The Iron Fist of Kung Fu Dramas

You will likely have seen many negative reviews of this series. Even though as time goes on and more people watch it there are more pockets of positive reviews popping up, for the most part, the overall consensus is negative. After reading many of these negative reviews of Iron Fist, I finally had enough and decided I'd defend this defender, as Marvel’s Iron Fist is easily my favorite of the Marvel Netflix series. To summarize my defense before I get into specifics, Marvel’s Iron Fist is an ACTION show about KUNG FU and super powers, and if it falls short of your operatic, unpredictable love tragedy, you’re eating french fries and expecting to lose weight. (That’s an analogy.)

Some of the negative reviews you’ll read criticize the showrunners and writers before the show even begins! Namely, "it’s 2017, but Danny is still white, with privilege."

So what if Danny is white with "privilege"? 1) that’s who the character always was; 2, that’s the way the character is written. If you honestly think a writer should change a character to appease other people, then you should either work for a TV research group networks hire to find out why their shows are failing or be a writer yourself and do things differently. Writers can and should be allowed to write whatever they want without having to appease the times or the people. Sure, its 2017 and minorities and people of the LGBTQ community are finally getting more representation on TV — but this does NOT mean that every writer should change whatever they’ve written, possibly creating new characters or altering old ones just to appease certain people so they feel "represented." TV is not about representation. It’s a visual outlet for writing. It’s entertainment. Do you understand? TV doesn’t exist to represent your ethnicity or sexual orientation, it exists to entertain you. If you can’t be entertained unless you’re represented then you’re going to have a difficult time having fun in life.

Marvel's Iron Fist

Moving on, in addition to being white with privilege, people criticized the character of Danny Rand for his seeming lack of personal growth, selfishness, and particularly the fact that another character, Colleen, falls in love with him after he "disrespected" her wishes multiple times. People are having a similar issue with Kara Danvers’ relationship with Mon-El on Supergirl. Here’s the thing, though: Danny and Mon-El, while fictional, are their own people. They have their own thoughts and don’t exist solely to be Kara's and Colleen’s boyfriends; just as Kara and Colleen don’t exist to be their girlfriends. Therefore, as individual, thinking people, they are allowed to disagree and do things that Colleen and Kara don’t like or agree with. This is what we call character tension. People are upset that in the end, in spite of the men doing things that the women don’t care for, they love them anyway. This is called seeing the best in people, understanding their intentions, respecting their flaws, and working toward the common goal of saving the relationship rather than abandoning it and trying to find someone who is a perfect robot. This does not mean that Colleen is weak because she chooses to see the best in Danny despite his selfishness. It shows that Colleen is actually a really good person who found a connection with Danny that she hadn’t previously. Yes, Danny stays when she asks him to go, and tries to insert himself into her life, but some people might see this as persistence. People have actually gotten married as a result of this in real life. There is a difference between being a creepy stalker who disrespects someone’s wishes and being persistent in your attempt to get someone to like you. Perspective.

Critics will tell you the character arcs were non-existent and the twists were predictable. I would argue that character arcs are a bonus in an action series and you should be happy with what you get. That being said, the character of Ward had a phenomenal internal struggle and arc. So that should make up for Danny’s seeming lack of one. Further, if you watch TV long enough, everything is slightly predictable. But keep in mind, this is only Season 1, and Netflix has shown that it has no qualms about renewing its Marvel series. You can, and should, expect to see additional character growth in later seasons. This first season was more action- and plot-heavy than character-driven, and that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much more than Jessica Jones, which felt like it had no story and was merely reactionary. Iron Fist the character has a clear motive and goal, and Iron Fist the series has a clear plot and purpose. Could you even really say in a sentence what Jessica Jones was about? Same with Luke Cage.

