10 Reasons to See The Legend of 10 Rings: How Marvel’s Shang-Chi Confronts Stereotypes and Takes Groundbreaking Steps

Rosa Newshore, Contributing Writer

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) newest addition is finally here. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made its debut on September 3rd, 2021. The hype for this movie is real as it made a “heroic showing” at the box office, “smashing” the records for past Labor Day Weekend debuts and earning $75.5 million in its first three days in theaters, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Based on the original Marvel comics, Shang-Chi follows a young man, who calls himself Shaun and lives in San Francisco, California, when one day, he and his friend Katy are attacked and he defends them with incredible martial arts skills. Shaun reveals that he is a martial arts master in hiding from his father, an old and powerful warlord named Wenwu, who uncovered his location, so he and Katy join forces with his half-sister Xialing to find out what his father wants. 

According to Marvel, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings together a younger cast, including Simu Liu (Shang-Chi) and Awkwafina (Katy), with “cinematic legends” like Michelle Yeoh (Jiang Nan) and Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery) to create a majority Asian cast. It is only the fourth movie since 1993 produced by a Hollywood studio to do so and the first movie in the MCU with an Asian lead. According to the Washington Post, this element has led to conversations about whether the movie can be compared to Marvel’s Black Panther in terms of cultural significance. However, Shang-Chi’s roots in Marvel’s comic books are complex and rife with issues, and the movie has a lot to overcome. 

For one, in the original comics published in the early 1900s, Shang-Chi’s father was Fu Manchu, a magician who sought to conquer the Earth, according to the Washington Post. Fu Manchu was a collection of many stereotypes stemming from the fear in Western civilizations, like the United States at the time, of being threatened by East Asian countries. This fear, known as “yellow peril,” culminated in things such as offensive propaganda and legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) that prevented Chinese workers from coming to the United States for fear that they would “steal jobs” from American workers. In an attempt to remedy this, the creators of Shang-Chi cut the character entirely, creating Wenwu instead to take the persona of Shang-Chi’s father. 

Shang-Chi also grapples with the stereotype of Asian and Asian-American people always being portrayed in American media as masters of martial arts. Shang-Chi himself is an expert martial artist. But in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Simu Liu reflects on how he found a balance with the tension of that stereotype and shares his hopes this film will be an opportunity for Asian-American men to redefine the idea of masculinity that this stereotype has shaped and make it more healthy and inclusive. The movie, with its mostly Asian cast and creators, also hopes to reclaim this story from these stereotypes and use it to fight for representation. 

Although Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings bears a problematic history, the movie has turned a new page with its reclamation of the story and significant representation within the cast. According to CNN, Asian-Americans have rallied in support to ensure the success of Shang-Chi, as many people, including Simu Liu, see it as an important step for AAPI representation. According to the Washington Post, this movie and its success are a testament to how Asian-Americans are starting to claim more space in Hollywood, opening doors and creating new opportunities that were previously unavailable. While Shang-Chi has its flaws, it is set not just to be a fantastic movie but a groundbreaking achievement as well.