How Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’ Could Fight Prejudice



When “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” hits theaters on Friday, it has the potential to do more than just sell tickets at the box office.

The superhero film, Marvel’s first film with a predominantly Asian cast, is based on a character from a 1970s comic book series with undertones of prejudice, screenwriter Dave Callaham said. Reverse last month. During production of the film, Callaham said, the filmmakers compiled a “physical list” of the racist content they “sought to destroy” in their production.

“With [the history of] Asian representation in the media is not just that we have been invisible for a long time. It’s beyond that, ”Callaham said. “We are the targets of damaging jokes and stereotypes. “

“Shang-Chi” is the latest Marvel film designed to address issues of racial stereotypes and injustice, following the success of “Black Panther” in 2018, the highest grossing movie directed by an all-time noir filmmaker. Other blockbuster films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “In the Heights” have had similar effects in recent years, fueling national conversations about race and identity.

Experts say this is a positive development: diversity in media can help people use on-screen characters and stories to challenge their inherent biases and explore their own questions about race and culture. identity in their personal and professional life.

The release of the new Marvel film coincides with a continued rise in reports of anti-Asian incidents in the United States, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against people. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. organization published new data last month, showing that these physical assaults, vandalism and hate incidents online have all increased in 2021, compared to 2020.

An expert, Helen Hsu, a staff psychologist at Stanford University, notes that representation in Hollywood has improved in recent years, but there is still plenty of room to develop. Hsu has been a mental health expert for Netflix and several universities, and has spent much of her 20-year career specializing in addressing anti-Asian discrimination and prejudice. She is also a huge self-described comic book fan.

Here, she explains why Hollywood is vital in shaping America’s perspective on minority communities, and recommends five questions you should ask yourself after watching a movie:

Hollywood’s role in shaping the American psyche

Over the past 10 years, Hsu says, filmmakers and movie studios have shifted significantly towards telling more diverse stories – and, perhaps most notably, away from stories that might be tacitly seen as misogynistic, homophobic or racist.

Some attempts were only partially successful, she notes. “In the Heights” and “Crazy Rich Asians” both featured “miscellaneous” cast, but faced backlash after the release for a lack of representation in the Afro-Latino and Southeast Asian communities, respectively. Disney’s live-action version of “Mulan”, released last year, was praised by viewers for its beauty but criticized for inauthentically representing Chinese culture.

Hsu has yet to see “Shang-Chi”, but says Callaham’s comments indicate “cultural humility” on the part of the filmmakers. This bodes well, she argues: Films made with cultural humility can help audiences meet characters who challenge their prejudices, some of which may have come from decades of misrepresentation in the media.

“For Asians, it’s about seeing themselves as heroes or attractors,” Hsu explains. “And for non-Asian Americans, it’s about relating to that person who in other media or even in life has been seen as that dehumanized other.”

A point of comparison, she says: More and more Americans began to support marriage equality once they realized that some same-sex couples seeking to unite were their friends and neighbors. Likewise, Hsu notes, films play a role in creating pathways to psychologically identify and better understand different communities, as long as audiences are willing to participate.

Entertainment is “ultimately a matter of heart and mind,” says Hsu. “Touching people’s hearts and being relatable is how we overcome the [mind’s] defensiveness and narrowness. “

5 questions to ask yourself after watching a movie

After watching a movie, Hsu recommends thinking about questions such as:

  1. What prejudices do I have that the film challenges?
  2. How did I see these types of characters portrayed in other movies?
  3. Do I relate to a character or cast members?
  4. Can I identify someone from the film in my daily life?
  5. How does this change the way I think or feel?

Like checking blind spots while driving, Hsu explains, identifying an implied or unconscious bias can help you correct it. For example, she says, asking these questions after watching “In The Heights” may make you realize that you’ve mostly seen Latinos onscreen as gangsters or minions. Replacing these types of negative characterizations with new positive associations can affect the way you interact with people in your daily life.

Questions can also help you get past the specific goal of a movie, says Hsu: “Can say I really liked this movie, and of course I realize that most Asians are not insanely rich. . “

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