#AsiansInMedia Simu Liu brings much-needed representation as Shang-Chi

by Neil Bui
Simu Liu will be playing the titular hero in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Photo: Simu Liu & Marvel

Marvel Entertainment recently announced the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the casting of Simu Liu as the titular hero. This is not only an amazing honor for Liu to play the first Asian superhero on film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also a huge win for audiences worldwide who have been calling for representation in the media.

The actor recognizes the importance of having heroes who are just like you.

“I think seeing yourself represented in that way can have a profound impact on how you view your place in society, your cultural identity and what you are capable of achieving,” Simu Liu said in an interview with HuffPost.

Even before landing the role of Shang-Chi, Simu Liu was a hero in his own right, actively challenging and defying stereotypes that Asian men face all their lives, not even hesitating when the topic came up on a talk show.

“Imagine being a kid, hearing people are just not into Asian guys. For what’s been put on us by the media. For how we’re portrayed,” Simu Liu said on The Social.

Ending these stereotypes requires not just action from Asian heartthrobs like Liu, Ludi Lin, Yoshi Sudarso, but also discussion that leads to educating others on the falseness and negative effects of these ideas.

It was not too long ago when YouTube channels such as Wong Fu Productions and JK Film & TV Productions were Asian audiences’ primary source for seeing the kind of representation in the media they desired and supported. For these Asian creators when mainstream opportunities weren’t available to them, the timely arrival of the digital age allowed the underrepresented to reach those who wanted to see faces like theirs.

Luckily, digital did not remain the only way to enjoy diverse media. Television sets around the world are airing sitcoms series like “Kim’s Convenience” and “Fresh Off The Boat” that feature Asian talent, with the former starring our Shang-Chi.

The world cheered when Black Panther entered theaters, dominated as a win for diversity, and had a positive effect for everyone who could now identify with and talk about their newest favorite superhero. With the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, hopefully, this mainstream superhero film will make Shang-Chi as celebrated and recognizable as King T’Challa of Wakanda.

The quality of a storyline is often tied to the quality of the villain, and for Shang-Chi he will be facing the Mandarin, played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. If the Mandarin sounds like a familiar villain, then it’s because he was said to be the main villain of Iron Man 3. Notice the use of “said to be,” that’s because in that film the Mandarin was (SPOILERS) just a persona Ben Kingsley’s character Trevor Slattery used to mislead Tony Stark (and audiences) while Guy Pearce played the true villain – scheming scientist Aldrich Killian. Additionally, Awkwafina will be playing a role in the film.

For me, there is a lot of hope riding on this film. I remember my feelings towards 2013’s The Wolverine film. I had said the overall portrayal of Asian men was horrible, the male love interest was a pawn, the father was neglectful, and the grandfather was the scheming Mastermind. The daughter was a damsel in distress the entire time and her best friend was the cold-blooded assassin. Shang-Chi, please give me and the rest of the world, a film that gives us fleshed out multidimensional characters in a well-written storyline.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, born in Hawaii of Japanese, Irish, and Slovak descent. Cretton is best known for writing and directing Short Term 12, an adaptation of his short film with the same title completed as his project in film school at San Diego State University. Short Term 12 was Brie Larson’s first leading performance where she played a young supervisor of a group home for troubled teenagers, based off of Cretton’s own experiences working at such a facility.

The film will be written by David Callaham whose credits in the superhero genre include a rewrite of Ant-Man and Wonder Woman 1984. He is also slated to write the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Filming for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings begins in early 2020 in Australia. The film is set to be released on February 12, 2021.

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