After more than 20 movies under their belt, it has become clearer than ever that Marvel needs to deal with their daddy issues. Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Spiderman all had daddy issues, and their new poster boy — Shang-Chi — is no different. Captain America had to fight his best friend, Thor had to fight his brother and Shang-Chi took it up a notch and fought his dad.
Everyone is familiar with Bruce Lee, the legend of Chinese Kung Fu whose legacy still echoes through generations and neighborhoods in the United States. However, there is one thing that Asians perfectly understand the moment they are born: never being able to live up to your parents’ expectations.
The phrase, “There is always an Asian better than you,” applies perfectly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the movie, Shang-Chi tries to escape the paved path of killing his father. He attempts to find a new life but is eventually forced to come home and battle his destiny. Similarly, countless Asian young adults are trying to escape their predetermined paths. Some attempt to deviate from the medical route by studying art instead. But eventually, they end up coming back to fight their parents about their future. Despite the eerily parallel symbols throughout the film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” provides an empowering experience for Asian American viewers.
The incredible fight scenes in the movie mirror those from older Chinese films, which strike a perfect balance between agility and power. The production team clearly did deep-dive research into Chinese martial arts, specifically factions, such as Tai-Chi and Shao-Lin style combat. These fight scenes are some of, if not the, best in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the reason “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” feels so close to home is not the fight scenes, but the power granted to Asian Americans to feel empowered.
Asian Americans have always held a particularly special place in society, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, Asian Americans were considered “the model minority,” although their residence in the United States is not always welcomed. Asian Americans often face racist comments such as “go back to where you came from,” microaggressions like being asked where they are from, even though they have lived in the United States their whole life and racist name-calling. Since the pandemic, racism and xenophobia have only progressed as the number of cases of assaults on and murders of women and elderly Asian Americans, in broad daylight rises.
Through all the turmoil, long before the Immigration Act of 1965, Asian Americans have endured and overcome strife silently. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” allows Asian Americans to feel safe and a sense of community for 132 minutes. Shang-Chi’s inability to control his family and destiny resonates perfectly with Asian Americans feeling like they don’t belong to either their Asian heritage or their American identity.
While “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” may not be the movie with the best plot, combining its magnificent fight scenes, camerawork and homage to Asian heritage, it transcends traditional superhero movies and becomes one of the best ever produced.