Shang-Chi and What Its Success Means for Asian Representation in Hollywood
With Shang-Chi boasting a score of 98% by viewers on Rotten Tomatoes along with breaking Labor Day box office records, there is no doubt that the new Marvel movie is a smashing success. The success of this film points towards something even more consequential than setting new sales records, however, and that is that Shang-Chi opens up new realms for Asian representation.
For decades, Marvel and its superhero franchise have been hugely influential on American pop media and culture. Marvel superheroes have served as icons for children to strive to be. Symbols of strength and valor, these superheroes are the epitome of success. This resounding impact of Marvel and their superheroes makes the bold choice of creating a movie casting, highlighting, and centering around the Asian American story all the more meaningful.
By casting Chinese Canadian Simu Liu as the role of Shang-Chi, a symbol of strength and justice, Asian men are uplifted rather than embarrassed or looked down upon as comedic relief. Additionally, Shang-Chi represents a unique perspective from Asian Americans/Canadians through Katy, Shang-Chi’s best friend. In the scene where Shang-Chi and Katy interact with his parents, she understands them but does not reply in Chinese. This aspect of not knowing how to speak your native language is a struggle that many second-generation Asian Americans and Asian Canadians face. Shang-Chi highlights both sides of Asian American culture, showcasing the struggles that many children of immigrant Asian families face in terms of expectations and legacy, while also showcasing the beauty and depth of Asian cultures through the vivid and tasteful imagery.
Shang-Chi opens up a new realm for Asian representation. In Hollywood, Asian Americans have been historically represented as side characters, often serving as comedic relief. However, Shang-Chi breaches these barriers and showcases Asian American identity in a revolutionary and beautiful way.
Written By: Megan Yi