After the box-office success of "Black Panther," which featured a nearly all-black cast, black director and black writer, is it time for Marvel's first Asian superhero film? Deadline is reporting that Marvel Studios is fast-tracking the story of Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi, a master of kung fu, was first introduced in December 1973, when martial arts films were peaking in popularity. The character was largely inspired by Bruce Lee, who died just months before Shang-Chi's debut. Aside from being a kung fu master, Shang-Chi could also duplicate himself, and he teamed up with heroes including the Avengers, Daredevil, Spider-Man and Domino, Deadpool's ex-girlfriend.But Shang-Chi's original story was riddled with stereotypes and racial slurs and leaned heavily on "Yellow Terror" tropes, portraying East Asians as menacing or dangerous to the West. Even Shang-Chi's father — and the series' main villain — Fu Manchu is a direct reference to racist caricatures of yesteryear.
In his book "Chinese American Masculinities: From Fu Manchu to Bruce Lee," Jachinson Chan writes: "Shang-Chi is a product of White America's fantasy. ... He was born in China but learns to quickly fight and oppose his own father, he adopts a British man as his father figure, conforms to the dictates of his newly adopted parent, and ultimately returns to his own country after he ends the threat from the evils that originated from his own cultural and racial heritage."
Deadline says on the heels of "Black Panther's" success, Marvel hopes to do something similar with the Shang-Chi movie. It's looking to have Asian and Asian-American creative leads. Marvel has already secured Chinese-American Dave Callaham, who also co-wrote the upcoming "Wonder Woman 1984," to write the screenplay. As for a director and lead actor? The search is still on.
Some critics say Marvel missed an opportunity to hire an Asian lead for the Netflix series "Iron Fist" — instead of reimagining the story, creators kept a white lead character in the martial arts series. Nonetheless, should "Shang-Chi" make it to theaters, it will be Marvel's first Asian-led superhero movie.