I’m a fan of Marvel movies. I’m also Chinese and pro-Chinese so it was with some excitement that I looked forward to the upcoming marvel movie Shang Chi and Legend of Ten Rings. I was also skeptical and it seems like those fears have been confirmed by the release of the Shang Chi trailer.
Yet Another “America the Good Guys” Trope
From the trailer, it looks like the lead hero Shang Chi was raised in a Chinese environment, and then spent some time in America. During this time, he “learns the western ways” and rebels against his family and his origins.
This plays into the stereotype in media of foreigners “discovering” the freedoms and joys of America and become enlightened. Shang Chi’s upbringing is shown as dreary even cruel by strict Chinese parents who beat on him. Meanwhile his time in America is shown as partying and making friends, leading to his adamant refusal to follow his parents. In fact, his refusal of “That’s not going to happen” is like the ONLY line Shang Chi actually says in that trailer.
So how is this a bad thing? There’s a stereotype of this everywhere in media, and it’s being reinforced via this film. China? Oh they have no freedoms and are brainwashed by government, they’re ignorant of the real world. Libya? Oh they need to be liberated (with airstrikes blowing up their country) because the people there don’t know the joys of American style politics! Saudi Arabia? Oh they’re so harsh on women they don’t even allow women to drive. And on it goes. In this film, it looks to be portraying Chinese (and by extension) Asian familial units as oppressive (and hence the contrast in the trailer between his Chinese childhood and his American awakening), their ways as evil (hence the trailer showing his rebellion and literal fight against his family and fellow Chinese), and America as great (hence the trailer showing his defending everyday Americans from the evils of the Chinese). This is simply racist.
Propaganda film for United States of America (TM)
There have been countless movies with this trope where a foreigner, usually Russian or Asian, experiences a taste of America, discovers the USA is the “good guys”, and then switches sides. Let’s count off a few:
- Salt (2010) – Russian spy, falls in love with American man, switches sides. Betrays her country and kills off her classmates, for America.
- Red Sparrow (2018) – beautiful Russian spy, falls in love with an American spy, switches sides. Betrays her country and kills off her own uncle for America.
- Anna (2019) – beautiful Russian spy, falls in love with an American spy, switches sides. Betrays her country and kills off a bunch of her former coworkers for America.
And those are just ones that I can recall off the top of my head of movies I’ve personally seen. There are dozens of others. Starting to see a pattern here? And yet I cannot recall ONE movie where it was “beautiful American spy, falls in love with Chinese spy, switches sides. Betrays her country and kills her own family, for China”.
Now we have Shang Chi, which from the trailer, betrays his family (and likely some country references to China), for his new “friends” in America. It seems Hollywood views China as the new enemy in the American trope of “betray Russia for your new and better country”.
Casting Chinese People as Evil Foreigners
The trailer also portrays Chinese people as traditional, old fashioned, and evil. China isn’t full of monasteries in the mountains and strict parents who beat on their kids. They have something called electricity for lighting, not the candle lit rooms they showed in the trailer. They have advanced tanks and an actual army, not a bunch of Chinese people riding in on horses with spears to go to war.
I wish Shang Chi was a better film. I want to get excited for it. But alas the toxicity of its racist portrayal of Chinese people means I definitely won’t be watching this in theaters. Maybe a free download from a site somewhere in protest.