Showrunner Marco Ramirez, Star Mike Colter Reflect on Episode of ‘The Defenders’ That Confronts White Privilege

By Sameer Rao Aug 21, 2017

Warning: if you haven’t watched Marvel’s "The Defenders" on Netflix and don’t want anything spoiled, don’t read this post. If you love Luke Cage as much as we do and couldn’t wait to see him again when "The Defenders" premiered last Friday (April 18), then continue.

"The Defenders" co-creator and showrunner Marco Ramirez understood that bringing Mike Colter back as Luke Cage for his new Netflix superhero series meant bringing one of Cage’s defining traits—his love for Black and Brown New Yorkers who yearn for superhero allies in their struggles against corrupt leaders—to the characters’ conflicts. Ramirez and Colter both address how the third episode of "The Defenders" tackled this theme in a recent Vulture interview.

Vulture describes a scene in that episode where Cage confronts Danny "Iron Fist" Rand, a young White billionaire-turned-superhuman-martial-artist portrayed by British actor Finn Jones, on his brutal treatment of a Black boy: 

During their first meeting, Danny fought a Black kid who was indirectly working for the sinister global syndicate known as The Hand. As The Hand’s sworn enemy, Danny attacked him viciously—something Luke has a big problem with. “You were gonna beat that kid within an inch of his life,” Luke says.

Danny scoffs lightly and replies, “Come on, I wasn’t gonna kill him.” Luke says it sure looked like he was, and that the kid had no idea who he was really working for and had only taken The Hand gig because he was desperate for work.

Danny accuses Luke of hypocrisy, saying Luke has probably fought people to save others, and rhetorically asks what the difference is between that and what Danny did. “The difference is, I live on their block!” Luke replies. “The difference is I’m not some billionaire White boy who takes justice into his own hands and slams a Black kid against the wall because of his personal vendetta.”

Danny gets defensive and says the money doesn’t define him; Luke says it doesn’t matter, because the boy is in a jail cell and Danny isn’t. Danny says Luke doesn’t know anything about him. “I know enough,” Luke responds. “And I know privilege when I see it. You may think you earned your strength, but you had power before the day you were born.” 

“I think with any one of these characters it’s really easy to just think about their superpowers first, and when they meet, what does it mean when their superpowers clash,” Ramirez explains. “Anybody can watch and make action figures just mash up against each other and have a good fight, but actually having a good, emotionally satisfying fight was even more important.”

"People have a lot of influence and money and they are just out of touch,” adds Colter. “This is the problem with society—people get money and they feel that way. And what happens is they forget what it’s like to live the real life, you know?”

"The Defenders" unites Marvel’s Netflix series’ four namesake protagonists—Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Daredevil—against a common foe trying to take over and destroy their beloved New York. Vulture notes that the Marvel comic "Power Man and Iron Fist" pairs Cage with Rand while interrogating race and class dynamics. 

Vulture also highlights that "Iron Fist" was accused of cultural appropriation, with critics saying it relys on a White savior dynamic while "[portraying] a rich White lead who travels to Asia and becomes a chosen-one master of martial arts."

Ramirez clarifies that this backlash did not influence the scene. “It wasn’t like we were purposely trying to write a scene about race, or anything like that,” he says. “We just thought, ‘Oh, these two are not going to get along with this thing.’ We were going to give them scenes where they go up against each other, and the best way to do that is to make them have actual ideological arguments.”

Read the full story at