Those who are familiar with this column understand that I am a huge superhero fan as they appear in just about any form of media. The films, the TV shows, the comics; I love them all for very specific reasons, which are best left for another discussion.
Marvel, obviously, is the engineer of the superhero steam train that has been barreling through modern pop culture over the past decade. With its stupidly popular film franchises and universally acclaimed Netflix shows, Marvel essentially is printing money at this point.
However, the Netflix shows (“Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage”) are really where the producers at Marvel are allowed to flex their creative and artistic muscles much more freely. Due to this, Marvel’s latest effort, “Iron Fist” was expected to follow suit when it comes to top tier Marvel.
Yet, something happened that no one, not even this Marvel fan-boy, expected.
As of the writing of this column, “Iron Fist” currently holds a 17 percent aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with the popular review website, Rotten Tomatoes takes an aggregate of all of the reviews from noteworthy sources and compiles them into one, solid percentage value. The percentage value basically means that only 17 percent of the reviews given to “Iron Fist” were positive, and before the release of the show, that number was even lower at an abysmal 0 percent.
Compare this to “Daredevil’s” 87 percent, “Jessica Jones’” 93 percent, and “Luke Cage’s” 96 percent, and something seems terribly out-of-place.
After sifting through a lot of the reviews, the common complaint was less-than-understandable and a bit of a shock to comic book enthusiasts. Most of the reviews focused on the race of the lead character, Danny Rand, who is a white man practicing and preaching the teachings of eastern martial arts throughout the show. Critics bashed the show for not leaping at the opportunity to cast an Asian lead for the series, which, given the context of the character in the comics, is absolute absurdity.
The Iron Fist is a mantle passed down from person to person throughout the ages. The Iron Fist was certainly once an Asian individual, and at one point, the Iron Fist was even a woman. However, Danny Rand, who has and always will be a wealthy white man in the comics, easily is the most logical choice for the series. He is the most popular character to hold the title of Iron Fist and is also the most modern.
Now, I have only watched a couple episodes of the show, and therefore, cannot judge the quality of the show as a whole. It could be really bad, deserving of the 17 percent, even. However, reading through the reviews, it is difficult to justify that rating when the vast majority of the critics view it negatively because of its missed opportunity to diversify the street-level Marvel universe after “Luke Cage” successfully did so with its majority African-American cast.
More evidence that this rating is incredibly skewed is the fact that, while most of the reviews were negative, the positive statements within these reviews state that fans of the previous Marvel shows will likely, at the very least, enjoy the show due to its similarities in tone and style. If it is similar to shows with an average of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, how could it possibly carry a 17 percent? There is something to be said about repetition and diminishing returns in the superhero property business (just look at “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), and therefore it is expected that a formula-following show such as “Iron Fist” would be viewed less favorably. But a 75 percent difference? Really?
Marvel fans, both of the films and the comics, are bafflingly inconsistent when it comes to Marvel and its diversity. When the comics changed Thor to a woman, Captain America to an African-American, and Iron Man into both a woman and an African-American, many fans scoffed at the company, chalking it up as an attempt to be PC and gain more attention. These hardcore fans would rather see things stay the way they are as it comes off as more “genuine.”
Then instances like “Iron Fist” happen, and people thrash them for not being diverse enough. These people cannot be pleased.
I am all for representation of every type of person in the entertainment industry, but the types of social justice warriors we are seeing from the “Iron Fist” critics clearly come off as those looking to complain about issues that certainly exist, but not so much in “Iron Fist.”
Come on, guys. Save that anger for something worth being angry about.