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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - Like a lot of Asian actors, Simu Liu has played the nameless guy who can do martial arts but inevitably loses out to a more skilled white guy. It was one of his very first stunt jobs.
"Yeah, I took my paycheck and I went home. I didn't really complain about it," said the Chinese-Canadian actor. "But then, you look at the bigger picture and you look at the opportunities that are available to Asian performers. You see that yeah, past a certain point, there really isn't that deeper representation."
Now, it's Liu's time to take out baddies and be No. 1 on the call sheet. He is taking on the titular role in Marvel Studios' first Asian-led superhero flick, "Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings." The highly anticipated movie, which opens Friday, has all the bells and whistles of a Marvel tentpole — huge fight sequences, dizzying stunts and sweeping locales. While Shang-Chi can high-fly kick and punch any opponent, is the "master of kung fu" powerful enough to make Hollywood finally bury tired story tropes and support projects by actors and filmmakers of Asian descent?
The movie, directed and written by Asian Americans, centers on trained assassin Shang-Chi trying to live an ordinary life in San Francisco. Awkwafina and comedian Ronny Chieng also star. The original comic book was inspired by the popular '70s kung fu films. It pays homage to those but also strives to bring humanity outside of the action. Liu, known for the sitcom "Kim's Convenience," won the role for his acting chops, not karate chops.
"It's his comedy. It's his ability to show simultaneous strength and vulnerability," said director Destin Daniel Cretton. "It's his humanity that breaks stereotypes."
The martial arts movie genre has been a double-edged sword for Asian Americans for decades. Bruce Lee, who was born in San Francisco, is credited with bringing Hong Kong kung fu films to non-Asian audiences because of his jaw-dropping martial arts prowess. But for many Asian American males, it's still an unfortunate rite of passage to be mockingly called Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or asked about knowing karate.
This image released by Marvel Studios shows Meng'er Zhang, Simu Liu, and Awkwafina in a scene from "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" Image source: voavoa
"When I moved over to California from Hawaii, it was the first time that just a random person in a bar just, you know, lightly and jokingly called me Bruce Lee," Cretton said. "I love Bruce Lee. He is awesome. The only problem is that's all we had."
In fact, a national survey commissioned by nonprofit Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change in the spring found 42% of 2,766 adults polled could not name a current famous Asian American. The next two most popular responses? Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
Phil Yu, who comments on Asian American pop culture on his longtime "Angry Asian Man" blog, also co-hosts a podcast, "They Call Us Bruce." Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan themselves were never the problem, he said. It was the way Hollywood ran with the formula.
"It does feel like martial arts, the concept as it's been distorted through a Western lens, is used to pigeonhole us, to make us feel smaller and to mock us," Yu said. In "Shang-Chi," "when you have a movie that is nearly all Asian ... or almost every face is Asian, you have room for everyone to serve a different narrative purpose."
Another cliche narrative that persists is the mystical Asian mentor who trains a white protagonist in martial arts. The white pupil then gets to be the savior back home in the U.S. It's a story that Marvel drew backlash for when, in 2017, they cast a white lead in their "Iron Fist" Netflix series.
The "Shang-Chi" team assures that their foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is something that speaks to the Asian American experience. The high-octane adventure is ultimately a family drama about a young Asian immigrant who shuns his father's wishes to live his own life in America. Dave Callaham, a co-writer, found himself getting emotional over the screenplay.
This image released by Marvel Studios shows Simu Liu in a scene from "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" Image source: voavoa
"I've been writing professionally for 19 years. It's the first time I've ever been asked to write from my own perspective," Callaham said. "Every other movie I've ever written it's 'Step one: Imagine you're a beautiful man named Chris' — a white man usually."
Shang-Chi" is the latest in a cluster of martial arts-theme productions with Asian actors front and center. "Snake Eyes," with "Crazy Rich Asians" star Henry Golding and based on the "G.I. Joe" character, opened in July. That movie also starred Andrew Koji, who is the lead in the HBO Max series "Warrior." The historical drama, which has been renewed for a third season, was inspired by a pitch Bruce Lee wrote. Then there's the recently renewed CW Network's "Kung Fu," a remake of the 1970s show where the white David Carradine played a Shaolin monk.
