Asian and Asian American students find representation in Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’

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Asian and Asian American students at BYU responded to the release of Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and how it could possibly make very important strides in how Asians are portrayed in films and pop culture in America.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is Marvel’s first superhero movie featuring an Asian protagonist. In the film, Simu Liu’s character was raised as an assassin by his father. He eventually leaves his father’s organization, The Ten Rings, to find a normal life in San Francisco but is later tracked down by his father. This leads to him discovering new powers through the legendary Ten Rings.

Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. (Disney/Marvel)

“Simu Liu is the total opposite of how we are typically presented. He’s strong and athletic. It’s good to see,” said Jay Cui, an applied mathematics major from China. “I think the portrayal of Asians in media and pop culture has been very bad up until now. We’re always portrayed as nerdy, weak or unathletic.”

Cui was still a bit skeptical about the movie because of the continued bad portrayal of Asians, but said he has heard good things about “Shang-Chi.”

Some Asian and Asian American students at BYU say it can be very annoying to hear the typical Asian stereotypes that are so prevalent in the U.S. These stereotypes are sometimes inspired by characters in American television and film.

“Shang-Chi” was a film that helped permeate some of those typical stereotypes with the use of comedy. “I think it was done right, the way they hit on some of our pet peeves. It was done in a way that wasn’t offensive,” said Joshua Joonhaeng Lee, a Korean BYU graduate who studied advertising.

Alex Hwang, a Korean computer science major from Illinois, stressed how it would be nice if more people attempted to not assume that all Asians are Chinese or that they all have the same interests. Ultimately it all comes down to everyone striving to be less ignorant.

“People have come up to me after watching it saying that I look just like the main character. It’s a bit annoying how Americans think that we all look the same,” Hwang said.

For many adults and children, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was the very first time they’ve felt truly represented on the big screen. The film has had very good ratings and the approval of Asians and Asian Americans from all over. In its opening three days at the North American box office, it collected $71.4 million and demolished records for a Labor Day weekend opening.

“It’s a good step forward for us but still a very small one. There’s still so much more that can be done to better represent us,” Cui said.

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