By Valentina Padula
“Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” shook up the film industry with its arrival into the Marvel stage, covering both cultural and controversial grounds within the highly anticipated movie. The movie presents a realistic view of Mandarin traditions and culture, something uncharacteristic within Hollywood films.
The film was officially announced on Jul. 20 at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con and hit theaters on Sept. 3, 2021. It has become renowned for its groundbreaking milestone of featuring an all-Asian cast. However, coming from skeptical comic origins, there is more of an ethnic significance to the background of Shang-Chi.
“Growing up, I was not used to seeing Asian representation on television,” said
Filipino sophomore Hannah Traya. “When this movie was first announced, I was excited about the all-Asian cast.”
The movie keeps a firm grasp on the audience’s attention as it shows the actions of a grief-stricken husband and the reunited love of a brother and sister as they join forces to face their own blood. The movie’s realistic display of the consequences of running from your fears was carried out excellently through Shang-Chi’s later strained relationship with his sister and father. The ending of the film was tied together perfectly, resolving Shang-Chi’s former fears about his role within his family as he confidently takes up the mantle of the new Ten Rings bearer and successfully stops his father from attempting to revive their late mother at any cost.
“I think it is great, like the animation and the comedy by Awkwafina in the movie are awesome,” Traya said.
Despite the movie’s raving audience review of 98 percent according to Rotten Tomatoes, there has been an influx of controversy surrounding the all-Asian cast. With an increase in Asian hate crimes following the spread of COVID-19, many believe that Marvel has only now responded with the movie to please the recent demand for Asian representation in society.
“The Shang-Chi movie was announced before COVID so to me, the correlation between a demand for Asian representation and the movie’s all-Asian cast should not be happening,” said Filipino sophomore Chris Pavia.
The comic origins of Wenwu, Shang-Chi’s father, were also skeptical. Wenwu was only created for the movie and replaced the original Fu Manchu, who was in a separate comic series before he was sold to Marvel. However, he was shrouded in unmistakable racist intentions, described as having “slanted eyes, gaunt face, silk clothing and long fingers” and with a goal to conquer the West. These traits were all staples of yellow peril propaganda, a racial metaphor that stated that the people of East and Southeast Asia were dangers to the Western world.
“Fu Manchu is not a character we own or would ever want to own and that was changed in the comics many, many years ago and we never had any intention of doing that in this movie,” said Marvel Studios President Kevin Fiege in an interview. “Fu Manchu is not in this movie in any way, shape or form.”
Shang-Chi has contributed to bridging the gap for Asian representation in films, as it follows in the footsteps of 2018’s “Crazy Rich Asians.” With this development in Hollywood films, there may be events in the future that will also partake in this step towards diversity among the arts as a whole.
“I hope that this will cause more Asian representation in the Hollywood industry,” Traya said. “Seeing how well the movie performed, I just hope that producers take this as a sign that this is good and you do not have to have a whitewashed cast to produce something that does well.”
REPRESENTATION MATTERS: A timeline of western films featuring an all-Asian cast. “Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” is the newest movie to feature an all-Asian cast. Graphic by Valentina Padula