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Marvel’s Iron Fist’s Unabashed Display of Privilege

‘Iron Fist’ is a boring, mediocre series wrapped in privilege

By Brandon DanielPublished 6 years ago 8 min read
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Netflix

Note: Full spoilers follow! You’ve been warned.

The Marvel Netflix shows have become known as a transcendent genre of superhero television, giving us mature, nuanced, and well-layered stories. In addition to the Marvel Netflix shows, both of the Marvel shows currently on network television, ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ and ‘Legion’, are equally as fantastic, and one could argue more fantastic than the Marvel Netflix ones. With such a celebrated precedent, ‘Iron Fist’s mediocrity feels like an iron fist to the face.

Danny Rand is a 25 year old, hetero, white, petulant man-child who returns home to New York City in the hope of freedom, if that’s what you would call abandoning your duties. Caught between two worlds and being terrible at both, Danny cannot seem to escape his privilege.

On the Danny Rand side, Danny comes home to discover that his parent’s company “Rand Enterprises” is no longer in control of their friend and partner Harold Meachum. Instead the company is being led by Harold’s children and Danny’s childhood friends (who he insists on calling family), Joy and Ward Meachum. Super long story short, after being dismissed and rejected for being who he actually is, Danny is able to get one of the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) best lawyers, Jeri Hogarth, to defend him because he remembered her from when he was young. He ends up winning the case thanks to an old fingerprint and IMMEDIATELY OWNS 51% OF THE COMPANY AND BECOMES A BILLIONAIRE. Not bad for someone who has been proclaimed dead for 15 years. Seriously, think about this. Any other person in that situation would have been colossally screwed. But thanks to Danny’s patriarchal family name and blood, he is able to regain what is rightfully his, thanks to some good old class privilege.

To make matters worse, Danny immediately proceeds to make a series of terrible business decisions. These decisions cause a series of events which puts the company and Danny, Joy, and Ward’s jobs on the line, none of which Danny has time to ever seriously acknowledge or care about. Danny’s actions were to represent him as a good and moral person, but Danny never realizes or understands the stakes of his choices. As Ward and Joy (primarily Joy) go through a battle to fight for their livelihoods and the company, Danny is off being Iron Fist, without a care in the world. Throughout the entirety of the show, Danny goes from riches to rags to riches to rags to riches to rags to riches, and it barely affects the character one bit. True class privilege is shown, not just through the abundance in wealth and power people can have, as Danny shows when he drives incredibly expensive vehicles and buys Colleen Wing’s Chikara Dojo building. True class privilege is shown through the immense lack of care and effect that gaining and losing inheritance should have. The point is not that Danny does not care about material wealth, it is that he does not have to worry about it one bit.

In comparison, the Iron Fist side is equally as polluted with privilege. Conversations about appropriation aside, Danny is the first outsider and we can assume that also means white person, to ever become the Iron Fist. Throughout the show, Danny speaks sparingly about his training. None of Danny’s training was shown. The only glimpses the audience saw were that of Danny being beaten with sticks, and post successfully becoming the Iron Fist. As the audience, we are supposed to take with a grain of salt that Danny went through intense, rigorous training. Training that eventually led him to earn the position that he dedicated his life to, the Iron Fist. After becoming the Iron Fist, what does Danny do? He runs away. 15 years of training for this, he gets it, and he decides to go home. Uh, what? That does not make any sense. Even the explanation in the show about the bird and being free does not suffice. Danny’s job as the Iron Fist is to protect the way to K’un Lun. And he leaves it wide open. Because of who Danny is, he is able to go back to New York and try to start up his old life again. Everyone else at the monastery does not have that privilege. This is their home, this is all they know. Privilege is having the ability to choose.

So why was Danny chosen? Well, according to Danny, he “earned it.” Every time we see Danny fight he seems pretty mediocre. He’s supposed to be a master of Kung Fu, but the fight choreography does not display that at all. Sure, he ends up winning over the tougher opponents, but it never comes off as a display of magnificent skill. Colleen Wing, on the other hand, had some excellent scenes that showed how skilled of a warrior she was. This begs the question, was Danny chosen simply because he is white? Did Danny earn the Iron Fist because he was the only one who could go to New York and take the fight to The Hand? (Even though he did not know they were there) If that’s the case, Davos should be even more upset. From what we’ve seen of Danny’s fighting, it certainly seems like he was chosen become of who he is. On one hand, you could say that it is because he is a skilled fighter and a good person. The Iron Fist’s duty, however, is not to be a good person, but to protect the way at all costs. The Iron Fist’s duty is to destroy The Hand. Given the objective of destroying The Hand, one could argue that Danny was chosen because, as questioned above, he was the only one who could go to New York and fight The Hand. Regardless of whether Danny earned it or not, the mere fact that Danny is white and became the Iron Fist immediately exerts his white privilege over his fellow monks. Also, Danny’s class privilege shows us why only he could have been able to infiltrate The Hand, given his vast wealth and resources, all of which come to play.

