The Cultural Impact of Marvel´s Shang Chi


Katelyn Ruggles

Shang Chi, the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Universe, has taken theaters by storm, producing record breaking box office numbers, and making the Asian community across the world proud.

Katelyn Ruggles, editor


With the release of Marvel’s new movie, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it is not only one of Marvel’s most successful movies, but it is also monumental for it´s Asian representation throughout the film. Through the soundtrack, writing, fighting, and costume design, Shang Chi is changing what it means to show representation in movies, especially superhero movies since it is the first Asian superhero in the Marvel universe. The movie was highly anticipated, and not only did it not disappoint in the box office, but it also was a huge step forward for the Asian community in the movie industry. 


Being the first Asian superhero Marvel has seen, there were a lot of expectations on how Asian culture would be included within the film. The most popular parts of the movie that people were waiting for were the fight scenes, which were like no other fight scenes Marvel has done before. In the movie, the fight scenes contain the special Chinese Martial Arts fighting method, Kung Fu. While making the film, director Destin Daniel Cretton worked with people who were trained in and understood Kung Fu to make it as authentic as possible. Although the movie did not deep dive into the specifics of Kung Fu, there were still motions and moves that showed the understanding of the fighting technique. 


The rings used in the movie are also an ode to the Kung Fu fighting style, for it is common to see people wearing rings on their forearms while practicing Kung Fu. 

Other weapons that were used in the film also traced back to Chinese roots. Tiger Head Hooks were used as weapons in the movie which correlate to a Chinese weapon that is distinctively known for being used in Kung Fu. With the amount of research and preparation that went into the fighting in Shang Chi, it has some of the best fighting sequences seen in any Marvel film. 


Another culturally important part of the movie was the wardrobe and set. Similar to western culture, there are significant colors in Chinese culture that represent different things which were showcased in the movie. Characters wore green when surrounded by their environment because it represents nature. The main villain in the movie wore black for its representation of evil. While the main character, Shang Chi was training to impress his father with his fighting skills, he wore black because he was training to become an assassin, but at the end of the movie his suit was red which represents happiness, vitality, and fire in Chinese culture, showing his growth as a character. 


One final way Chinese culture was shown in Shang Chi is through the writing of the movie. About half the movie was written in Chinese, which has never been seen before in any Marvel movie. Doing this made it more realistic that the characters in this movie are from a Chinese background and practice Chinese culture. Stereotypical issues were also addressed in the movie, like the stereotype that people of Asian culture are expected to be noble professions like a doctor or engineer. The movie puts a modern twist on the stereotype, having supporting character Katie not pursuing a career like that, and showing the struggle she faces with her family having to accept that. 


Shang Chi will go down as one of Marvel’s most popular, successful, and impactful movies made. This movie was more than just a superhero movie for the Asian community. Anita Tun (11), comments on how ¨Shang Chi is another Asian figure that proves stereotypes wrong and makes the Asian community proud¨.  It brought representation in cinema for them, and will leave a lasting impression on the Marvel industry as well as the cinematic industry when it comes to what it means to show representation in film. 

Shang Chi is another Asian figure that proves stereotypes wrong and makes the Asian community proud

— Anita Tun (11)