Although it’s up to you to decide if superhero movies are “not cinema,” there is certainly something to be said about their rapid integration into popular culture. With up to 17 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) until the first nonCaucasian superhero leads made their entrance on film, Disney and Marvel Studios are more than ready to continue cashing in on the inclusion train.
And while the bigwig corporation side of the MCU can at times miss on addressing real social and cultural issues that reflect the real world, comic books can offer broader narratives with fleshed out stories spanning multiple issues that would take years for film to adapt.
But diversity is what Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige claims to be striving for in the coming years of film, and as proof, the next POC hero Shang-Chi, the first Chinese-American superhero in the MCU, is making his debut to a theater near you February 12, 2021. Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu will portray the Asian superhero in the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021.
But who exactly is this multiracial Master of Kung Fu?
Created by Marvel Comics’ Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi first appeared in the 1973 Special Marvel Edition #15. A master of all martial arts, this crime-fighter has more up his sleeve than a swift roundhouse kick to the face.
Born and raised in the Honan province of the People’s Republic of China to a “scientifically perfect” Caucasian mother from London, specifically chosen by Shang-Chi’s father Dr. Fu Manchu (a Chinese international crime lord who’s thirst for world conquest knows no bounds), Shang-Chi was trained from infancy in hand-to-hand combat. In fact, Shang-Chi is considered by many characters in Marvel Comics, including Black Panther, to be the best hand-to-hand fighter. And when the King of Wakanda touts your prowess in battle, you’re nothing to scoff at.
With high agility, Spider-Man-like senses, enhanced healing, stamina and stealth, this weapons master knows his stuff. Raised to believe his father was a benevolent humanitarian, Shang-Chi was manipulated into doing his father’s dirty work and dispatched on a mission to assassinate the allegedly evil Dr. James Petrie, an enemy of his father’s.
After succeeding in his father’s wishes, Shang-Chi was confronted by Fu Manchu’s archenemy, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. Nayland Smith reveals to Shang-Chi the truth about his father, which jump-starts Shang-Chi’s long journey toward defeating his father and toppling his empire. (He also joins up with the Avengers from time to time, in case you were wondering.)
Striving timidly, and albeit, slowly, Marvel Cinematic Universe is moving toward inclusion and diversity for the future — but, one wonders where all of that was in the first place.
*Featured photo: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61058287