Moreover, Danny, like his fellow superhero counterparts, struggles with his identity. The question is often posed, which is the person and which is the mask? Danny does not wear a costume, but the question still stands, is Danny Danny Rand or the Iron Fist? The series itself poses this as Danny’s inherent struggle. One could argue that Danny’s attempt at being both Danny Rand and the Iron Fist is yet another display of his privilege. Other superheroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, don’t have a choice. They are inherently given their abilities, and throughout their own series’ decide that it is their duty to use them. Daredevil, on the other hand, has a choice. It is painfully obvious, however, that Matt Murdock is the mask, and Daredevil is who he truly is. Daredevil keeps up the Matt Murdock facade because he has to. Danny, conversely, does not make a choice between being Danny Rand and Iron Fist. He allows himself to live in both worlds, experiencing and enjoying the benefits and privileges of both. One could say that Danny is more Iron Fist than Rand, given his constant neglect of Rand Enterprises and decision to return to K’un Lun. However, Danny’s neglect does not matter in the sense that he is still able to enjoy his billions of dollars. More importantly, Danny’s return to K’un Lun is not an acceptance of being the Iron Fist, but instead, he treats it with the veneer of a vacation. Danny says to Colleen as they are making their way to K’un Lun, “you’re going to love it there. We should make it just in time for afternoon Kung Fu”. These two phrases alone, give you an entire idea of what Danny’s mindset is upon returning to K’un Lun. By returning to K’un Lun, Danny does not neglect his Rand life, but instead, allows himself to enjoy it even more. How many people can own 51% of a company and go off on vacation indefinitely? Danny continues to abuse the privileges of both sides.

In addition Danny, unlike his superhero counterparts, does not seem to deserve his abilities. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, all accept their powers and responsibilities, and come to the resolution that they were given these gifts for a reason. All 3 of them have these abilities because there is something special about each one of them. In a sense, it is not their abilities that make them special, but their specialness that warranted them said abilities. Danny, in comparison, does not have that. Danny may be a good person, but that’s not the special quality that the others have, it is more than that. All Danny seems to have is that, his goodness. If the above claim is correct, that Danny was chosen simply because of his whiteness and richness, well then, he is extremely less deserving than his peers. But what that does show is an immense critique of society. A prototypical, straight, white man, can be given the gifts, abilities, and privileges that he does not at all deserve, or that he is moderately average, while others have to have an aspect about them that is incredibly special, in order to warrant similar rewards.

Even more so, the fact that ‘Iron Fist’ is so mediocre is in and of itself an example of Danny Rand’s privilege. ‘Daredevil’ has a blind hero, and had the onus of inception of the Marvel Netflix Universe. ‘Daredevil’ gave us a fantastic first season that boasted spectacular fighting and character driven story-lines, while easily paving the way for what’s to come. ‘Jessica Jones’ features the first female led MCU superhero property, and gave us a nuanced tale of sexual assault, alcoholism, and the impact of murder. ‘Luke Cage’ depicted the first black led MCU superhero property, and delivered a riveting story of blackness and blackmail, with deliberate critiques of racism and the prison system. ‘Iron Fist’ is the first story in the Netflix MCU that features an able-bodied, straight, heterosexual man. ‘Iron Fist’ is a boring, mundane, mediocre story about privilege that makes you wish you got punched in the face instead. ‘Iron Fist’s mediocrity posits the idea that, the mere fact that Danny Rand is who he is, is enough to make the show good. Spoilers, it is not.

Mediocrity is not an acceptable standard. Mediocrity wrapped in privilege is even worse. That’s what ‘Iron Fist’ is.

Observations:

  • The women continue to kick ass! Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, & Madame Gao all deserve the shine.
  • Danny is such an angsty, angry, petulant man-child, whose innocence comes off as idiocy. He comes off like he is still 10 years old.
  • Danny in no way deserves to be with Colleen. Seriously.
  • Is it me or is it weird that there was virtually no paparazzi or anything following Danny around? You would think they would be all over him.
  • Always a fan of some classic Hip-Hop.

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About the Creator

Brandon Daniel

Staff writer for The Unbalanced. All things culture, entertainment, and everything in between. Find me on all socials at @branddnh. Find me on YouTube at 'Brooke & Brandon'.

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