Diversity in Shang-Chi: Is it enough?

Noelle Escalante, Staff Writer

Asian representation within the Hollywood industry hasn’t always been positive; roles would usually pertain to background characters at the butt of the joke and were heavily stereotypical. However, the second newest film to hit phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Simu Liu, a Chinese-Canadian actor, as the first ever Asian Marvel Superhero in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” While “Shang-Chi” only began and ended production in 2020, the character has been a prominent figure in the Marvel comics, with its comic debut coming out in 1973. The feature film of “Shang-Chi” has revealed a brand new introduction to the character, along with their background traced with Chinese culture and influence.
“‘Shang-Chi’ is pretty unknown, so a lot of people may not know his backstory coming in to watch the film, but coming out he’ll become a pretty big player in the MCU,” senior Rikie Kumar said.
While Marvel was praised for including Asian representation in a major film, it also came with great backlash due to the way “Shang-Chi’’ was publicized in the media. The official trailer for the film has been out since Jun. 2021, with a total of 19 million views on YouTube. However, the teaser trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” accumulated a total of 56 million views within the first week of release.
Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek has come out saying that “Shang-Chi” would be an “interesting experiment” for Marvel, considering that the movie only has 45 days in theaters based on its box office performance. It’s suspected that the trial period similar to exclusive films such as “Free Guy” and “Harriet” contributed to less publicity for the movie “Shang-Chi” overall.
“We are not an experiment,” Liu said on Twitter shortly after Chapek’s press release. “We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year.”
Chris Hemsworth has been one of the only Marvel actors to share their excitement on social media platforms about Shang Chi, tweeting Liu’s welcoming to the MCU a month before release.
“It’s unfair to contribute a difference in interest completely to the publication, considering the popularity of ‘Spider-Man’ and established actors such as Tom Holland and Zendaya,” junior Tanvi Garneni said. “However, I have not seen any advertisements for ‘Shang-Chi’ in public, which is weird knowing that Marvel’s advertisement is usually very prominent.”
Aside from the controversy over the movie’s publicity, there also has been outspoken criticism about co-star Awkwafina—who played lead roles in Hollywood blockbusters “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Farewell”—along with Liu being one of the readily established Asian actors in the industry, already appearing in a roles such as “Jung” in “Kim’s Convenience.”
“I’m disappointed,” junior Isaac Lee said. “There’s always so much opportunity for Asian representation within major movie roles, but are always tossed to already established and borderline ‘token’ Asian actors within the Hollywood industry.”
Nonetheless, many audience members are excited that Asians finally have front-row representation, and believe that it can further blossom into more opportunities down in Hollywood.
“After everything that has happened in the past year with the ‘Stop Asian Hate’ Movement along with my own sense of identity as a Japanese-American, I very much want to support whatever Asian superhero that is ever to come out, and that happened to be someone major in the MCU,” senior Em Okamoto said. “Although they are a very Asian-based character with a martial-arts image, I would love to support a movie that over time would lead to Asian characters in films that can simply be themselves.”