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China puts Hollywoods China at a disadvantage – Taipei Times

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Since its theatrical debut earlier this month, the new Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has grossed more than $ 307 million worldwide, the highest-grossing opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. after Marvels Black Widow.

The film has also topped box offices in Taiwan and Hong Kong, although it has yet to gain approval for distribution in China, and may even be banned for featuring an insulting character.

Chinese social media users have stated that the character of Xu Wenwu (), played by Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung (), is primarily based on the character of Mandarin () in the Marvels comics, and that Mandarin is based on Fu Manchu, a character from Sax Rohmers 1913 book The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu.

They say Fu Manchu is an expression of the racial stereotype of a yellow peril, which is said to be deeply rooted in Hollywood. Thay also attacks Leung, whose role in the film is that of a cunning Chinese gangster, saying he is willing to sell his integrity to get rid of the epithet of King of Bad Movies.

However, the reason for China’s extremely picky attitude towards the film is arousing curiosity. China has become the world’s largest film market after the United States, and Hollywood can’t afford to ignore it. He reinforces references to Chinese culture in movies to connect with the country’s large audiences, as seen in Doctor Strange, Mulan and more recently Shang-Chi. The trend seems irreversible.

Perhaps the Chinese are so intimidated by the huge success of Hollywood films in their country that they are trying to declare their lineage-based cultural sovereignty. Some even poke fun at the appearance of the main actors and actresses of Asian origin in Hollywood, claiming that their narrow eyes or very pointed eyebrows are a biased Western take on the Asian aesthetic.

Nevertheless, the power to set the agenda of films, as well as other areas of culture, still rests with market mechanisms, and anyone who can satisfy audiences and increase sales by selling items of Chinese culture to the world. can set the agenda.

Chinese filmmakers have probably realized that Hollywood is better at marketing Chinese culture to the world. Take the Chinese fantasy films Monster Hunt () or Legend of the Demon Cat () for example: the gap between them and Shang-Chi is immeasurable.

Lineage-based claims of cultural sovereignty raise another question: who exactly is Shang-Chi’s target audience?

When lead actor Simu Liu (), who plays Xu Shang-Chi (), said that the film was not only aimed at Chinese fans, but also Asian fans around the world, Chinese social media users were furious and threatened to boycott the film.

Oddly enough, the identity problem spread to South Korea, where viewers complained that there was too much Chinese dialogue in the film, accusing Hollywood of currying favor with Chinese viewers. The feeling of having been wronged by South Koreans seems to stem from the belief that their country’s entertainment industry dominates the Asian market.

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho even won the Oscar for Best Director last year, so why weren’t there Korean roles in Shang-Chi?

As people interpret Shang-Chi differently, the film sparked a recognition of postmodern cultural identity and a shift in power in the entertainment world. Such confrontations could be inevitable as the United States and China continue to fight.

Jessica Chou is professor of information management at Yuan Ze University.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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