So it was with a little fear, trepidation, and reluctance that I started watching Iron Fist on Netflix. But I considered it part of my nerdy duty, the very same duty that forced me to watch the last Fantastic 4 movie. <shudders> I haven’t finished Iron Fist yet (thanks in part to the Battlefield 1 Premium Pass) but I am several episodes in and it is proving to be cliché and mediocre at best. There are numerous things to write about here such as not using an Asian actor to play Iron Fist. However, much has been said about that and since I am probably the whitest person on the planet I leave the diversity issue to those more qualified. That being said, I would like to focus on two big issues. One is the writing and one is a personal passion of mine, the portrayal of mental health care.
Let’s start with the writing. Simply, put, it is not smart writing. Besides the obvious clichés and tropes (of which there are plenty) to me the biggest issue is they insult the viewers intelligence. Nerds tend to be pretty intelligent people and the writing does not take this fact into account. There are so many things that don’t make sense, that leave you scratching your head. Here are two examples (very minor spoilers here).
– For a guy who grew up studying the teachings of Buddha he sure knows little of human nature. I get that growing up in a mystical monastery leaves him naïve and unaccustomed to the western world. But for somebody who is enlightened he sure acts shocked and surprised when he encounters greed, lust for power, and the other pitfalls of human nature.
– Danny (Iron Fist) also acts shocked when nobody believes he is the long-lost Danny Rand. As if he could just show back up and everything would be great. You would think early on he would talk to Joy and tell her things only he would know to prove himself to her but he doesn’t. There was even a perfect opportunity to do so. A flashback scene shows Ward, Joy and Danny all playing monopoly when Ward pulls a total dick move. You think they are setting it up for Danny to mention it to Joy later to prove his identity be he never does. It would have been natural and easy. Instead, they wait until episode three and concoct a complex scheme involving M&M’s.
And there are plenty of small things too. Such as the scene when Danny follows Ward up the elevator of the Empire State Building. Danny gets in the elevator before he sees what floor Wards stops on. How did Danny know what floor to go to? There is no way he could have known. And why did Ward, who was afraid of the thought-to-be Danny imposter, jump in the car with him? All he had to do is shut the car door, walk away and call security. My point here is just this. The writers grossly misunderstand their audience. As if we are unintelligent and will believe what-ever they tell us.
Now to my personal beef with Iron Fist. The portrayal of the mental health care system (again some spoilers here). Danny gets locked up in a psych ward and it is one of the worst, most cliché portrayals of mental health. There he meets patients who have been locked up for months or even years due to mental illness. This is illegal and doesn’t happen anymore. If the police call a 51-50 on you (that is the police code for a psychiatric arrest) the most they can hold you is 72 hours. They may pump you full of meds but then they must write you prescriptions and send you on your merry way. I work in addiction treatment and have seen many clients with severe mental disorders (some who have been in the 72 hour hold) and being forced to stay there just doesn’t happen anymore.
I also take personal issue with the character of Harry (I think that was his name). He was Danny’s friend in the psych ward. He said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with drug addiction (also called dual diagnosis) and that he had been there months. This hit close to home because I am bipolar and have recovered from my own addiction issues. The simple fact is their portrayal of mental health was not only cliché, but also goes to reinforce every stigmatism we fight so hard to overcome.
This is all a shame because the other Netflix shows offer up so much. A blind attorney (with the best fight scenes), a female detective (with the best villain), and a black man who fights for social justice (with the best music). They are all going to roll out to fight crime together with something rather dull. Another generic, white, rich superhero. Way to go Netflix, way to go.
You can follow Jefferson @nerdsinrecovery