Episode 47: Asian Cultural Representation Is This Movie’s Superpower (Feat. GCCCEA Youth)

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is officially the biggest movie of the year, earning almost $200 million in U.S. cinemas since its Sept. 3 release, and winning almost universal praise from critics and audiences. The film stars Simu Liu as an unlikely superhero who must confront his past—the father (Tony Leung) who raised Shang-Chi to be an assassin, and the sister (Meng’er Zhang) he had to leave behind. Spoiler alert: Shang-Chi overcomes his childhood trauma and saves the world, with help from a goofy sidekick (Awkwafina), a wise auntie (Michelle Yeoh), and other memorable characters and creatures, not to mention a magical set of rings that can lasso and pummel all enemies into submission, plus, whoever wears them lives forever.

So OK, it’s a great movie, a packed with action and emotion… but how well does it get Asian cultural representation? We invited six pop-culture-savvy teenagers from the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Cultural Exchange Association to give us their take. One more spoiler: These students have some brilliant insights into the language, mythology, music, design, and family dynamics of this martial arts-infused Hollywood blockbuster.

Now playing only in theatres, Shang-Chi is set to stream on Disney+ beginning Nov. 12. Audiences in China, though, are still waiting for a release date, as officials there have cracked down on imported media, and might have a dagger-ax to grind with this movie in particular—but our guest podcasters hope everyone who can see the film, will see it, and be inspired to learn more about the rich and diverse cultures of the Chinese diaspora, so respectfully portrayed on screen.

The podcasters:

  • Lillian Wang, Mason H.S. (host)
  • Vivian Chang, Mason H.S.
  • Julia Zhu, Mason H.A.
  • Ryan Zhang, Sycamore H.S.
  • David Zhang, Sycamore H.S.
  • Howard Weng, Sycamore H.S.

Click here to read a review of the Shang-Chi film by Democracy & Me intern Cierra Britten, in the UC News-Record.

Click here to check out TeenTalk, the new podcast from GCCCEA’s youth program, on Spotify.

Click here for a CityBeat article on Cincinnati’s Moon Festival, an Asian cultural celebration Oct. 2 on Fountain Square. 

Special thanks to Felicity Tao and the GCCCEA for making this episode possible.