smilingrid: Netflix, Marvel, and the near dismantling of the American hero archetype: Is Wu Assassins the Iron Fist we deserve?

August 10, 2019

Netflix, Marvel, and the near dismantling of the American hero archetype: Is Wu Assassins the Iron Fist we deserve?

Let me paint you a picture here. It's summer 2015, Daredevil season one has been out for a couple months, blowing my friends' collective minds. There are whispers of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage already in the works. I'm beyond excited because Marvel and Netflix seem to be systematically breaking down what we see as the stereotypical hero in the U.S. You know, white, male, excessively able-bodied. (also, usually visibly heterosexual, despite what tumblr says. But we don't have time to get into all of that right now, so I'm going to focus on the physical attributes).

Breaking it down, right?
Matt Murdock is blind, disabled in a traumatic accident as a child. Silver lining, super-senses!
Jessica Jones is all girl power, all the time. Dark side to her superpowers, PTSD and a mind-controlling stalker.
Luke Cage was a wrongfully-convicted black man (what else is new, but again too much to unpack). His silver lining is unbreakable skin that he got directly from his horrible time locked up so... more PTSD?

... but then it gets problematic. There were rumors that Netflix was going to complete The Defenders with a different take on Iron Fist. I heard that they were planning to make Danny Rand, white rich boy extraordinaire, Asian American to reclaim the heritage of his powers. Instead, they picked someone who brings to mind Hayden Christensen at his most wooden. From the little that I watched before giving up on the garbage fire, Colleen, her dojo, and the kids she helps are the only bright light in the whole thing (or " cool spot" if we're going with the fire thing? I don't know, I'm mixing metaphors in my upset).

So Marvel kind of stumbled at the final mile. They were doing so well! Even though most of the Defenders have not been renewed (which, wtf Netflix? What are your criteria for renewal? Still bitter about Sense8 too), their missing of this mark still really bugs me!

Recently, Netflix released their original Wu Assassins. I'm not the only one who has noticed that the show is pretty much what Iron Fist could have been in an alternate timeline. Though Marvel didn't have a hand in this superhero story and though it sometimes feels like a live-action, darker version of The Last Airbender, I'm glad Netflix recognized the opportunity to feature Asian and Asian American actors in a show about superpowers based in Asian mythology that they missed the first time around. 

I'm currently on episode 5 of 10 and honestly it's been a pretty fun ride so far! I am obsessed with the use of BlackPink in a crazy fight scene (all of their fight scenes are fire, by the way) and the storyline has just enough goof to win my affections. There are some fun lines as well: "I'm not a killer. I'm a chef!" comes to mind. Also, they did an amazing job of picking teenaged actors who legitimately look like their older counterparts, which feels like a miracle that never happens.

Have you been watching? What are your thoughts- either on the show or my ideas above?

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