The Iron Fist Dilemma

On March 17, 2017, Netflix will premiere its latest Marvel show, Iron Fist.  Much like its predecessors, Daredevil , Jessica Jones , and Luke Cage , the show will follow closely to its comic book source material, including its protagonist, orphaned billionaire martial artist Danny Rand, who became a martial arts prodigy after a plane crash landed him in the mythical land of K’un L’un. During his training, he obtains the ability to concentrate his chi (spiritual energy) into his fists, rendering them like iron, hence his moniker. The supposed controversy is that the show’s lead is white, rather than casting an Asian lead for this martial arts show. However, anyone who has read any iteration of Iron Fist’s comics in the past 4 decades knows that Danny Rand is white in the comics as well.

The dilemma is that white lead characters have been the leads in movies focusing on Asian cultures, from Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, to Matt Damon in The Great Wall. Even Scarlet Johansson was cast as the lead in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, sparking a debate on whether her lead character was “white-washed” or not even before it debuted in theaters. Where Iron Fist differs is that it’s actually following it’s source material, potentially nullifying any claim of white-washing.

The issue that should be in focus is not the ethnicity of an established character that follows the source material, but why an established character that can fit the criteria for inclusion hasn’t been utilized yet. A prime example is another martial arts hero from Marvel, Shang-Chi. Not only does he have a similar cult following to Iron Fist, but he gives Marvel a chance to put an Asian superhero at the forefront. In fact, Shang-Chi is part of the same Heroes For Hire circle that Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Misty Knight inhabit, making him an easy chatacter to bring into the fold.

As casting trends have shown, inclusion and representation are beginning to matter more than ever. However, reassigning ethnicity may not always be the best solution. Sometimes, it’s about bringing an overlooked hero into the forefront.

5 Life Lessons Learned from Watching The Avengers

Okay, by now, we’ve all seen Marvel’s The Avengers at least once, whether we saw it on opening weekend in 3D or streamed it on Netflix on a quiet Saturday night with nothing to do.  We all rooted for Iron Man and Capain America to kick Loki’s ass, we’ve all lept for joy watching Thor duke it out with The Hulk, and we all counted how many pop references came out of Tony Stark’s mouth.  Or, am I the only one who did that? Anyway, we’ve all enjoyed watching The Avengers as an action movie, but have you ever noticed the subtle life lessons watching this great superhero movie? Every action movie for the most part has some hidden life lesson in it. Terminator 2? Humanity can be a wonderful thing (and so can blowing up stuff). First Blood? Respect our veterans, or they’ll kick your ass. 300? Even if the odds are against you, take a stand…with your shirt off.  With all that being said, what life lessons did we learn from The Avengers? Let’s take a look:

1.  Never Underestimate The Quiet One

With this lesson, we’ll look at our favorite modern Dr.Jeckyll, Dr.Bruce Banner. We all know the consequences of making him angry (namely, he turns into a 10-foot, muscle-bound, not-so-jolly green giant.) But even before that transformation hits, he’s still formidable, not just in intellect, but when it comes to his emotions. For most of the movie, he appears to be timid, withdrawn, and focused on getting his work done. However, at the halfway point of the movie, before an explosion makes Dr. Banner “Hulk out”, Banner reveals to the crew that he had actually tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the mouth, only to have the Hulk spit it out. His temper and frustration in the scene is basically on the razor’s edge. Even if Banner didn’t have the Hulk inside him, imagine how much rage he holds back.
Dr. Banner is the archtype of the seemingly quiet, mild-mannered person we encounter on a daily basis. We’re usually quick to judge him or her as weak-willed or timid, the type who wouldn’t put up a fight if their life depended on it. But most of the time, it’s the timid one who’s a ticking time bomb. Quiet people who hold their frustrations are no different than Bruce Banner, only their big green monster isn’t a 10-foot giant who can smash the bad guys. Have you ever seen the quiet person at work all of a sudden smash a computer monitor or kick the living crap out of a fax machine because of all days, that particular day was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Or have you seen someone who was bullied all of a sudden smash that bully’s face in because they’ve had enough? If those people had the dilemma of Dr. Banner, the world would be smashed to bits by a global population of “Hulks”. Now THAT would give “World War Hulk” a whole new meaning. Keep that in mind, and be nice to that quiet guy who everyone picks on.

