According to the Los Angeles Times, there’ve been over 9,000 anti-Asian American incidents and hate crimes reported during the COVID-19 pandemic alone. This is incredibly unacceptable and something must be done about it. This is a scary time for Asian Americans, including myself, and other ethnicities or races as well. My whole life I’ve never been overly proud to be Asian American (refer to this article), however, that is changing with the growing Asian representation I’ve been seeing over the past few years. Although, Asian representation in the media may not help decrease all anti-Asian hate situations, it will allow us to build a stronger community with voices that will be heard and could make a difference. A few names that really helped advocate for the Asian American community during the height of the anti-Asian hate crimes were Daniel Dae Kim, Lana Condor, Eric Name, Sandra Oh, and Gemma Chan.
Growing up in a predominately Caucasian city led me to have little Asian representation in my life and I never saw kids that looked like me. Thinking back to my childhood, I can only remember a handful of “Asian”-based characters on television. I remember Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat, Avatar the Last Airbender, London Tipton from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Mulan, and American Dragon: Jake Long. Some of these shows and characters were only referencing Asian cultures and many didn’t even authentically reflect that culture or community members. I felt like that needed to change. How can we say “representation matters,” but then never see ourselves being represented in everyday life or in media?
As pop culture is growing, more Asian American characters are being seen, but they are never the main character. That changed on September 3rd, 2021, when Marvel released its own movie starring the first Asian American superhero – “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Shang-Chi not only represented Asian American culture well, but broke many stereotypes. But most importantly, he made our community proud to be Asian American. Not only was this movie starring an Asian American lead but it also had a predominantly Asian cast along with creative team members (also the director is from Hawaiʻi!). After listening to many interviews with the star, Simu Liu, he expressed how bad he would’ve wanted to see someone like him on the big screen as a kid, but now Asian American kids (and adults like me) have that role model they can look up to. We, as Asian Americans, are now able to proudly look at the big screen and see Asian faces that have overcome similar racial hardships and hurdles.
This movie was deemed an “experiment” by Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, since there was nothing like it before and it was a mainly Asian cast. However, Simu Liu stated,
We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise.– Simu Liu, Twitter
Not only is Simu a great fit for this role, but so are the rest of the cast members. The cast worked together to defeat the villain while showcasing resilience and family, strong values within Asian communities. The impact this cast had on the viewers is immense and now we have our own superhero. Now with the movie having $258 million dollars in box office sales (and growing), I hope American pop culture and media is on their way to actually accepting and incorporating ethnically diverse actors and actresses while portraying these cultures correctly. All in all, this movie was a groundbreaking experience the world needed to see.