Well, it’s about damn time we got ourselves an Asian MCU movie.
Thank you, Black Panther.
Thank you, Crazy Rich Asians.
Here’s your love child.
Marvel announced today that they’re going to fast-track a movie about Asian character Shang-Chi, someone 99% of us have never heard of, but whose Wikipedia page have probably gotten more views today than it’s ever had prior to the news. Its plans are to do something similar to Black Panther, tackling socially relevant issues, which may or may not mean Asian diaspora or things that are current issues of Asia. My guess is the former, but if they’re going to appease a global audience (i.e. China), they’re going to have to understand that native-born Asians don’t care about Asian diaspora issues (as evidenced by Crazy Rich Asians’ poor debut in China).
Is it possible to create a movie that’ll appease the viewpoints of both Asian diaspora and native-Asian experiences? I’m not sure, but seeing how their scriptwriter is a part of the Asian diaspora world, I’m guessing they’ll lean on the diaspora side. Hollywood is currently searching for an Asian director, which gives me great optimism that this’ll be the blockbuster Asian movie that’ll ascend Asian diaspora issues to mainstream America’s attention. They can’t fuck this up.
Here’s what the hot Asian diaspora topics that are needed to be addressed in order for Shang Chi to really represent Asian diaspora:
1.) The Emasculation of Asian Men
Shang Chi is an Asian male character, he’s going to have to deal with Asian male struggles. The tiny penis stereotype needs to be addressed and the “I don’t date Asian men” line addressed. Whether or not the character has a tiny penis is not the point: it needs to be said to him, preferably by some white meathead with an obnoxious I-only-date-white-guys Asian girlfriend. In a gym. Then, Shang Chi gets ganged up on by 100 of these obnoxious, penis-size obsessed white guys and their 100 I-only-date-white-guys Asian girlfriends and the guys gang up on Shang Chi and get their ass kicked by him Bruce Lee style. Then these obnixous I-only-date-white-guys Asian girls want Shang Chi’s phone number and he says “sorry, I don’t date racists” and walks away eating a lotus mooncake. A scene like this must happen. 99% of Asian men deal with this bullshit and a movie with an Asian male lead won’t mean shit if this topic is buried.
2.) The Gap Between Western-born Asians vs. Their Immigrant Parents
This topic has been beaten to death since the days of Joy Luck Club, but it’s always a reality. Shang Chi must love his parents, but his parents will never truly get him. They may speak to him in Mandarin Chinese and he’ll either 1.) Speak back to them with a funny Chinese accent. or 2.) Just answer them in English. I’m so sick of Hollywood showing Asian parents that speak perfect English. That’s not a reality. Sometimes they speak to their Asian-American kids in broken English or, more likely, just their native tongue.
The parents will likely tell their kid to be an accountant or a doctor. They’ll say that a real job is one where you have to wear a suit and carry a briefcase. Education might be seen as a means to get a job, as opposed to the value of learning. Asians are taught to obey and not rock the boat, which is exactly what Shang Chi must struggle with at first. He’ll constantly know in a situation that he must rock the boat, that he must speak out or fight back, but there’s a part of him that’s resisting. Which leads to my third topic…
3.) Dealing with White Supremacy, Asian Diaspora Edition
Black Panther and mostly every African-American based movie have tackled white supremacy very well from a black person’s perspective. However, an Asian person’s perspective is different. We’re told to be model minorities, whereas black and brown are often seen with suspicion, Asians are pacified by being “the good race”, the “model minority”. Shang Chi will be able to get any job he wants; as long as he doesn’t rock the boat, express any challenge to get into a power position. Somewhere in this movie, he must rise to power and get his own company. Iron Fist did it, and he’s a privileged white guy. Shang Chi must be the reverse Iron Fist. He’ll break out the model minority, get challenged on his way to the top, and use his guts and brains to be the CEO. I do not want to see him in rags, like some shaolin monk knockoff, living on a Central Park bench. He should never, ever, EVER have a white male boss. If this movie has a white male boss with an I-only-date-white-guys Asian wife, and they’re not sent to the poorhouse by the end of the movie, I’m going to write a hundred articles (okay, maybe a hundred tweets/posts since I’m lazy) about what a shitty, poorly-represented movie Shang Chi was. Asian v. White Supremacy is an Asian being constantly complimented and laughed at while being given a $60k a year job as compensation for their domestication. Talk about it. Then, ruin it with a nice CGI scene. Bonus points if Shang Chi punches out Iron Fist.
4.) Asian Women are not Geishas or Happy Ending Masseuses
I’m guessing there’s going to be a tough, badass Asian female counterpart, possibly played by Gemma Chan. In the movie, she’s got to be shown as being catcalled and objectified. Men will think she’s submissive and easy. That’s when she’s got to kick them in the balls. On the Asian side, relatives will tell her to act more lady-like and her main function in life is to find a husband, cook for all the relatives on the husband’s side and make babies. She’ll remind these backwards Asian relatives that it’s not the 1950’s and kick them in the balls too. Usually I think an Asian woman doing kung fu is stereotypical, but it’s a movie about kung fu, so…she should know kung fu. This one time I’m giving an exception.
Some Asians are rich, some Asians are poor. Some are fresh off the boat, some are third generation. Some are adopted, some are mixed. We have Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Laos, Hmong, Indian, Japanese, Pakistani. There is a good chance that this movie will make the mistake of making an all-Chinese cast as though all Asians are Chinese. In Asian diaspora, we are yellow. Make it a point that only Asians in Asian diaspora are called and call each other Asians. Asians in Asia don’t call themselves Asians (they go by their nationalities). There’s a big difference between first-generation and second-generation. If this movie doesn’t understand or address this, it’s not our movie. It’s Panda Express. It’s Iron Fist. It’s for white people.
One final note, Ming Na Wen is in the MCU universe already. Put Ming Na Wen in the movie. Also, Awkwafina for comedy role.
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