The lack of Asian American superheroes is part of the greater lack of representation for Asians in Hollywood. After years of being accused of whitewashing and cultural appropriation with projects like movie Dr. Strange and TV series Iron Fist, it looks like Marvel might finally be ready to move forward with an Asian lead.
The project obviously is coming after the huge success of Asian-American romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians.
Shang-Chi is a prodigiously talented practitioner of martial arts and weapons including guns and nunchakus. The character is popularly known by his title, the Master of Kung Fu. A member of the Avengers, he also has the ability to create duplicates of himself to aid him in battle. The X-Men’s Wolverine has been known to ask him for tactical advice. Shang-Chi is notably the son of villain and Yellow peril icon, Dr. Fu Manchu.
In both his original novel run and in the many films and comics they inspired, Fu Manchu’s Eastern mysticism and diabolical intellect were used to further the stereotype that Asian men were dangerous and untrustworthy. The villain has been portrayed by no less than a dozen white actors in his problematic history.
Shang-Chi was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin (who also created Infinity War baddie Thanos) after it became clear that Marvel would not be able to successfully negotiate an adaptation of TV series Kung Fu. Ironically, the character’s connection to Fu Manchu has had to be downplayed because of a licensing and copyright dispute.
The Shang-Chi film will be written by screenwriter Dave Calaham, who wrote the original draft of what would become Sylvester Stallones’ The Expendables. He also contributed writing to thriller and horror movies Doom, Horsemen, and Telltale.
Calaham, who is of Chinese American descent, recently finished the script for DC’s highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984. He also wrote the script for the upcoming Zombieland 2, which will star Emma Stone.
At the time of this article’s writing, the project has yet to have a director on board or an official title.
Hopefully, Shang-Chi will be a step forward for representation and won’t be mired by racist undertones or stereotypes. We’ll just have to wait and see!