Some Chinese Fans Have Misgivings Over SHANG-CHI's Racist History - Report

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Credit: Marvel Studios

Over the weekend, Marvel officially announced Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Marvel's first Chinese lead superhero, who is based on the classic 1970s character. And there seems to be one big change for Shang-Chi's story - his main villain - and potentially his father - will be the Mandarin (the 'real' Mandarin, not the Iron Man 3 imposter) as opposed to his original arch-enemy, Fu Manchu.

Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

In Shang-Chi's original story, his father is Fu Manchu, a Chinese criminal and superspy who, while licensed by Marvel Comics in the 60s and 70s, also served as a foe for Nick Fury and others. However, Fu Manchu, created by British author Sax Rohmer in the 1900s, is depicted as a racist caricature of early 20th century Chinese stereotypes - hardly reflective of the growing inclusivity at Marvel Studios, and certainly offensive.

Even while decades later Marvel retconned Shang Chi's origin, revealing that the licensed character of Fu Manchu was just an alias for an original villain Zheng Zu, Quartzy reports that some Chinese social media users aren't happy that Shang-Chi is coming to the big screen at all. Even the fact that the Mandarin, to be played by veteran Chinese actor Tony Leung, seem to be taking the place of Fu Manchu hasn't satisfied some fans. According to quotes from Chinese social media site Weibo, translated by Quartzy, some Chinese fans fear Shang-Chi will still leave other problematic story elements intact.

“The point here is not whether the Mandarin is exactly Fu Manchu or just his replacement, the point is both characters emerged because of the discrimination and stereotyping of the Chinese population in the previous years," reads one post, translated by Quartzy. "Back in the 1900s us Chinese were too weak to fight back characters like this, but now, we have become strong and have the ability and obligation to say no to such figures."

Credit: Marvel Comics

At this time, it's unclear how the storyline of Shang-Chi will be adapted from its original source material and which story elements will be included. Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin for Marvel Comics in the 1970s in response to the popularity of Bruce Lee, martial arts films and the American television series Kung Fu at the time. 

Somewhat conversely, just last week speculation about the casting of an actors of Chinese ancestry in Shang-Chi reportedly caused a social media sensation in China, with fans enthusiastically suggesting actors for the lead role. As announced Saturday at Comic-Con Shang-Chi will be played by Simu Liu.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is due out in theaters February 12, 2021.

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