HONG KONG – David Tse recalls feeling proud when he walked out of a British cinema after watching “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsThe latest Marvel superhero movie.
“Our society has finally reached the West,” the Chinese-British actor and writer said by phone from Birmingham. “Every Chinese person around the world should be very proud of Shang Zhi.”
the film, The first Marvel movie with a predominantly Asian castA hit with global audiences, it has grossed more in US theaters than any other film during the pandemic and has grossed more than $366 million worldwide since its release early last month.
But despite its box office success and the overwhelming positive reaction from Asian communities around the world, it doesn’t play on a single screen in mainland China, which last year overtook North America as a The largest film market in the world. It is the latest film to get into trouble in the country amid rising nationalism and Tensions between the United States and China.
From the very beginning, “Shang-Chi” was made from China in consideration. Much of the film’s dialogue is in Mandarin, and the cast includes some of the biggest names in Asian cinema, including Michelle Yeoh and Hong Kong star Tony Leung, in his Hollywood debut.
Simu Liu, a Chinese-born Canadian actor who starred in the sitcom on Netflix “Kim comfort,” He plays Shang-Chi, a reluctant martial arts warrior who is forced to confront his father. The film was widely praised as a huge step forward as Hollywood tries to improve the representation of Asians and Asian Americans.
“Finally, we’re seeing a strong, unfashionable character the way we’ve been for generations,” Tse said. “Our youth desperately need more of them.”
“Shang-Chi” has not received the same welcome in China, where films are strictly censored and the number of foreign releases each year is limited. That didn’t stop Marvel in the past – in 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” brought in $629 million in revenue from mainland Chinese audiences, more than any other foreign film in history.
Officials did not say why there is no “Shang-Chi” release date, and the Chinese government’s publicity department Communist PartyWhich regulates the country’s film and television industry, did not respond to a request for comment.
Experts point to the deterioration of US-China relations, the rise of Chinese nationalism, and the character’s racist comic book past.
Riddled with stereotypes
Marvel debuted as Shang-Chi in 1973 amid growing American interest in martial arts films. Shang Zhi’s early comics were full of stereotypes about Asians, with characters depicted in unnatural yellow tones. Shang Zhi’s father, a power-hungry villain named Fu Manchu, has been criticized as a symbol of “Yellow Peril,” a xenophobic ideology that arose in the 19th century when Asians, especially Chinese, were seen as a threat to Western existence.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has confirmed that Fu Manchu is no longer a character in the Marvel comics and that Shang Chi’s father in the movie, played by Leung, is an entirely different character named Xu Wenwu. But for some, the connection still remains.
“Chinese audiences can’t accept a biased 100-year-old character who still appears in the new Marvel movie,” Beijing-based film critic Shi Wenxu He told the Global Times, a popular, nationalist, state-backed newspaper.
Liu, 32, who immigrated to Canada with his parents in the 1990s, has also sparked public outrage with previous comments critical of his native country.
in 2016 Twitter shareHe described Chinese government oversight as “really immature and far from reality.”
The following year, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which has since been dropped, Liu described China as a “third world” country where people were “starving” by the time he and his parents left. A screenshot of his comments circulated on Weibo, a popular social networking platform in China, with one user commenting: “So why would he play a Chinese character?”
Michael Berry, director of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, said Liu’s comments were “taken out of context and politicized.”
“Once a cyberattack is launched on a movie or individual in China, there’s usually a series of talking points that are made and then leveraged to take advantage of the growing nationalist sentiment,” he told NBC News.
“Reclaiming Our Culture”
Anger at Liu’s comments echoes a previous episode Chloe Chow, the Beijing-born director of “Nomadland,” who made history this year when she became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
“Nomadland” was scheduled for a limited release in the mainland, but then a 2013 interview with Filmmaker magazine appeared in which Zhao described China as “a place where lies are everywhere.” She was targeted by online commentators who accused her of denigrating the nation, and the film was never shown.
The upcoming Marvel movie “Eternals,” directed by Zhao, may be denied a release date in mainland China.
Perry called the treatment of Liu and Zhao a “great tragedy”, calling them “China’s best hope for better cross-cultural understanding between China and the West.”
Many moviegoers elsewhere in the region celebrated “Shang Chi” to further this understanding.
Adrian Hong, a 22-year-old student who has seen the film twice in Hong Kong, which has its own film organiser, said he talked a lot about the “beauty and grace of Chinese culture”.
“The beauty of martial arts, the concept of yin and yang, and the amazing mythical creatures, they all add up to the film,” he said.
Some commentators on Weibo also questioned the mainland government’s apparent decision not to screen the film.
“Why do some people say that Shang Zhi offends China?” asked one user. “The film does not insult China, but rather promotes traditional Chinese culture.”
For Tse, the actor and writer, “Shang-Chi” is the most relevant due to the outbreak of anti-Asian racism, discrimination and violence caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the reaction to all the Asian hate crimes against us. It is a response to all the fanatics who have stood against us for decades. “Shang Zhi is restoring our culture. It says globally and culturally, this is a new stream of history.”