Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings & Asian-American representation

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Zaynah Shah

Catch Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at the Dublin Hacienda theater.

Zaynah Shah, Page Editor

Released in theaters September 3, 2021, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features the first Asian-American lead in a Marvel film.

“The emphasis on Asian culture was maybe not the general plot line of the movie, because it was very fantasy-based, but there were a lot of little things that I recognized from my life,” said Brandon Huynh (‘24).

Incorporated into movie scenes were parts of the Asian-American lifestyle, allowing Asian fans to see aspects of their personal stories portrayed on the big screen. 

“In the film, the characters praised the dead through shrines. I have my own shrines from some of my dead ancestors that I still go to and I pray at which is something that I personally connected with,” said Kubo (‘23).

With Marvel having such a large influence on the movie industry, many were apprehensive about how the company would portray Asian characters through film. Joshua Yu (‘23) appreciated the fact that the fight scenes were delicately choreographed and research based as opposed to mocking Kung Fu.

“Marvel didn’t just have the characters throw a bunch of random moves. Instead, they learned different styles and went deep in their research. It didn’t just reinforce an Asian stereotype. They took the time to appreciate and value the art in intricate steps within mixed Asian martial arts,” said Yu.

Despite fans fearing that common Asian stereotypes would appear throughout this movie’s debut, Marvel was able to seamlessly incorporate Shang Chi’s cultural background into the plot line without taking away from the film itself. 

“I enjoyed how Marvel connected Asian culture to the film in a meaningful way. It wasn’t just a side piece where Shang Chi is a superhero first and he’s Asian second. This is part of how he grew up and how he acts and how he fights,” said Tyler Kubo (‘23).

Huynh was slightly skeptical as to how accurate the Asian representation would fare in the film based on comments made prior to the release of the movie.

“I had mixed feelings about the representation because I heard that they called the movie an experiment. This probably wasn’t directly related to it being focused on Asian representation, but I was sort of wary of what they might do,” said Huynh.

Huynh referred to Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek calling Shang Chi an “interesting experiment” on an investor’s call while alluding to the film’s unique release schedule. Simu Liu, the lead actor in Shang Chi, believed Chapek was speaking on experimenting with diversity in the film industry.

“​​We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year,” said Liu via Twitter two days after Chapek’s statement.

Despite Chapek’s comments not being about the Asian representation in the film, Jalen Xu (‘23) believes that the diversity in the film should be considered a positive experiment.

“I think it was an experiment to see how Asian people in America as well as throughout Asia would respond to the movie with one of the main focuses being Asian representation,” said Xu.

As the film industry continues to grow, it is increasingly important to create casts that represent the people of the world. Movies like Black Panther, Marvel’s first film with a majority people of color cast, and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are only the beginning to an ever-evolving fight for proper representation throughout mainstream media.

“The industry’s changing and cultures are being represented which I love. It’s the underdog mentality where times are changing, new cultures are being shown and it’s proving that the industry can accept these changes,” said Kubo.