Mar­vel’s Fu Manchu char­ac­ter sparks out­rage in China

Global Times - - NATION - By Liu Caiyu Page Ed­i­tor: dengx­i­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

Chi­nese fans and movie crit­ics are of­fended by Mar­vel’s new Asian su­per­hero movie in which the Bruce Lee-looka­like pro­tag­o­nist’s fa­ther traces back to a clas­sic fic­tional vil­lain cre­ated in the first half of 20th cen­tury, which por­trays racism against the Chi­nese peo­ple.

The Mar­vel Cine­matic Uni­verse is launch­ing its firstever Asian su­per­hero-cen­tered movie, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, ac­cord­ing to ComicBook.com on Mon­day. It said Shang-Chi came out of the early 1970s and the stu­dio is de­vel­op­ing Shang-Chi as the son of Dr. Fu Manchu, a char­ac­ter cre­ated by Sax Rohmer which Mar­vel ac­quired.

The archetype of Fu Manchu is a fic­tional vil­lain who looks Chi­nese and set in the early 20th cen­tury. The char­ac­ter rep­re­sents the fear of the West to­ward the Yel­low Peril, a racist metaphor de­scrib­ing the xeno­pho­bic the­ory of colo­nial­ism, Chi­nese film crit­ics said.

Some comic book read­ers said that the plot of the new movie should mod­ern­ize the hero to avoid stereo­types, which por­trays some­one who only knows mar­tial arts but no other skills like other Iron Man pos­sess.

The con­tro­ver­sial char­ac­ter in­sults Chi­nese peo­ple, which would be a huge set­back for Mar­vel in the Chi­nese mar­ket sim­i­lar to the in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Ital­ian de­sign brand Dolce & Gab­bana (D&G), which trig­gered an out­rage on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia over the al­leged racist mes­sage.

Shi Wenxue, a Bei­jing-based film critic, said that “the Fu Manchu char­ac­ter should not be men­tioned by Mar­vel at all.”

The stu­dio has to cut the link of the Asian su­per­hero with his con­tro­ver­sial fa­ther to avoid con­tro­versy, Zhang Peng, a film re­searcher at Nan­jing Univer­sity’s Na­tional Re­search Cen­ter of Cul­tural In­dus­tries, sug­gested when in­ter­viewed with the Global Times.

The hash tag # Mar­vel’s First Asian Su­per­hero Film had been viewed more than 170 mil­lion times as of press time.

The small-eyed, tall and thin Fu Manchu wears a cos­tume from the Qing Dy­nasty (16441911). His most rec­og­niz­able fa­cial fea­tures are his black mous­tache. Fu Manchu has been com­pared to Lord Volde­mort in Harry Porter, but more pop­u­lar. The Fu Manchu char­ac­ter has been fea­tured in 13 movies since 1923.

Daniel Li, a comic fan from China’s Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion, told the Global Times that the US comics, most of whose char­ac­ters were cre­ated be­tween the 1930s and 1960s, al­ways fea­ture the US’ point of view in terms of pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

Us­ing the Bruce Lee-type char­ac­ter shows their re­spect to­ward Chi­nese cul­ture, Shi noted, cit­ing that among all movies, only Chi­nese kung fu films have suc­ceeded abroad and be­come a name card for Chi­nese cul­ture.

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