I’m watching Iron Fist, and despite all the odds, I like it. I’ve been reading all the drama around the series. However, I must say that I don’t fully agree with all what’s been mentioned. Before you decide to kill me, consider the following: representation goes beyond stereotypes. It means that we all have patterns in our head and expectations with each other. Also, take into account that I haven’t finished the entire series and I might change my mind. However, this is what I got for you for the time being. When reading this also remember my personal experience, since it will help you understand why I feel so close to Danny. I lived during eight years in Tokyo, I learned a lot there, came back in Europe, and people saw me as a lunatic. Fortunately I didn’t end into a psychiatric ward, nor had to punch anyone with my fist.
[MILD SPOILERS AHEAD. If you don’t mind the mild spoilers, please be my guest and keep reading this review.]
I had no much hope for this new Netflix series, especially with all the drama out there. However, it captured part of my experience, and I do feel compelled to defend Danny Rant. Finn Jones is Danny Rand, and he’s nailing it. There has been too much written about them, but I’ll just say that Finn’s Danny captures my experience completely.
Danny lived with monks in another dimension for 15 years, and when he comes back, he is a very weird dude. He is a Buddhist white guy who walks around dressed like a homeless, without any shoes and talking in Mandarin to the first Asian girl he meets (Colleen). You might think that this is entirely wrong in depicting Iron Fist. But, this is what happened when I came back to Europe.
Okay, I wasn’t dressed like a homeless girl, and I did have my shoes on. But the experience was pretty close.
Let me explain.
I was living for eight years in Tokyo. To make things short, let’s say that I ended up taking in much of the culture that surrounded me: Japanese culture. By the time I came back to Europe, I was a weird girl. Instead of landing straight on my parents’ house, I stayed for a while in Austria. I was so much in distress that my first action after landing was seeking fellow Japanese. I needed to talk in Japanese!
Because I was feeling out of tune and I felt only Japanese would understand me. The reaction I got was very much the same Colleen gave Danny. Do you help me? Nah! Or, how come you speak so good Japanese? We all have stereotypes in our minds, so, it’s normal that they had that reaction to me, in the same way, Colleen had her response to Danny.
By the time I got home, people had found me so odd, that they thought I was crazy. She bows when talking on the phone, dude!
Fortunately, no one ever thought to put me in a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately for Danny, he ended up trapped in one.
Iron Fist is plenty of stereotypes, but not the ones you might be expecting. I saw myself reflected on Danny so much, that it’s painful. (I’d love to have an Iron Fist, but at this point, I’m not sure he’s better off with one or not.) So, he’s representing a very tiny group: expats. If you’ve been living abroad for a long time, and have taken cultural aspects from the place you’ve been living for a long time, the odds are that when you come back home, people are going to misunderstand you.
Exactly what’s happened with Iron Fist. He’s misunderstood. And the actor who plays him is “punched” from every single corner, online and offline.
Danny is very naïve because he’s been living in a very protected environment (a monastery). In my case, it was Japan, the safest planet in the world. (A friend of mine forgot $2000 in his wallet near the Hachiko, in Shibuya. Two hours after the deed, we returned to the spot. No one ever touched his wallet.) But once you’re out, you’re in the jungle. You search for familiar faces and start talking in the native tongue of the place (the monastery) in hopes of being understood. That’s what Danny does with Colleen: he meets her on the street, and he puts on her all the patterns he learned in the monastery. But he is rejected because Colleen puts on him all the stereotypes she has on white dudes (plus he smells like hell and walk around with no shoes).
But if you think things can’t go beyond that, you’re wrong. At a certain point, Danny asks Colleen’s help to gather proof of the drugs that the Hand wants to introduce in the city. The first reaction of my Vulcan was, to my dismay, that he was endangering her. What Danny is doing is seeing Colleen as his peer: a kickass warrior. Is he actually risking her? Nope. He’s asking help from a fellow warrior.
We all make the same mistakes: we put stereotypes on one anther. Colleen does it with Danny, Danny does it with Colleen, and we do it constantly with all the characters. So far, Iron Fist is a punch in the face on how we react on shows and with one another. We have to go deeper appearances and try to see our hearts.
My personal experience has given me a privileged view on Danny. Being able to be a “gaijin” in Japan and then have a massive culture shock when I returned to Europe has given me an insight that many other people might not have. What makes me tune with Iron Fist is his out-of-place status. He is and forever will be a stranger, even at home.
He’s a foreigner in the monastery. Even if he learns everything at heart, and speaks Mandarin like a native, his looks will always tell his story. But he’s also a foreigner back at home. His ways are too strange, and even if he has the looks, his heart isn’t aligned with the locals.
And that’s his real drama: not fitting anywhere.