Iron Fist in many ways is similar to Daredevil. It is a semi-realistic, dark, action-driven drama about cleaning up the city from bad guys through violence. It capitalizes on escapism in the form of the superhero. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, while also superhero shows, are very different — and that’s what makes the Marvel/Netflix continuity so great. They’ve created four shows, each focusing on slightly different things. Daredevil was part legal drama, party gang-buster with a focus on fight choreography. Jessica Jones was a scary and chaotic psychological entanglement with emphasis on overcoming personal demons to destroy actual demons. Luke Cage was a dramatized but semi-realistic character-driven mob-buster with an emphasis on family values. And Iron Fist utilizes the never-tiresome trope of someone out of time discovering the world all over again with eyes full of wonder and fists full of chi!

Iron Fist is a lot of fun. You’re not meant to be able to relate to Danny’s situation, but you should at least relate to his nature to want to see the best in people and make the world a better place. We go through the world, living in it, following all its rules. Danny is an outsider from the entire world — and with the power of the Iron Fist, and being heir to 51 percent of a billion-dollar company, he is actually in a position to change the world for the better. On one hand, he takes a crack at the corporate world, only to discover how ruthless business is. On the other, he uses his powers to break up the criminal underworld, only to discover it runs much deeper than he thought possible. The Hand has figuratively and literally grasped New York City.

There are plenty of action series on TV, but there are surprisingly few that focus on fight choreography and hand-to-hand combat. I can only name a handful in my entire tenure watching TV: Banshee, Arrow, Person of Interest, Into the Badlands, Daredevil, and now Iron Fist. Iron Fist sits at the top with its phenomenal choreography and eclectic display of various martial arts. One episode feels like a Donny Yen movie, as we see Hung Ga-style kung fu take on Drunken Fist. So why are people negging on a show about kung fu, criticizing it for its shallower approach on love? It’s the same problem with movie reviews. People take a movie like The Fast and the Furious and try to evaluate and judge it on the same values as Moonlight. One is an action movie, one is not. Rate and critique them accordingly. Not all shows are trying to be everything at once, and Iron Fist clearly is what it is, and isn’t what it isn’t.

Comments

6 comments

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Mar 28, 2017 7:26PM EDT

I totally agree with your comments.
This is my favourite Marvel character so far.

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An0nym0use
Mar 29, 2017 3:33AM EDT

Add me to the list of people who like this series and think its a strong addition to the Marvel Netflix universe. Colleen and Ward were highlights and, though Danny may not have been the star he should be, he wasn't dis-interesting. While Jessica still reigns as my favorite, this is a good second or third for me in ranking of the 5 seasons.

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Mar 29, 2017 11:04PM EDT

Compelling review. I'm actually stuck on episode 5; I just can't seem to bring myself to finish watching it. i definitely plan on doing so though. Like so many other people, I found myself being disappointed by the lack of great fight scenes, and the presence of a character that just seems a bit off (I wonder if it's the actor or the way the character was written). I do enjoy Coleen and Ward though, my favourite characters. They just seem to have more going on emotionally, and I'm more invested in their storylines. I think I'll finish the rest of the season over the weekend.

I am so looking forward to the Defenders! I've loved the rest of the shows. DD is my fave, but I love Kilgrave as a villain. Fisk is also pretty enjoyable as well

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Mar 30, 2017 8:05AM EDT

And here is another person to add to the list who likes Iron Fist. I actually like Jessica Jones the least of the Marvel Netflix shows. But I'm very excited to watch the Defenders. Colleen is my favorite character from Iron Fist. My favorites are:
1. Daredevil Season 2;
2. Luke Cage Season 1;
3. Iron Fist Season 1;
4. Daredevil Season 1;
5. Jessica Jones Season 1

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Mar 30, 2017 9:24AM EDT

I agree with you completely. The complaints I've heard so far is Danny's childish behaviour patterns, he's lived in a mythical place since he was a child and spent every single day of his life since childhood in training. There was no recourse to grow up emotionally. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire season.

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Apr 1, 2017 12:40PM EDT

Ditto, love Danny and the Iron Fist.

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