*I know I said I wasnt going to say anything more about Iron Fist but hey! I’m not saying all of this! Someone else is saying it so…
Basically Iron Fist was always a problem, and always gonna be a problem, even in the comic books. I love the character that was created in the comics but that doesn’t preclude me from acknowledging that its still the Mighty Whitey Trope. So are a host of other characters I love, from Dr. Strange, to Tarzan, to The Last Samurai. But just because I really like these characters doesn’t make them right, or that we should keep doing it. There are other stories to be told that don’t feature White men in the middle of them. And if you do use the Mighty Whitey trope, you need to at least acknowledge it or say something new about it.
*And from Tumbr:
Episode 1: Enter the White Dude
Hi, I am Singaporean Chinese. Yes, Netflix is available here and yes, they are trying to sell this to us.
Secondly: I do read comics, but the whole “he was white in the comics” thing does not fly–see article for context. This is 2017, not 1974.
Thirdly: the creators of Iron Fist were fetishising the heck out of kung-fu movies when they wrote the comic back in 1974. And they are crusty old relics that use the word “Orientals” even though it’s 2017 and they know it’s not the right word (but use it anyway in interviews).
Fourthly: Iron Fist is not one person–it’s a power that is passed onto people that subsequently bear the title. Only two of them have been white. However this is is not important, because they changed almost everything about Danny Rand (and 90% of his backstory and even what the Iron Fist is for) except the bit about him being white. So the less deliberately obtuse understand that this was the most important thing to the writers, directors and producers. Lewis Tan also auditioned for the same role, so most people know that they did not pick the best actor for the job–unless you think white actor = default best lead actor.
Fifth point: this show had awful writing. And that’s even without the Orientalism and pseudo Buddhism. However, this dissection will be focused on this point.
Warning(s): Death, drug overdose, needles, guns, violence (kinda slow violence but still), Orientalism, lazy writing, car crashes, mangling of Mandarin, drugging someone against their will, forced institutionalisation, ableism, plane crashes.
Opening is … eh, kung fu in slow-mo. On a mountain top. With stuff like black ink. Like Chinese calligraphy. Only without any calligraphy. Just the vague aesthetics of calligraphy. *sighs* This is going to be painful.
In the first bit, Danny Rand returns to New York and tries to get into his parents’ company’s building. It goes as well as expected. His ex-childhood buddies treat him like shit. (He doesn’t get shot for assaulting security officers–this article explains why.) He also does not know that people think he’s dead–after 15 years, who would have thought, eh? Action scene was kinda slow. His ex-childhood buddies are also greedy cynical capitalists, so they have no reason to believe him.
I have to stop to ask: Can someone please tell me why this guy is barefoot? Other than bad writing (bad characterisation and bad worldbuilding)? Shoes were invented a long time ago and while a lot of Asians take shoes off when they enter a dwelling, we understand the need to wear shoes outdoors. Someone will no doubt write a fic where Danny gives his shoes up to some other homeless person. But there is no reason why he should be barefoot in that scene.
(How did this guy get to New York anyway?)
Back to Danny Rand, trying to get back into his old place. Ah, his other skill is animal communications or something??? His ex-childhood buddy Ward was a douche way back when. Still is. It gets creepy because Joy lives in this house now, so DR looks like a stalker.
Homeless in the park with DR. Time for him to use his iPod and read a book written in … I can’t make out what language that is but I know what they want me to think it is. (Stereotyping: your mind fills in the blanks with pre-existing scripts. Lazy writing.) Unless someone can tell me that this book is significant in some way later on, I’m going to call it unnecessary window dressing for that “Asian flavour”.
Translation: the original comic creators were crusty old relics that wanked over the aesthetics of 70s kung fu movies and the producers and writers of this show are not much better. I kid–it could be line of poop emojis and we would never know.
