For the past few years, Marvel fans developed a ritual: watch the clock strike midnight, sign into Netflix and start a binge-a-thon for the latest Netflix/Marvel series. In 2013, it was Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones (2015), Daredevil’s season 2 (2015) and Luke Cage (2016). But not everyone will be tuning when Marvel’s Iron Fist is made available to the public tonight.
When Marvel announced that it would be crafting an Iron Fist series, many advocated for them to hire an Asian-American actor to fulfill the role of Danny Rand, who is originally white in the comics. This argument came about from die-hard fans and newbies alike for four reasons. 1). When Iron Fist premiered in 1974, martial arts fetishism was at its peak which often led to white creators appropriating the art form and placing themselves at the center. Recasting Danny Rand as an Asian-American actor would be a step in the right direction to rectify that. 2). Marvel has yet to introduce an Asian superhero in its cinematic universe. 3). It wouldn’t change the character since an Asian-American hero would still have an “outsider” feel to the world Rand is introduced to. Nothing else about Danny Rand would require him to be white. 4). Asian actors are rarely found on film/TV and this would have been another chance for Hollywood executives to work to change that. The New York Times reported that “more than half of film, television and streaming properties feature zero named or speaking Asian characters” despite Asians making up 5.4 percent of the United States population. In 2014, “only 1.4 percent of lead characters in a sample of studio films” were Asian, the article further stated.
This case was made on Twitter (#AAIronFist) and on several news outlets including The Nerds of Color and ComicsAlliance. But nonetheless, Marvel hired Finn Jones, a white actor, to play the suave, funny and rich martial arts master. Thus, boycott. It probably doesn’t help that the series has been lauded with bad reviews by several news outlets as well.
But luckily for disappointed comic book fans, there are plenty of Asian heroes found within South Korean dramas that often feature complex kickass heroes who can handle bad guys with their fists, guns, or whatever else happens to be nearby. Similar to Marvel’s series, these shows are filled with guts, heart and a story to keep you hooked throughout the entire show. So, if you’re looking for a show with an entire Asian cast to watch this weekend, look no further. Here are 7 Asian-Led Shows to Binge if You’re Boycotting ‘Marvel’s Iron Fist’. (And most of them can be watched for free!)
Seo Jung Hoo is a for-hire ‘errand boy’ known as Healer who will take on any mission as long as it doesn’t involve killing anybody. But when he’s charged with keeping a reporter, Chae Young Shin, safe, he’s forced to go undercover as a news reporter (Clark Kent-style) while he tries to protect her from unknown dangers. Healer also has an amazing hacker, Jo Min Ja, at his side a la mission control who shares a lot of quirky commentary from her bunker and a martial arts mentor who he’s reluctant to reunite with. Watch the 20-episode series here.
2). City Hunter
Similar to Marvel’s newest series, City Hunter is an adaptation of a written series. Instead of a comic book, City Hunter is based on an ‘80s manga of the same name. It was also adapted into an anime and a live action film starring Jackie Chan. But the South Korean drama is by far the best of the adaptations (although it carries large differences from the source material.) The 20-episode series follows Lee Yoon Sung, who’s trained his whole life to get revenge on five high-powered officials who backstabbed his parents. Check it out here.
3). Two Weeks
Jang Tae San doesn’t have much going for him until he discovers that his past girlfriend kept her pregnancy a secret from him. But now that their daughter is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, he becomes committed to save her when he discovers that he is a match. Unfortunately, the mob, who frame him for murder, have other ideas for him. In the 16-episode series, Jang Tae Sung goes on the run as the police and the mob compete to find him. While his one purpose is to stay alive for two weeks until the surgery, it seems impossible for him to make it out in one piece. Check it out here.
4). Girl K
Girl K is only three episodes long but there’s plenty to unpack as the high schooler and trained assassin, Yeo Jin, goes on mission to avenge her mother’s death. It’s bloody, merciless and badass. Unfortunately, this series isn’t available online through any legal sites but popular K-drama recapper, javabeans, covers it in great detail. Check out her recaps here.
5). Blade Man
Blade Man may not be a superhero series, but the lead, Joo Hong-bin, does have superhero-like powers. Whenever he gets angry, blades grow out of his skin. But unlike Wolverine his spikes don’t just come out from his hands, but from everywhere. While the blades usually cause him trouble, it’s when he meets his long lost love that things get really hairy. There’s also plenty of metaphors for internal pain and healing to talk about for days. The 18-episode series, which is also called Iron Man, can be found here.
There are few other words to describe IRIS other than ACTION-PACKED. The series follows Hyeong-Jun, a NSS agent who is duped into a mission that makes it seem like he’s gone rogue.
But he has good reason to stay alive and until he uncovers the real reason he was betrayed, he does just that. For 20 episodes, Hyeong-Jun tries to survive as he attempts to uncover an Illuminati-like secret society that may be at the source of his trouble. Not to mention, he’s got South Korean agents as well as South Korea’s enemies after him. And it doesn’t help when he teams up with terrorists to try to make it back into South Korea. There are high stakes and a heart-wrenching love story. Unlike most South Korean dramas, this show also has two spin-off series, IRIS 2 and ATHENA. Get into the first, IRIS, series here.
(Note: The series lead is played by Lee Byung-Hun who is likely recognized for his roles in The Magnificent Seven, the G.I. Joe film series and RED 2.)
7). The Fugitive: Plan B
At first, The Fugitive: Plan B seems like a cheesy detective series…and it kind of is. But, Rain (Ninja Assassin, R2B: Return to Base), who plays the lead, Ji-Woo, is one of the many reasons why this show is enjoyable. As a goofy detective, his antics are hilarious — even when he becomes the main suspect for murder of his long-time partner, Kelvin. And in the mix of it, he still has a case to solve involving a beautiful woman and the murders that seem to keep following her. Check it out here.