Marvel plans first Asian superhero movie – why are the Chinese calling it racist?
China netizens have criticised the fact that the hero in question is the son of legendary Asian stereotype villain Fu Manchu.
Some people are calling Marvel’s first Asian superhero flick as its next Black Panther moment. But the supposed project revolving around the character Shang-Chi is already getting flak from netizens.
Why? The supposed Master of Kung-Fu is the son of the supervillain Fu Manchu.
News broke on Monday (Dec 3) about the movie, with Marvel supposedly searching for an Asian or Asian-American filmmaker to direct the film, which already has Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse 2) on-board.
But the online sphere erupted when news hit China, reported South China Morning Post. While Shang-Chi, a relatively unknown character from the 1970s, seemed to escape the wrath of the Internet, it wasn’t the case with his questionable father.
Fu Manchu is a fictional comicbook villain adapted from a criminal character from the 1930s that was created by English novelist Sax Rohmer, and one of a handful of characters said to propagate less-than-desirable, orientalist Asian stereotypes.
“You used Fu Manchu to insult China back in the day, now you are using Fu’s son to earn Chinese people’s money, how smart,” one internet user wrote on Weibo.
Another wrote: “It’s common in American comics that a superhero is the son or daughter of an evil villain, but the problem is Fu Manchu has already become a symbol of discrimination against the Chinese. There are many other Asian characters they could choose from but they had to choose this, it’s no wonder they are being criticised.”
Shang-Chi was reportedly modelled after martial arts and movie star Bruce Lee, and often featured team-ups with Spider-Man, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Recent takes on the hero have changed his lineage, making him the son of a Chinese sorcerer named Zheng Zu.
Marvel’s track record when it comes to representation has been a hit-and-miss affair as of late. It has been lauded for breaking ground on the big and small screens – with the megahit Black Panther, Netflix’s Luke Cage and the upcoming Spider-Man animated movie featuring black teenager Miles Morales – as well as introducing a more diverse superhero lineup in comics, with a teenage Muslim Ms Marvel, a female Thor and even a Korean Hulk.
It also found a way to (somewhat) deal with representation, when Iron Man 3 villain Mandarin – who also has Fu Manchu roots – was played with a meta-twist by a drunken Ben Kingsley.
At the same time, it has also been criticised for stereotyping in the Netflix show Iron Fist and for changing the character of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange from Chinese to Celtic. Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief CB Cebulski was also involved in a mini-scandal last year when it was revealed he once wrote Asian-themed comics under a Japanese pseudonym.