In a scene that would have been much nicer without the extra window dressing, DR makes a friend. Big Al shows him Google search on an iPhone so that DR knows that people think he’s dead. His uncle is also apparently dead. The only person to be nice to him the whole day is another homeless person. Maybe we can focus on the plight of the–nope, not going that way.
The next morning, DR is very persistent. Joy feels (rightfully) harassed and calls people. That car-jumping scene was … um. Really extra. Let me try to articulate this, okay? This is 2017, people have access to decades of martial arts movies. (The Matrix was 18 years ago.) The action sequences in this show will compare very badly to those movies. So even people watching this for fight scenes will not be entertained.
First meeting with Colleen Wing, she gives him money and he mangles Mandarin without subtitles (for subtitles please look at gif set exhibit A under the link: white man polices biracial woman’s identity) and she says she hasn’t spoken it since she was a kid (rather than punching him for that). Man, if you wanted a job, you could have said so in English. Why do you suppose Colleen would know how to speak Mandarin?
This is so uncomfortable on so many levels. If magical K’un Lun is not of this world, then why would they speak Mandarin? If it was truly isolated in another dimension, then K’un Lun would have its own distinct dialect, like most regions in China and most countries. So DR speaking (mangling) Mandarin is also BS. (Not even talking about the yoga-like poses in the park.) This would mean so much more if it was Chinese American DR, who was never very good in Mandarin class, and Colleen Wing, who might be able to relate.
Back to the more douchy sibling and DR. Apparently DNA tests cannot be done because Danny has no living relatives. (That’s BS too, btw.) Way to be ableist, Ward. (The only thing I like is that major douches in MCU are named Ward.) However, Danny is not as peaceful as his initial appearance suggests. We get it, he’s traumatised by the deaths of his parents–why does it get expressed as him being rather violent in a car? Apparently he’s not out of touch enough to not know how guns work (or maybe all kids know how to use guns in the US or K’un Lun–I dunno).
More job-hunting in vain. It’s not like it isn’t obvious that a) she practices a totally different school of martial arts in her dojo and b) she doesn’t have the money to pay another instructor. Yes, kick him out, Colleen. That’s what he gets for trying to police a biracial woman’s identity–is he trying to flirt with her? Ew. (Colleen Wing obviously cannot afford to pay DR–her dojo is sharing space with AA meetings. But she gives him shoes. It’s almost as if everyone who is nice to DR in this show are not very well off and–yeah, it’s very unsubtle.)
Then DR gets attacked and chased into Chinatown (while Colleen Wing watches from above). Where a parade is happening. With lion dancers, dragon dancers and fire crackers and everything. But why? Is it Chinese New Year? What is the context for this? Can someone tell me why this is necessary? Or is this a way to claim that this show is diverse because there were something like 100 Asian extras in that scene? Way to endanger the lives of all the people in the parade, DR. Fight scenes are a yawn. Even though the mask DR is wearing in no way hides his curly mop of blond hair in this parade of Asian people–who do not notice the fighting at all.
(I feel that this scene is a metaphor for the whole show.)
On one hand, I hope the extras were paid a reasonable rate and had a good experience. On the other hand, I have a feeling that when it comes to telling the kids about how Mum/Dad/Second Aunt/your Cousin were extras on this show, it would come with the caveat that they shouldn’t try to be actors–because they’ll probably wind up as extras in a show (with not very good fight scenes) that needed a parade of Asian faces for reasons unknown. Representation matters.
(Story time: there were Chinese actors from my tiny state that tried to make it to Hollywood. Shanghai Knights was back in 2003 and Fann Wong is still mostly known as a local actress. Lau in The Dark Knight might still be Ng Chin Han’s biggest role to date in a major movie right after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Currently, he’s got a part in Gh0st in the *hell–not sure if he gets more or less lines than in Captain America. Most parents here still don’t encourage kids to become actors because there’s so little room for them.)
