Kevin Feige seems hopeful that his whitewashing speech should clear any racial air around Shang-Chi
With much more emphasis being laid on diversity in superhero movies, Marvel Studios has had to make a lot of policy changes in recent times. MCU Phase 4 kicked off with WandaVision, which aired for 6 episodes on the Disney+ streaming service, and was followed by Falcon and The Winter Soldier. The positive reviews both shows received has increased public anticipation for the rest of Marvel Phase 4 titles. And the studio has leveraged the hype to expand its fanbase.
However, the MCU’s story with Asian audiences is one of tough love. Back in 2016, when Marvel cast the Ancient One as a Celtic woman rather than the typical old, wizened Asian wizard from the comics, they argued that they did it to avoid falling into racial stereotypes.
The Ancient One Miss-step
Unfortunately, that decision turned out to be a pretty bad decision. Marvel faced serious criticism on social media. Especially from Asian audiences who felt there were other ways to avoid racial stereotypes and still have an Asian play the role. Tilda Swinton, a British actress played the role of The Ancient One in 2016’s Doctor Strange. Despite her stellar performance, it didn’t satisfy fans who were hoping to finally get a famous Asian character on the MCU stage.
The director of the movie, Scott Derrickson had defended his decision to change the Ancient One’s origin, stating that the current Ancient One was specifically written for Swinton and would continue to be of Celtic origin. Marvel CEO, Kevin Feige also approved of the change when he spoke to Entertainment Weekly in December 2016. He said,
“I think if you look at some of the early incarnations of the Ancient One in the comics, they are what we would consider today to be quite, sort of, stereotypical. They don’t hold up to what would work today.”
The Corrective Measures
These reasons didn’t hold much water back then and 5 years later, it seems Marvel’s management is ready to correct its folly. Marvel President, Kevin Feige acknowledged the mistake in recasting the Ancient One while promoting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Watch: Marvel’s Kevin Feige Talks Diversity In MCU Phase 4 & Beyond
Speaking at a promotion event organized with Men’s Health to promote the first Asian lead MCU movie, Feige said, “We thought we were being so smart, and so cutting-edge. We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call.” Learning from the backlash the studio course-corrected Feige explained “Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings features a whole lot of Asian creatives on and off-screen and will definitely lead to better navigation around subjects bordering racial stereotypes. Kevin Feige will be hopeful that his speech will have generated enough hype for Shang-Chi. The trailer already didn’t sit well with the Chinese audience.
Simu Liu starrer is set to introduce the real Mandarin, who will also serve as the main antagonist. Veteran Chinese actor, Tony Leung is set to play the role of the Mandarin. However, to avoid racial stereotypes that were evident in the comics, the Mandarin’s origin story has been changed.