Marvel Accused Of Insulting China As First Asian Superhero Film Was Son Of Fu Manchu

Kung Fu
(Photo: Pixabay)

Chinese public accused Marvel of insulting China by making its first Asian superhero to hit the big screen the son of Fu Manchu, a fictional villain character who becomes a stereotype embodying the "yellow peril."

Chinese-American screenwriter David Callaham, whose works include upcoming sequels Wonder Woman 1984, is working on a script for a movie showcasing Asian superhero Shang-Chi also known as "Master of Kung Fu," created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. His character first appeared in the Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973), and although Shang-Chi might not be known, Marvel is expecting he will break out in a way similar to Black Panther earlier this year.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood realized the importance and desire for Asian identity following box office hit Crazy Rich Asians last summer. Even though Shang-Chi has lacked recognition, he is considered a key player in Marvel Comics. He proved to be popular, particularly for increased distribution of Kung Fu movies in American cinemas. However, his reign was so short, ending in 1983.

Shang-Chi existence came about as Marvel Comics failed to acquire Warner Bros.-owned television show Kung Fu, so they instead bought the rights to Sax Rohmer's fictional villain Dr. Fu Manchu making Shang-Chi his honorable son. Because of this, Shang-Chi's history becomes controversial as Fu Manchu's character reportedly depicts "Yellow Peril" and Asian-centric xenophobia.

Fu Manchu was considered to be the most notorious personification of Western views towards the Chinese. He became the model for other villains in contemporary "yellow peril" thrillers - fictional villains usually characterized xenophobic ideologies to East Asian people during the period of Western Colonialism.

The news sparked controversy and triggered outrage to the Chinese public, in which Marvel was accused of insulting the country due to Shang-Chi's origination. One internet user said they used Fu Manchu to insult China before, and now they are using his son to earn the money of Chinese people.

Another Weibo user said it's really common in American comics that a superhero was the son or daughter of an evil villain, but Fu Manchu already becomes the embodiment of discrimination against the Chinese people and culture. Another user said there are lots of Asian characters Marvel could choose from, but they still chose Fu Manchu, that's why they are being criticized.

The character of Fu Manchu should not be mentioned by Marvel at all, said Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic. Meanwhile, other people expressed understanding, noting some movies are also using villains such as the American president, so why they can't tolerate Chinese villains.

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