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The Trailer for Netflix’s Iron Fist Shows Marvel Still Wrestling With the Politics of Representation

Finn Jones (center), with Jessica Hardwick and Rosario Dawson in Marvel’s Iron Fist.

Cara Howe/Netflix

With a little over a month to go until Iron Fist’s March 17 release, Netflix has given us an extended look at its take on the Marvel Comics hero with a new trailer for the series. The funky opening music draws a subliminal connection to the Blaxploitation-flavored Luke Cage, but that stops abruptly when blonde, curly-haired Finn Jones strolls into frame in bare feet and a Baja hoodie, looking like he just got back from smoking a ton of dope on spring break. Danny Rand, as comics fans know, is actually returning from the fictional Asian country of K’un L’un, where he was schooled in the martial arts after the death of his wealthy parents. (In this version of the story, they die in a plane crash.) Although that’s more or less always been Iron Fist’s backstory, some comics fans pushed for Marvel to re-envision the story with an Asian-American hero at its center, a demand that grew more urgent after Doctor Strange, whose hero is similarly a white man soaked in Asian mysticism, did an end-run around the Fu Manchu caricature of his mentor, the Ancient One, by casting Tilda Swinton in the role instead. One USA Today editorial referred to Iron Fistkick[ing] Asian representation while it’s down.”

The Iron Fist trailer sets up a conflict between Danny and David Wenham’s Harold Meachum—shown at one point with a face covered in blood spatter—for control of Danny’s father’s company, but it also highlights the roles played by Jessica Henwick, a British actress of Chinese and South African descent, and Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao, a returning villain from Netflix’s Daredevil series, and it features a shot of Jones and Henwick navigating the streets of Chinatown in the middle of the Lunar New Year celebration. Whether that means the series, which was created by showrunner Scott Buck, is seriously wrestling with the politics of representation or just using a hodgepodge of Asian cultures for window-dressing is not something the trailer reveals, but it is certainly something fans will be watching for when the full series arrives.