Marvel's Fu Manchu character sparks outrage in China

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/5 23:36:22

Local residents in Hong Kong walk past graffiti depicting the late martial arts icon Bruce Lee. Photo: AFP

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 first-ever Asian superhero-centered movie, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, according to 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 been 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, told the Global Times.

The hash tag # Marvel's First Asian Superhero Film had been viewed more than 170 million times as of press time and received 40,000 comments. 

The small-eyed, tall and thin Fu Manchu wears a costume from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). 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.

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