This past weekend saw the release of the newest contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Like other films in the MCU, Shang-Chi serves as an origin story for the titular character. The film, currently the number one movie in the world based on box-office sales, is the first film in the heralded Marvel franchise to feature an Asian character in the central role. There will be no spoilers or reviews of the film provided here, but we want to encourage folks to look deeper into the significance of this film in terms of representation and the embedded messages.

Three years ago, when the film “Crazy Rich Asians” was released, it was celebrated as the first film from a major Hollywood studio with a majority Asian cast since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.” The “Crazy Rich Asians” film, while culturally significant and hugely profitable (grossing more than $200 million worldwide), was also problematic in a number of ways. There were concerns about casting choices, assimilation narratives and the perpetuation of Asian stereotypes. 

In the time since the release of that film, we have seen a substantial uptick in anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in the US. The organization Stop AAPI Hate has documented more than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents in the last 15 months. These incidents include verbal harassment, shunning, as well as physical assault. Members of the Whitman community have also experienced harassment in Walla Walla, reporting incidents where they were confident they were targeted based on anti-Asian hate.

Earlier this year, following a tragic mass shooting in Atlanta, Daniel Dae Kim addressed Congress at a hearing about anti-Asian hate in the United States. In addition to advocating for the passage of important legislation related to hate crimes, the actor also explicitly challenged narratives that Asian Americans are statistically insignificant and critiqued other common stereotypes that contribute to Asian marginalization and exclusion. As we consume and embrace content like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Minari,” “The Chair” and “Shang-Chi,” we also want to remember the wisdom of activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, who teaches us that “you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.”

The global organization Hollaback!, which trains people to respond to, intervene in and heal from harassment, offers free online training to stop anti-Asian and xenophobic harassment. Visit their website for more information.