Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will apparently be an explosive win for Asian representation, as according to star Simu Liu, the film will not only “change the world,” but also finally give audiences an “aspirational” Asian character to look up to.
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Speaking with Variety on the red carpet during Shang-Chi’s August 16th world premiere in Los Angeles, Liu stated that it was “an incredible honor” to portray the title character in Marvel’s first Asian-led film, adding, “I hope that it’s not the last.”
“Because we’ve been celebrating a lot of firsts in our community — when ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ came out three years ago, we celebrated that as the first studio movie with a predominantly Asian cast in almost 25 years,” the actor said. “I’m looking forward to the moment where we no longer celebrate firsts.”
He continued, “We’re celebrating seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and fifths. So I’ll take this moment for what it is. It is absolutely that watershed moment. … But I hope that there are many more just like it afterwards.”
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Turning to the topic of his recent public spat with Disney CEO Bob Chapek over the latter’s comment that Shang-Chi would be an “interesting experiment.” a remark on the film’s odd release schedule which Liu took as a sleight against the fact that the film features a primarily Asian cast, the actor explained that he Tweeted his angry message because “I just wanted people to know how fired up I was for this movie.”
“It’s been a tough, tough time for everybody. And, I think sometimes it’s just so important to get messaging through that’s just emotional. It’s raw,” the actor reasoned. “And it just shows the world just how much I, and we all, believe in this movie and how incredible it’s going to be. It’s truly going to change the world.”
To that end, in a separate interview with Total Film magazine (via GamesRadar), Liu asserted that Shang-Chi would finally give younger Asian audiences something that the actor himself was supposedly devoid of in his childhood: an aspirational Asian hero.
“It’s a beautiful and exciting new origin story for this character that a lot of the world hasn’t heard of before,” Liu told Total Film. “And it means that kids growing up today will have what I didn’t, which are characters that are aspirational, that also reflect their lived experience.”
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Liu’s claim that he never saw any ‘aspirational’ Asian characters (as well as his claim that Shang-Chi would be the first such character in cinema history), is particularly odd considering that the works of such Asian film legends as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Sho Kosugi were wildly popular in the United States by the time the actor was born in 1989.
It seems that, in one of the most unsurprising moments of true Asian erasure, an actor’s contributions to film and culture mean nothing unless they’ve starred in a Disney or Marvel film (and thus can be used to virtue signal).
What do you make of Liu’s assertions? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!