Olivia Liang, star of the new "Kung Fu," said it feels like Asians are reclaiming something.
"We get to have fully fleshed out characters who also kick (butt) and do martial arts. ... That's the biggest difference that I feel right now," said Liang, at last month's "Shang-Chi" premiere. Entertainment "shapes our world view. For us having been so under-represented for so long, people who don't see a lot of Asians in the community forget we are part of the fabric of their world."
"Angry Asian Man" blogger Yu is glad to see these more progressive adaptations but is ready to see Asian talent move beyond this arena.
"We're still playing in this box of Asians as martial arts heroes," Yu said. "There's nothing inherently wrong with that. But that box should be wider. Look at all these things that are Asian-led stories that have come out in the last couple of years."
"Shang-Chi" comes at a time when Asian Americans are looking for escapism but also to feel more visible. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians and Asian Americans have been targets of race-based verbal and physical assault because the virus was first reported in China. All the actors in "Shang-Chi" have used their platform to speak out or donate money.
From left, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Simu Liu, and Fala Chen arrive at the screening of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" at Regal Union Square, Aug. 30, 2021, in New York Image source: voavoa
Like rom-com "Crazy Rich Asians" three years ago, "Shang-Chi" has more pressure than most of its fellow MCU movies. It's that pressure that somehow the future of Asian-led projects is tied to box office success.
"We're always seen as the 'other,'" said Jodi Long, who plays Mrs. Chen in the movie. "I just don't think we're considered sometimes. I think this movie hopefully will change that because it's our first Asian superhero. We have a lot of heroes in our Asian American community." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Marvel, Asia, America, Filmography, Kung fu
High drama was witnessed in Kanpur Dehat for over an hour when a man, upset over his wife's alleged affair with a local man, climbed the tower with his children and threatened to commit suicide. The incident took place on Monday near Gandhi Nagar in Akbarpur, when the man threatened to commit suicide after throwing his kids down from a height of nearly 40-feet. Chaos prevailed around the area and the locals informed the police that rushed to the spot.
After about half-an-hour of convincing, the police managed to bring him and his children down. The man told the police that his wife's affair was going on with his neighbor. He had complained to the police, but no action was taken. Police said that as per the man, his wife had developed an illicit relationship with a man, living nearby their house. "As per the man, in his absence, his neighbor visited his house often. He said that he had reprimanded his neighbor many times, but to no avail," said the police.
The man had complained to the police, but no action was taken. | Pixabay
The man had also lodged a complaint with the police but no action was taken. On the other hand, Akbarpur police said that on the basis of the complaint, action for breach of peace has been taken against the neighbor accused of luring his wife. Circle officer (CO) Akbarpur Arun Kumar said that the police are trying to sort out the issue. "Whatever action is appropriate will be taken," the official added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, man, wife, alleged, affair, children, India, police, neighbor, complaint, suicide, accuse, drama.)
The US forces continued their bombardment of buildings and institutions in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, as part of their alleged manhunt of Islamic State (IS) fugitives, state news agency SANA reported. The US forces are shelling buildings and public institutions on Tuesday in the vicinity of the Sina'a prison in the Gweiran neighborhood in Hasakah "on the pretext of hunting down IS militants who fled the prison," said SANA.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. | Wikimedia Commons
The shelling came in tandem with waves of raids by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to homes in the surrounding areas, rounding up many civilians and taking them to unknown locations, the state news agency added. On January 20, IS inmates inside the Sina'a prison, which is controlled by the SDF, started a riot that was coordinated with IS militants from outside, who detonated the prison's gates with two booby-trapped vehicles, succeeding to free some prisoners.
