Representation in films is vital as it helps to break down stereotypes and tell different kinds of stories. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has historically had a problem with representation; for its first decade, white men (often named Chris) were at the center of its movies. Not until Black Panther was released in 2018 did a person of color take top billing. At the time, it made history as the largest-earning superhero movie in the U.S. Now, another inclusive film is shattering records. Asian-led Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings broke the all-time U.S. Labor Day box office record by earning an estimated $75.5 million in North America.
Canadian actor Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, a character he had never heard of prior to taking on the role. In fact, the story was unfamiliar to many involved with the project, which turned out to be an advantage. The creators—including an Asian American director and screenwriter—had freedom in developing Liu’s character, who is a Chinese American hotel valet and “the world’s greatest martial artist” trying to break away from his overbearing father.
They ditched the racist tropes from the 1970s-era comics and sought to make Shang-Chi both relatable and funny (as opposed to funny things happening to him). “We were also very interested in portraying Shang-Chi as romantically viable, as an Asian man,” David Callaham, the screenwriter, explained, “and simultaneously also very cognizant of the opposite stereotype of Asian women, where they’re oversexualized or fetishized.”
While many MCU leads were already movie stars before the launch of the film, Liu had a different path to stardom. He’s known for his work on the CBC television show Kim’s Convenience and on Comedy Central’s Awkwafina is Nora From Queens. Before that, he was a stock footage model. So now that he’s finally “made it,” Liu is enjoying the perks—like posing with Sandra Oh and Michelle Yeoh at the UK Gala screening of Shang-Chi in London.
The precise moment my soul left my body and ascended to the enlightened realm. Angels wept. Doves chirped. John Legend and Michael Buble duetted and their heavenly voices broke the heaven internet. It is truly an honour to know such incredible, strong, badass women. pic.twitter.com/L3m7WIO3fG
“The precise moment my soul left my body and ascended to the enlightened realm,” he wrote of the encounter on Twitter. “Angels wept. Doves chirped. John Legend and Michael Bublé duetted and their heavenly voices broke the heaven internet. It is truly an honor to know such incredible, strong, badass women.”
Currently, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is exclusively in theaters for 45 days. After that time, it will be streaming on Disney+ (at no extra cost).