So right off the bat, I want to say that Arthur Chu of Jeopardy-winning fame has already done much of the groundwork for me with his [spoiler-filled] article “Not Your Asian Ninja: How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Failing Asian-Americans“. In it he recounts his primary disappointment with the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, namely that the Asians presented in that show are generally villains across the board.
Not only are they of an evil persuasion, they’re also, as the title of his piece implies, mostly ninjas. In terms of sheer volume the vast majority of Asians seen on screen during the season’s 13 episodes are that particular brand of martial artist. The rest are, in terms of representation, gangsters, white collar criminals, and crime lords. It is, as Chu says, “Not a good look.”
He picks the Kitchen Irish, a gang of an obvious ethnic background, as his primary example of the show using nuance with a people group. Matthew Murdock, the titular crimefighter himself, is of Irish descent, and another character nicknamed “Grotto” is a former member of the mob who elicits sympathy from both the show’s cast and its audience. While I understand that Irish heritage is unique and distinct from many others, and that people of Irish descent suffered extreme racism in early American history, what shouldn’t be ignored is the fact that on the surface they are White. As are the members of fellow gang the Dogs of Hell. As are Murdock’s friends Karen Page and Foggy Nelson. As is Frank Castle, the Punisher, as well as newspaper editor Mitchell Ellison. Television is full of White people, and with Daredevil being no exception simply stating that there are varied roles within even one subgroup feels like a given.
Unfortunately, Asians fail even when stacked up against other racial minorities. Continue reading