IMMANUEL PORTUS WRITES — Following the slew of “Asian movies” that have been gaining traction this year, such as “The Farewell” and “Yellow Rose,” comes a defining one from none other than the Marvel Cinematic franchise.
“Shang-Chi” is widely touted as Hollywood’s first Asian Superhero movie (with emphasis on the capital “S”). Announced at the San Diego Comic Con 2019 as part of Marvel’s projected “Phase Four” — a designated roll-out of about nine new movies over the course of several years — “Shang-Chi” is currently set for release on February 12, 2021.
Evidently, Hollywood is on the verge of realizing the importance of Asian movies— thanks in part to the major financial and critical acclaim of the foundational film “Crazy Rich Asians.” The American movie industry may in fact be witnessing a breakthrough of Asian films just as Marvel Studios meticulously planned and executed the breakthrough box-office success of “Black Panther,” with its African-American Superhero.
Not everyone is pleased, however. Chinese netizens have responded with hard-hitting backlash, accusing Marvel of wrongful portrayal, even going so far as to deem Marvel’s upcoming film yet another example of the “yellow peril.” Such cyber-hate spawns from news that the titular character will be the son of Fu-Manchu, a notorious super villain and age-old negative racial stereotype due to offensive characteristics. Back in Hollywood’s yesteryear, the character was used to express and incite anti-Chinese sentiments.
As such, Chinese netizens remain disappointed that Hollywood, or some factions within, still see any hero of Asian descent as a financial “risk.” Some on the forum site Reddit were quick to point out that the villain continues to be played by a Chinese actor while the protagonist is a “westernized Asian.”
Yet amidst such broiling contempt is the abundant excitement of younger Asian viewers who support this filmic uptick in Oriental representation. Shang-Chi will be portrayed by Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who sees this as a huge leap across racial barriers and another chance to kick, smash, and nunchuck through Hollywood’s long-held bias against, and fear of, Asian-themed films. Such unparalleled abilities in the martial arts powerful enough to subdue the most unrelenting of villains — may in turn unsettle the movie industry so that more Asian-themed movies are made.