“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is setting out to undo the source material’s racist past by challenging its harmful Asian stereotypes.
Shang-Chi’s problematic origins: Created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin, the character of Shang-Chi was among Marvel Comics’ efforts in capitalizing on the Kung-Fu craze in the U.S. during the ‘70s.
- The lack of Chinese creators in the U.S. comic industry at the time meant that stories involving such characters were all based on how white America saw China.
- The racist overtones in the comic book characters recently generated controversy in China when the Shang-Chi film was announced in 2019, NextShark previously reported.
- In the comics, Shang-Chi is the son of Fu Manchu, a racist caricature featured in novels created in 1912 by British author Sax Rohmer.
- The Asian American community has widely condemned Fu Manchu, describing the character as “the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”
- The Mandarin, a comic character created in 1964, was introduced into the “Shang-Chi” mythos later on. The character, portrayed as a Chinese mystic, is widely viewed to be just as problematic as Fu Manchu.
- According to Variety, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige spoke to Chinese blog Sina Weibo to directly address the Fu Manchu controversy: “[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 [having him] in this movie.”
- Acknowledging that Fu Manchu “was such an offensive figure,” he assured fans that the character would not appear in “Shang-Chi” in “any way, shape or form…and was never anything we had any interest in doing.”
Efforts to change: In a recent interview with Inverse, “Shang-Chi” writer Dave Callaham revealed that Marvel Studios made a list of racist Asian stereotypes to “destroy” in the upcoming MCU Phase 4 film.
- As Feige noted, Fu Manchu was not included in the film as Shang-Chi is now the son of Wenwu, played by actor Tony Leung, a new character amalgamated with the MCU’s version of the Mandarin.
- Callaham called the physical list he was given the “Wenwu List” of stereotypes that needed to go.
- “We knew this needs to be a character not intent on destroying the world, not mysterious or sneaky, or a sorcerer whose magic Westerners cannot understand,” he was quoted as saying.
- Filmmaker Destin Cretton said that they “looked at Wenwu as a human with multi-dimensions and personal desires. People will be surprised how much they can relate [to him].”
- According to Callaham, the racial stereotypes of Asians persisting in Hollywood have been damaging.
- “It’s way easier to be violent or hateful to someone you don’t see the same as you,” he noted. “With [the history of] Asian representation in the media, it’s not just that we’ve been invisible for a long time. It’s beyond that. We’re the butt of jokes and stereotypes that are damaging. It’s not nothing.”
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is set to release only in theaters on Sept. 3, with a planned streaming release 45 days later, according to Business Insider.
Featured Image via IGN