Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has far exceeded box office expectations around the world, but the blockbuster superhero film may never see the light of day in one of the biggest film markets — China.
Given the movie features Marvel’s first-ever Asian superhero lead, this turn of events is incredibly disappointing, but the future is not looking bright after social media users in the country have dug up content that features star Simu Liu, which they deem to be insulting to China. Now, Liu himself is at risk of being banned from the communist country.
What makes the situation more disheartening is that many Chinese audience members who have been able to see the film have returned mostly positive reviews on the way the film respectfully approaches Chinese culture, more so than other Western films of recent years.
One viewer said, “I didn’t see any insulting of China — I saw kissing up to China”, while another offered the opinion that “Shang-Chi’s take on Chinese elements is so much better than that of Mulan. Although the Chinese accents of the American-born Chinese and Hong Kong stars was a bit hard to get through, they were done with sincerity.”
One of the things that have seen many potential Chinese viewers want to boycott the film, was a past interview in which Liu, who is Canadian born, spoke of his family’s immigrant background.
The video, which was made for Canada’s 150th anniversary, features Liu saying, “When I was young, my parents would tell me these stories about growing up in Communist China where you had people dying of starvation. They lived in the third world. They thought of Canada as this pipe dream, as this place where they could go to be free and to create a better life for their kid.”
The comments are seen as slander by many and have further put Liu, and all of his future projects, being banned in the country.
For his part, Liu has been a staunch advocate for the Asian community, particularly in the wake of an increase in hate crimes the community has faced as a result of the pandemic.
“I’ve heard the classic ‘go back to China’ more times than I can count,” the 32-year-old Kim’s Convenience star told Variety. “The truth is that Asian people have been targeted and discriminated against for far, far longer than COVID has been around. These recent attacks, fuelled by racist rhetoric in the wake of the coronavirus, are yet another reminder that we are only seen as the foreigners, the unwelcome presence…the other.”
The actor also made headlines for speaking up about his experience on the set of the now-cancelled Kim’s Convenience, which he criticised for not giving a better platform to its Asian performers.
“Our producers were overwhelmingly white, and we were a cast of Asian Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers,” Liu wrote in a Facebook post. “I can appreciate that the show is still a hit and is enjoyed by many people… but I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve.”