Illustration by Casper Pierce

Marvel makes strides toward representation

When “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” premiered on Sept. 3, the media was in disarray about Marvel’s intentions. Was the studio’s recent promotion of female characters and characters of color just an attempt to market to the younger generation, or was it an honest effort at inclusion and diversity? 

After watching this movie, it seems Marvel is genuinely trying to have more movies portray diversity. This movie adds to Marvel’s inclusive superheroes in their lineup. With “Black Panther” from 2018, “Captain Marvel” from 2019 and “Eternals” set to come out on Nov. 5, Marvel has brought in quite the diverse cast of heroes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a short amount of time. 

In the past, Marvel has used tokenism in movies like “The Avengers” with Black Widow being the only female of the group and James Rhodes being typecast as Iron Man’s  Black best friend in the first “Iron Man.” These characters are written as if the Marvel writers’ room had to fill a diversity quota and simply spun a wheel of stereotypical characters. 

As this issue has become more prevalent in the mainstream media, and not just superhero movies, Marvel has slowly turned in the right direction. They are not only releasing movies with more diverse casts, but with diverse writers and directors. By employing more women and people of color on the crew, it makes movies like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Black Widow” feel more genuine and well-rounded.

The film was able to move past stereotyping Asians as quiet and smart: All of the characters were fleshed out and exciting. However, it fell into some bigger stereotypes relating to Chinese culture. Shang’s sister, Xialing, is overlooked by her father due to his traditionalist values, implying Chinese culture is inherently sexist. Xialing is clearly a very powerful and skilled fighter, yet she is used very sparingly throughout the movie. 

When it came to audience reactions, “Shang-Chi”  was a mixed bag. Most were enthusiastic about the new representation while others were more critical about the portrayal of Chinese culture in the movie.

Online, Chinese Americans have voiced their opinions. 

Walter Chaw from the Washington Post claims the movie is presenting “the same old tropes but slightly updated” and the representation is simply not enough. 

Michael Shi, a student who studies martial arts at the University of Florida, thinks the accurate portrayal of martial arts and “the proper techniques (were) really inspiring for me.” 

Many view this movie as a step towards inclusivity in the media and not as the end product. 

This act of inclusion already sets the tone for      Marvel’s future projects. The upcoming “Eternals” is being directed by Chloé Zhao, the first Asian American woman to win an Oscar for her movie “Nomadland.” Hype is already building around how she will present the characters and how her directing style will translate into a Marvel movie. 

The new representation Marvel is bringing to superhero movies is great. Nevertheless, it is still important to critique what they put out and look at what they lack in terms of diversity. Not only does the cast matter, the story, writers and crew members do as well. 

As Marvel continues to create more diverse stories, they not only need to focus on breaking stereotypes and inclusion within their cast, but must also continue to have people of color in the writers room and crew. 

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