2. Feeling Lonely? Get Active

Yeah, this may sound a bit more simple than it should, but hey, it worked for Captain America. At the start of the movie, Captain America is a thawed out WWII soldier out of his element, or, as Loki would put it, “A man out of time.” Everyone he had cared about was either dead or dying, and here he is, a pristine specimen of an individual in a future time where almost everything is alien to him. He’s basically Rip Van Winkle on steroids. At first, he spends his days pounding his frustrations away on a boxing bag or two (or seven), but when Col. Nick Fury hands him the news of the Tesseract, he’s basically giving Cap a form of therapy that he really needed: he got him back into action. Whether he was trading blows with Loki or saving New York City from an alien invasion, Cap was completely in his element. By the time Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place, he’s too busy saving the world to be lonely. Well, at least until he visits that Captain America museum.
In reality, getting active is a great way to escape the blues of feelings of loneliness. People who have trouble meeting people join social meetup groups all the time. Bonus points if it’s a physical activity, since an active body keeps the mind busy. So, if you’re feeling lonely, join a jogging or cycling group. Sign up for an aerobics class.  Join a boxing gym or a dojo. You’ll not only be doing your body a favor, but your confidence and self-esteem, and you’ll get that social interraction that you need. Not big on exercise? Join a book club or a discussion group and stimulate your mind with a few new faces. Are you a gamer? Get off of Xbox Live and join a gaming group in person, and bonus points if it’s a retro game group. Retro gamers are known for bonding over Pac-Man and Super Mario. The more active you are, the less time you’ll have to be lonely.

3. Make Your Family

Does your family treat you like crap? Blood may be thicker than water, but the right friendship can be thicker than blood. Thor’s a great example of this. We all know of Thor’s tricky bond with his conniving  brother, Loki. Even after Loki almost killed him in Thor, Thor still yearns for his mischievous brother to be by his side again. In spite of Thor’s unconditional love for him, all Loki wants to do is torment his brother by conquering or destroying anything that has meaning to him, namely, Earth.
Where Loki wants to break Thor down, The Avengers build him up once they finally work as a team. Yeah, he went blow for blow with Iron Man and got smacked around by the Hulk, but Thor found a genuine brother-in-arms with Captain America. Side by side in the Battle of New York, they forged a brotherhood thicker than blood. Is it any wonder by the time the trailer of Avengers: Age of Ultron debuted, Cap was the only one among the Avengers who could make Mjolnir budge a little? (And yes, Cap can actually lift the hammer in the comics. Let’s not forget that.)
So many of us are stuck with family members that we can do without. Dysfunctional families have existed as far back as Cain and Abel. Still, life gives us the option of building our own “family” through our circle of friends. And not just the casual buddies, the “ride or die” friends that will let you crash at their pad on a bad day, or chip in when you don’t have enough for the bridge toll, or the friend who’s mother doesn’t mind you raiding the fridge as long as you “close the damn milk carton!” These are the friends that become your family. Go out and treat them to a beer. They’re worth it.

4. There’s Always Redemption

Okay, there may not “always” be redemption, but if you seek it, it’s out there. Take Hawkeye, for example. Under Loki’s brainwashing, he was turned against his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. He shot Nick Fury, took a guy’s eye out (or so it’s implied), gave Loki sensitive S.H.I.E.L.D. information (including info on his own partner, the Black Widow), and almost single-handedly downed the helicarrier. It’s a good thing Black Widow knocked some sense into him (literally). By the time he fought alongside his fellow Avengers in the Battle of New York, all of that was water under the bridge, and he was a redeemed hero.
What can we learn from Hawkeye? No matter how bad you mess up, redemption is there if you’re willing to push for it. It doesn’t take an alien invasion to find it.   Let’s take Mike Tyson, for example. In the 90’s, all we could talk about was either his incarceration or how he bit a chunk out of Evander Hollyfield’s ear. Flash forward over a decade later, and as Tyson makes his rounds on talk shows and makes guest appearances in movies like The Hangover, we’re rooting for him as he makes his way toward a mental and emotional comeback. No matter how bad you mess up, as long as you’re breathing, there’s a chance for you to redeem yourself.

5. Shawarma Brings People Together

What was the first thing Iron Man wanted to do after his near-death experience saving the world? Get some shwarma. Not a burger, not pizza, not sushi. Shawarma. I guarantee you that before The Avengers premiered in theaters, only 2% of Americans knew what Shawarma was. Well, guess what happened after Iron Man made his declaration to try this exotic food? Shawarma spots popped up all over midtown Manhattan. Everyone was dying to try some shwarma. Shawarma stands were right alongside hot dog stands in Central Park. People that had never even tried falafel wanted shawarma! All it took was a shout out from Tony Stark! I doubt he’d have the same effect if for some reason he wanted to eat spinach, but one thing’s for sure: after The Avengers, everyone wanted shawarma.

It’s very unlikely that The Avengers set out to be a motivational movie. Not many big-budget action flicks aim to preach to you. Well, except Avatar. Or The Last Samurai. Or Minority Report. Ah, nevermind. The point is, motivation is where you find it. What’s fodder to one person is a life-changing message to another. What’s important is that once that message hits you, learn from it, and go out and live it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the mood for shawarma.