All-star Asian cast . . .
Marvel Studios recently announced the cast of its first Chinese superhero movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is expected to be in theatres in February 2021. Simu Liu, best known for playing Jung Kim on the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience, plays the protagonist Shang-Chi in the movie. The accountant-turned-actor was born in Harbin in Northeastern China and grew up in Mississauga, Ontario. Also in the main cast is American actress Awkwafina, known for her role in Crazy Rich Asians, as well as Cannes Best Actor winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who will be the first-ever Hong Kong actor to star in a Marvel film.
But criticisms, worries remain . . .
The casting news led to a heated debate among mainland Chinese netizens about whether Shang-Chi reflects racial stereotypes. Leung, a household name in China, is set to play an antagonist named The Mandarin, a character associated with racial stereotypes akin to Fu Manchu, the fictional novel villain who typified the Sinophobic “yellow peril” phenomenon in 20th century Western media. While a detailed synopsis of the movie is yet to be released, some audiences in China are already feeling insulted, and have questioned Leung’s decision to take on what they describe as a stereotypical role.
Critical review . . .
This anger extended to Liu after false allegations circulated that he had claimed that Shang-Chi is not a movie to please China’s audiences. A history of inaccurate and improper interpretations of China and Chinese culture in Hollywood movies has led many audiences in China to expect the worst, with the blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, featuring an all-Asian cast, being poorly received in China. While Marvel places high hopes on the movie winning big at the 2021 Chinese New Year box office, expect an audience that will surely watch for any potential sources of controversy around racism, including Chinese-Canadian representations, roles, and identities.
- South China Morning Post: Marvel ‘insults China’ by making its first Asian superhero film about Shang-Chi, a son of Fu Manchu
- Asia One: Marvel's Shang-Chi: 5 reasons Tony Leung's casting is a huge deal
- 新浪网 (Sina.com): 漫威电影男主没说“不取悦中国观众” 网友不买账 (Marvel film hero didn’t say ‘not to please audience in China’; but netizens still don’t buy it)