The incident triggered clashes between IS and the SDF as well as US airstrikes on the areas, where the IS fugitives could have sought shelter in, Xinhua news agency reported. The clashes and airstrikes are still ongoing as the SDF has so far failed to contain the situation and storm the prison. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. Hasakah province is largely controlled by the US-backed SDF, while certain areas, particularly in the city of Qamishli, are still under the control of the Syrian government. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: US forces, shelling, bombarding, syria, islamic state, civilian casualties, qamishli, tandem, syrian democratic forces)
The circulating avian influenza outbreaks, including in India, do not seem to pose the 'high' risk but surveillance and biosecurity measures are necessary to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds, a UN-backed scientific task force said. Throughout the past autumn and current winter in the northern hemisphere, multiple avian influenza outbreaks, caused predominantly by the H5N1 HPAI virus, plus other subtypes, including H5N8, have occurred in India, the UK, the Netherlands and Israel with the ever recorded mortality of the Svalbard barnacle geese in Solway Coast.
The Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, co-convened by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on Monday recommended that surveillance and biosecurity measures are reinforced to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds. The Task Force has convened and produced recommendations and guidance for authorities and managers of countries affected or at risk. Wild birds, including globally threatened species, are victims of HPAI viruses causing avian influenza. Affected sites also include areas of international relevance for conservation such as protected wetlands.
More than 2,400 migratory water birds died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal last year because of avian influenza. | Unsplash
It is essential that authorities with responsibility for animal health apply the One Health approach for communicating and addressing avian influenza. That means recognising the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment and acting with a coordinated and unified approach. The Task Force reminds authorities of their international obligations to ensure their response to the pathogenic virus does not include the culling of wild birds, nor actions that would cause damage to natural ecosystems, especially wetlands.
Ruth Cromie, who coordinated the work of the Task Force and the production of the statement, said: "Avian influenza represents a One Health issue threatening health across the board. The highly pathogenic viruses are still relatively new in wild birds and this winter's high levels of mortality remind us of their vulnerability and that working to promote healthy wildlife benefits us all." H5N1 is currently the avian influenza lineage most found in Africa and Eurasia in both poultry and wild birds. The wide range of wild birds affected include wildfowl, waders, gulls, cranes, grebes, herons, pelicans, gamebirds, corvids and raptors (diurnal and nocturnal), in addition to sporadic cases in mammals such as red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and harbor Phoca vitulina and grey seal Halichoerus grypus.
Consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations. | Unsplash
In terms of human health, the currently circulating H5N1 HPAI viruses do not seem to pose the same zoonotic risk as the 'original' Asian lineage H5N1 (clade 2.2 and their derivatives plus clade 22.214.171.124b H5N6 viruses currently in China). In general, the risk can be considered low, recognising that some agencies now consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations, as low or moderate. In India, several instances of bird flu were reported in 2021. More than 2,400 migratory water birds, and almost half of them being endangered bar-headed goose, died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal Pradesh last year and that avian influenza (H5N1) was the cause.
Besides the bar-headed goose, the other species that died were the shoveler, the river tern, the pochard and the common teal. An 11-year-old boy died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi last year due to avian influenza, country's first fatality. India reported the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. RSPB Scotland is calling for an emergency local moratorium restricting shooting on the Solway for the rest of the wildfowling season. It calls for urgent action to reduce the devastating impacts of avian influenza. New statistics from the most recent counts show that the UK is this winter experiencing the worst outbreak of this deadly disease on record, with migratory geese which 'over winter' on the Solway being the hardest hit.
According to RSPB Scotland, the latest population counts of the Svalbard barnacle goose show a drop in numbers from 43,703 in November last year to 27,133 in this month's count. This represents a decline of 38 per cent in the Svalbard breeding population of this species from winter 2020-21. CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: "Through late 2021 and early 2022 there have been numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, with severe impacts on migratory birds. "The CMS Secretariat responded by convening the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds together with the FAO. We are pleased to share its advice and key recommendations for countries affected or at risk, and look forward to continuing our collaborative work to minimize risks to humans, poultry and wild populations of migratory birds." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : avian, influenza, surveillance, United Nation, scientists, breeding, population, birds, affected, countries, poultry, migratory, health, issue, virus, responsibility, international, ecosystem.)