Marvel ‘insults China’ by making its first Asian superhero film about Shang-Chi, a son of Fu Manchu

Phoebe Zhang
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Marvel ‘insults China’ by making its first Asian superhero film about Shang-Chi, a son of Fu Manchu

An angry Chinese public is accusing Marvel Studios of insulting China after learning that its first Asian superhero on the big screen will be the son of Fu Manchu, the offensive fictional character who has become a shorthand for racial stereotyping.

Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham, whose movie credits include the upcoming sequels Wonder Woman 1984 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2, is working on a script for a film showcasing Shang-Chi, who first appeared in Marvel’s comics in the 1970s.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel is expecting Shang-Chi, also known as the heroic Master of Kung Fu in the Marvel universe, to “break out in a way similar to Black Panther earlier this year”.

Hollywood, the online publication said, was coming to realise the importance of Asian identity following this summer’s box office hit Crazy Rich Asians.

However, when translated reports of the news reached Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, the online community was unimpressed.

“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.

Fu is a fictional villain who first appeared in a series of novels by British author Sax Rohmer during the early 20th century.

The character sparked accusations of Western racism and orientalism, with protesting Asian-Americans describing the depiction as offensive, in its reliance on “yellow peril” and Asia-centric xenophobia.

Bruce Lee: how his Chinese race counted against him in Hollywood with its history of negative Asian stereotypes in films

Another commenter on Weibo 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.”

Some people expressed understanding, saying, “in many movies, even the American president can be the villain, why can’t we tolerate a bad Chinese?”

Ironically, Marvel originally tried to acquire the rights to Kung Fu, the popular 1970s martial arts television drama. When it failed in its bid, it instead bought the rights to Fu Manchu, as part of its ambition to create a superhero based on martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

Lee missed out on the leading role in Kung Fu in favour of a non-Chinese actor named David Carradine.

This article Marvel ‘insults China’ by making its first Asian superhero film about Shang-Chi, a son of Fu Manchu first appeared on South China Morning Post

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