other popular superhero series!
My synopsis of the first episode: it’s okay, and there’s just one scene that is totally ridiculously wrong.
The NO EFFING WAY DID YOU REALLY DO THAT THING moment is when Danny does the thing that all white guys do when they meet an Asian gal they’re interested in, in this case, Colleen Wing (played by Jessica Henwick). Sorry, I meant the thing that all lame, privileged, ignorant, predatory white guys do — he speaks to her in Mandarin. Or whatever Asian language the guy thinks he is really good at.
I mean, my Mandarin sucks, and Danny’s is okay, but the thing you can’t really ignore (unless you’re trying to ignore it) is that Colleen obviously speaks native English. As a native English speaker, Danny would observe this from just the 2-3 phrases she says (unless he is just very inobservant) so there’s no particular reason to go into his phonetically-learned Mandarin to question her about the Chinese origin of her name, unless:
a) It demonstrates how fluent he is in Chinese language (It does not).
b) It conveys something that could not be as effectively communicated in English between two established English speakers (It mainly conveys that Danny knows the Chinese word for Japanese, and that Colleen has some knowledge of Mandarin and Japanese. And also ENGLISH, btw, that’s the language we’re sure she’s good at).
c) It is a really cool thing to do which impresses Asian people (It is not).
And somehow it’s 2017 and after YEARS of Asian Americans complaining about this exact thing, it’s in the first freaking episode of IRON FIST. People, when you meet an Asian American person, don’t, just DON’T, start speaking to her with the okay-ish Mandarin that you know…unless it is somehow established that you are both conversationally fluent, and/or English isn’t working. Otherwise, Just Don’t Fucking Do It! Don’t do it in exactly the way that Danny does it in this scene, unsolicited, presumptuous, racist, and just douchey as hell.
(And while I’m telling people how to act, definitely learn some Mandarin, please. Just don’t be a dick about practicing it on Asian-looking people on the street.)
But Colleen Wing is a very interesting presence, and am looking forward to seeing how her character develops.
And the fighting scenes aren’t bad, but they aren’t really good either.
And Danny Rand does, at one point, put on a mask (not a superhero mask) which just makes me happy as a concept.
There’s an awful thing that always happens when people try to avoid racism by avoiding race, and IRON FIST Episode 1 is a classic example of that. It seems leeched of any culture, specificity, or soul, probably because the show’s creators were trying really hard not to be offensive, and either failing (see the “Me Speak Chinese Very Good!” trope above), or yielding scenes which just feel sorta blah because they’re avoiding the whole sensitive topic that the show is centrally based on.
(That is, Chinese stuff. That’s the stuff that Iron Fist is mainly based on.)
But I guess I’m gonna watch the rest of this shit anyway. It’s my lot in life.