Back to Ward, the more evil sibling who sends people to assassinate homeless dudes–he has reasons for being a terrible person. Reason number one being his dad (supposedly dead but still alive???)–who is probably why Ward is the nice cuddly guy he is. Wow, every baddie has a backstory. Probably affects plot in future. But is anyone interested? (I loved the art deco style building this scene supposedly took place in. Anyone know where it is?)
Remember DR’s one friend? His one friend is now dead of a drug overdose. Why? Maybe Big Al was around for for one Google search, some food and to allow DR to mouth some platitudes over his body? Or to highlight the plight of the homeless by ki–that’s really … really not good storytelling.
Security at Rand Enterprises is dreadful–DR has no problem sneaking in again. (Or maybe it’s that other thing.) Cut to Joy, the nicer sibling. Who is very calm for a woman that’s just found a strange guy in her office (again). Maybe it’s because she might believe him. Or is being swayed by his rhetoric. (”It’s a Zen saying” … gag me with a spoon.) His backstory is taking way too long … So Joy drugs him. I take everything back, she’s just as bad.
DR wakes to … a very troubling scene of forced institutionalisation at the end. As if everything else had not been bad enough.
Plot: It’s all over the place … Not sure if the writers know what DR is supposed to be. He has trauma, tries to be a pacifist but is really angry inside? What is the message here? Wall Street is evil? Problematic portrayals all over the place? The plight of the homeless and people with mental health issues? Not enough women with lines? Colleen Wing needs her own show with Misty Knight!
Orientalism: Check, aesthetics over substance, mangling of Mandarin despite the fact that DR has no reason to be speaking Mandarin, Zen sayings, yoga poses, a huge Chinese New Year-style parade in the background for reasons unknown (oooooooor they just wanted a certain type of backdrop for a not very good fight scene). One East Asian character with lines.
Asians in the background: around 100 of them perhaps, no lines, much firecrackers. Not sure if they were Chinese-American, Korean-American, Japanese American, Hmong-American … because they have no lines.
*The conservative Christian boycott of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is Hypocritical
*Tomato Lacochran just got fired from The Blaze. I had written about this no-nothing twenty something, who had the gall to wag her finger at Black people, about subjects on which she hadn’t done her homework.
Naw! I’m still not calling her empty headed ass by her actual name.
I also kind of thought of her as tofu. She’s the kind of person who has no real thoughts of her own, like an intellectual mimic, she just takes on the flavor of the strongest brain, in her orbit.
*On representation in fandom:
*I am loving this analysis of The Hobbits from Lord of the Rings:
6) Tolkien’s hero was average, and needed help, and failed.
This is the place where most fantasy authors, who love to simultaneously call themselves Tolkien’s heirs and blame him for a lot of what’s wrong with modern fantasy, err the worst. It’s hard to look at Frodo and see him as someone extra-special. The hints in the books that a higher power did choose him are so quiet as to be unnoticeable. And he wouldn’t have made it as far as he did without his companions. And he doesn’t keep from falling into temptation.
A lot of modern fantasy heroes are completely opposite from this. They start out extraordinary, and they stay that way. Other characters are there to train them, or be shallow antagonists and love interests and worshippers, not actually help them. And they don’t fail. (Damn it, I want to see more corrupted fantasy heroes.) It’s not fair to blame Tolkien for the disease that fantasy writers have inflicted on themselves. […]
Fantasy could use more ordinary people who are afraid and don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but volunteer for the Quest anyway.
It’s misinterpretation of Tolkien that’s the problem, not Tolkien himself.
The whole point of The Lord Of The Rings… like, the WHOLE POINT… is that it is ultimately the hobbits who save the world. The small, vulnerable, ordinary people who aren’t great warriors or heroes.
Specifically, Sam. Sam saves the world. All of it. The ultimate success of the great quest is 100% due to a fat little gardener who likes to cook and never wanted to go on an adventure but who did it because he wasn’t going to let his beloved Frodo go off alone. Frodo is the only one truly able to handle the ring long enough to get it into Mordor – and it nearly kills him and permanently emotionally damages him – but Sam is the one who takes care of Frodo that whole time. Who makes him eat. Who finds him water. Who watches over him while he sleeps.
