The backlash to Netflix’s Marvel series Iron Fist was swift and severe. At one point, the negative reaction to the show caused actor Finn Jones to temporarily delete his Twitter account after an ironically timed tweet about the importance of representation in Hollywood. The tweet in question came shortly before the March debut of his series, in which he plays a super-powered martial arts master — a character who was previously whitewashed during the martial arts boon of the ’70s.
Ahead of Iron Fist’s release, Jones preached patience: Allow fans to see the finished product before forming an opinion. Those comments also backfired; Iron Fist was, quite simply, a dumpster fire. Critics hated it, and the premiere was the least-watched Marvel-Netflix series to date. But if you ask Jones — as one reporter did during a press event in New York on Monday for the fast-approaching superhero-crossover series, The Defenders — he’s received nothing but love and support for the series; the negativity’s limited to cyberspace.
His response, in full:
It’s actually very well received. Everyone that I meet on the streets, in life and at Comic-Cons, they fucking love — sorry, they love the show. They love the show. I was just at London Comic-Con this weekend, I had hundreds of people come up to me and say, ‘You know what, Finn? I don’t care what people are saying on the internet, I love it.’ That’s not just one person saying that, people say that to me day after day after day. I understand there has been noise on the internet, but that doesn’t reflect the reality of ... reality. People love the show and love the character and really understand where it’s coming from, and I’m really grateful for that.
It’s not surprising that Iron Fist apologists would exist — I mean, there are apologists for Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, which is just a mindless orgy of explosions and robots — but Jones’ response doesn’t address the underlying issue with his character: Danny Rand shouldn’t be white to begin with. Netflix could’ve righted a previous wrong, and cast an Asian actor for a whitewashed comics character. They even found a worthy candidate in Asian-American actor Lewis Tan, who was in the running for the role but had to settle for a brief, but memorable part as a villain in the series. Of course, there’s not much to be done now. Jones is locked into the role and the negative reviews haven’t stopped Netflix from ordering a second season (though mercifully, they’ve booted the original showrunner).
And to Jones’ credit, The Defenders, which teams Iron Fist up with three other Marvel heroes in New York — Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox) — has made encouraging steps to improve Danny’s likability by acknowledging his flaws. At one point in the four episodes provided to critics, Stick (Scott Glenn) calls Danny a “thundering dumbass” for trying to take on the Hand, an international, Illuminati-like organization, single-handedly. More notably, Luke calls Danny out for his wealth and whiteness. “I know enough and I know privilege when I see it.”
It might seem like the other characters are using Danny as a proverbial punching bag — and, admittedly, at times it feels that way, but it’s satisfying. As Jones explained to the press, though, acknowledging Danny’s flaws is essential to the character’s evolution from an idealistic newcomer to a fully formed superhero.
“One of the great things about Danny is that he has this naive recklessness to him, this eternal optimism where he sees a problem and he’s like, ‘Let me at ’em!’” he said. “Almost like Scrappy Doo, you know? Now, that can be problematic at times, because he can get himself and others into trouble because of that attitude ... I think these different tips from all these different people that have a lot more wisdom and a lot more experience than Danny has definitely helped Danny shape into a grounded and responsible superhero, which is pretty fucking cool, I think.”
Now, if Danny can mature in The Defenders (he’s still exceptionally annoying when separated from the other heroes) and grow into a more realized character, Iron Fist season two might actually stand a fighting chance.
The Defenders is available on Netflix Aug. 18.
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