After years of amplified calls for equality and equity across racial groups — including increased diversity in media — Marvel Studios has signaled that it’s listening.
The production company released the teaser trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on Monday, unveiling Marvel's first Asian superhero and featuring a nearly all-Asian cast, according to CNN.
The film will follow Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist living in San Francisco who is drawn into a secret organization known as the Ten Rings. The main character will be played by Simu Liu, a Canadian actor of Chinese descent, with supporting roles held by Awkwafina, Tony Leung, and Michelle Yeoh.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton discussed his excitement for leading the production of Marvel’s first Asian superhero film.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a superhero that looked like me and it’s really exciting to give a new generation something I did not have,” Cretton told the Observer. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be the latest film diversifying the company’s superhero films. The 2018 Marvel Studios film Black Panther highlighted a predominantly Black cast and spurred discussions about how the film industry can embrace diversity to address disparities across racial and ethnic groups.
Eternals, which will be released in November 2021, will feature the first gay couple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the upcoming Disney+ series Ms. Marvel will introduce the first Muslim superhero on TV.
Celebrations of Shang-Chi come at a time when people of Asian descent are on high alert. Reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
In the United States, assaults against Asian Americans have led to activists and organizations to call out pervasive racism and encourage discussion about representation in the media.
As part of the film’s development, Cretton acknowledged the importance of reckoning with racist stereotypes found in the Marvel Comics source material for Shang-Chi.
“We are not looking to contribute anymore to the Asian stereotypes that we have seen both in cinema and pop culture,” Cretton said. “We’re hoping to just show some different sides to both Asian Americans and Chinese Americans and Mainland Chinese characters.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will premiere in theaters on Sept. 3, 2021, in the US.