Sam is the one who fights off Shelob.
Sam is the one who takes the Ring when he thinks Frodo is dead.
Sam is the one who strolls into Orc Central and saves Frodo by sheer determination and killing any orc who crosses him. (SAM THE GARDENER GOES AND KILLS AN ACTUAL ORC TO GET FRODO SOME CLOTHES LET’S JUST THINK ABOUT THAT). And then Sam just takes off the Ring and gives it back which is supposed to be freaking impossible and he barely even hesitates.
Sam literally carries Frodo on the last leg of the journey. On his back. He’s half-starved, dying slowly of dehydration, but he carries Frodo up the goddamn mountain and Gollum may get credit for accidentally destroying the ring but Sam was the one who got them all there.
Sam saved the world.
And let’s not forget Pippin and Merry, who get damselled out of the story (the orcs have carried them off! We must make a Heroic Run To Save Them!) and then rescue themselves, recruit the Terrifying Ancient Powers through being genuinely nice and sincere, and overthrow Saruman before the ‘real’ heroes even get there.
Let’s not forget Pippin single-handedly saving what’s left of Gondor – and Faramir – by understanding that there is a time for obeying orders and a time for realizing that the boss is bugfuck nuts and we need to get help right now.
Let’s not forget Merry sticking his sword into the terrifying, profoundly evil horror that has chased him all over his world because his friend is fighting it and he’s gonna help, dammit and that’s how the most powerful Ringwraith goes down to a suicidally depressed woman and a scared little hobbit.
Everything the others do, the kings and princes and great heroes and all? They buy time. They distract the bad guys. They keep the armies occupied. That is what kings and great leaders are for – they do the big picture stuff.
But it is ultimately the hobbits who bring down every villain. Every one. And I believe that that is 100% on purpose. Tolkien was a soldier in WWI. His son fought in WWII. (And a lot of The Lord Of The Rings was written in letters to him while he did it.)
And hey, look, The Lord Of The Rings is about ordinary people – farmers, scholars, and so on – who get pulled into a war not of their making but who have to fight not only because their own home is in danger but so is everyone’s. And they’re small and scared but they do the best they can for as long as they can and that is what actually saves the world. Not great heroes and pre-destined kings. Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things because they want the world to be safe for ordinary people, the ones they know and the ones they don’t.
Ordinary people matter. They can save the world without being great heroes or kings or whatever. And that is really important and I get so upset when people miss that because Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli and Gandalf and all the others are great characters and all but they are ultimately a hobbit delivery system.
It is ordinary people doing their best who really change the world, and continue doing so after the war is over because they have to go home and rebuild and they do.
If nothing else, I have to reblog this for the phrase “hobbit delivery system.” So accurate it hurts.
What I love too is how even the foretold king and the assorted great heroes themselves all come to recognize that their main (and by the end, only) role is to distract Sauron. To the point that by the end they’re all gathered up before the black gates of Mordor in order to keep his attention focused on them, with only the hope – not the certainty – that they can buy Frodo whatever remaining time he needs, if he’s even still alive.
One thing the movies left out but has always been such a key part of the books for me was how when the hobbits returned home, they found that home had been changed too. The war touched everywhere. Even with all they did in far-off lands to protect the Shire, the Shire had still been damaged, both property and lives destroyed, and it wasn’t an easy or simplistically happy homecoming. They had to fight yet another battle (granted a much smaller one) to save their neighbours, and then spent years in rebuilding.
In many ways, the entire POINT is that homecoming.
A quest, an adventure, is defined by the return home, and the realization that not only have YOU changed, so has your home.
“My friends, you bow to no one.”
Even more relevant today.
*And on a lighter note:
Next up : Some amusing stories from Tumblr