The final Defender in Marvel’s Netflix series, Danny Rand, premiered in his own series, Iron Fist, in March of this year. Danny is a martial artist who has the Iron Fist, or the ability to turn his fist glowy yellow and use it to punch through walls. Together with his new friend/love interest Colleen Wing and series fan favorites like Claire Temple, he takes on Madame Gao and the Hand. The Hand were the villains of Daredevil, the sole Marvel Netflix property that I did not finish because the grimdark racism of it was not my cup of tea. But Iron Fist promised to be at least tangentially about Asian culture and was sure to feature at least one Asian character in Colleen, so I decided to watch it anyway.
Iron Fist was an incredibly slow slog in which I wasted thirteen hours of my life on cultural appropriation, Asian erasure, manpain, and drugs, and I would not recommend it. But if you want a longer opinion, below are the five main reasons Iron Fist was not great. Spoilers for the entire series follow.
I love it when any piece of pop culture incorporates some kind of religion that isn’t Christianity, because despite the fact that Christian themes are everywhere in Western media, not everyone is Christian. It’s nice to see media embrace themes from other faiths and show more religious diversity. However, sadly this tends to be a very exotified, watered down, and often inaccurate depiction, especially when it comes to Eastern religions.
Marvel’s latest hit, Doctor Strange, is based on a comic that relies heavily on Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism. However, the orientalism displayed in the comics, as well as the culturally appropriative nature of the comics in general, means that the portrayal of Buddhism in the movie tends to be a rather problematic one.
Saika and I just finished Luke Cage, the third Netflix installment of Marvel’s four-part NYC superhero adventure. Luke, along with Jessica Jones, Matt Murdock, and some guy called Daniel Rand are supposed to make up The Defenders, a group of superheroes who will be showcased in a later Netflix miniseries. I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones, but I gave up on Daredevil a few episodes in thanks to its relentless grimdarkness and racism, so I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the last Defender. “Who even is Daniel Rand?” I asked Saika.
“Oh, he’s Iron Fist, he knows martial arts and stuff,” she told me.
“Oh, cool!” I said. “So they cast an Asian guy finally!”
“They got fucking Loras Tyrell to play him,” she said. “So… not really.”
As you might imagine, I watched the newly dropped Iron Fist trailer with some trepidation.
My to-read pile of YA gets higher and higher every day, but I recently realized I was a little annoyed with it: not because the books themselves are poorly written or uninteresting, but because (perhaps with the success of the Hunger Games and Twilight) they all seem to be about a strong-willed girl who gets into a love triangle (with two guys, of course) and somewhere along the way they save the world and there’s kissing. “Isn’t there anything else being published these days?” I complained to Saika.
“Have you tried Shadowshaper?” she said.
I had not.
I was missing out.
To my very great joy, although Shadowshaper still had the saving the world and the kissing, there was no love triangle in sight. Instead, the multiracial cast of Shadowshaper has to deal with things like gentrification, racism, and appropriation on top of a really suspenseful mystery about whoever or whatever is behind the murders of several prominent members of their community.
Well, I said in my last review that I hoped we would get some plot progress in this episode, and we did! We got a little bit of progress. That’s better than nothing, right? Spoilers for all of it after the jump.
One of my favorite Halloween movies is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’m a sucker for Tim Burton and the music of Danny Elfman, and when you combine it with Christmas cheer and Halloween gothic macabre, you basically get the best Christmas/Halloween crossover extravaganza ever. But because over-analyzing things is my third-favorite hobby (next to soul-harvesting and baking), I got to thinking: could there be something more behind our stop-motion miniatures? I think there might be. The Nightmare Before Christmas is rich with lore and depth, andcan serve as a cautionary tale against religious syncretism.
Religious syncretism is different from cultural appropriation. Usually cultural appropriation involves a “dominant” culture borrowing important or sacred elements from an oppressed culture for frivolous reasons. A non-Native American wearing a war bonnet as a costume or fashion accessory is a kind of cultural appropriation, because war bonnets are important spiritual and political objects worn by Native American men in tribes from the Plains region. The non-Native wearer doesn’t understand or care to understand the significance of the object. Religious syncretism involves the successful or unsuccessful melding of two belief systems, and is intimately connected with meaning. It’s precisely Jack’s search for meaning that moves him from cultural appropriation to attempting religious syncretism.
Spoilers for The Nightmare Before Christmas below, of course.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running hit musical Cats will return to the West End this December, more than a decade after its original run ended. Between tours, community theatres, regional productions, and student performances, the show is perennially performed, so you may be asking yourself, “Why should I spend the extra money to see this mounting?” Thankfully for you, the good Lord has an answer ready: the Rum Tum Tugger raps now!
Yes, Lloyd Webber will be re-writing the fan-favorite song “The Rum Tum Tugger” into a rap in order to fit his new vision of the Rum Tum Tugger being “a contemporary street cat”, according to this article. The column also reports that another song, “Growltiger’s Last Stand”, will be re-written as well, because it, along with “The Rum Tum Tugger”, never satisfied Lloyd Webber.
Now here’s what’s giving me a headache over this news: first, the last thing that needed improving in this show was the music; second, the shallow, gimmicky feel of the news; and third, Lloyd Webber’s claim that T.S. Eliot invented rap as a justification for the change.
I don’t know what annoys me more, the fact that Hollywood keeps remaking old movies instead of doing something new—because they think that our new technology can totally make the movie better—or that when Hollywood remakes these movies, it constantly features white people even in a story that is about the Japanese!
Lately I’ve noticed a lot more of those Native American memes as I scroll through my various web feeds (maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is coming up?). You know what I’m talking about—pretty little pictures of serene and wise (and sad) Native Americans with some kind of superimposed message about listening to your elders and/or being one with the Earth. For some reason, a significant number of people really love spreading those around (I’m looking at you, elderly relatives). I’m not really sure why—maybe it’s something to do with looking for meaning in an increasingly post-Christian world. There are so many problems with those little memes; I won’t go into them all here. But some filmmakers have taken on a similar attitude. How do film versions of Native American religious beliefs match up to the real thing?