Asian Boss, a YouTube channel with 1.7 million subscribers, uploaded a video August 8 titled, “Is The Asian Lead For Marvel ‘Too Ugly For Chinese People?” According to the video’s description, “There have [sic] been some controversy surrounding the casting choice of the lead, Simu Liu, who some say is ‘ugly’ according to Chinese social media. But is this true? We hit the streets of Beijing to find out.”
The video’s host, identified only as “Tony,” says Liu and co-star Awkwafina are “considered ‘very ugly’ according to local Chinese social media,” before approaching male and female interviewees with photos of Liu.
“He looks like a typical ABJ,” says one woman. “American-born Japanese. Or is he Korean? He’s not bad. He’s quite handsome.”
Another woman asked to rate the Chinese-Canadian actor says she would “give him a 6,” explaining, “He’s just about average. I don’t think he’s considered handsome by Chinese standards.”
Asked if Liu’s casting as a Marvel lead is “surprising,” one woman admits, “Quite a bit. I feel... a bit disappointed. Because there are more handsome men in China, who are aged between 30-40.”
“Chinese and Americans have different ideals of what Chinese men should look like. For example, if this were a Chinese superhero movie, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the role,” says another interviewee. “But he got cast in Hollywood, so his looks must fit the Americans’ view on what Chinese men should look like. It’s probably because he has single eyelids and because he has a flat nose.”
Yet another woman says Liu “looks alright to foreigners. But Chinese people these days prefer men with a delicate face.”
Chinese actors Eddie Peng, Vincent Zhao and Wu Jing are suggested as alternatives.
“[Jing] definitely has more fans than Simu,” says one woman. “The filmmakers knew this, but they didn’t care. When you look at other Marvel characters, they’re all good looking. But when they cast Simu, they didn’t consider our opinions. They didn’t listen to what Chinese people thought about it.”
Liu, who was announced as Shang-Chi by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige at San Diego Comic-Con in July, used the video as a “teachable moment.”
“I’ve had people question me my entire life. A lot of teachers thought I’d never amount to anything, a lot of producers, directors, writers AND costars have questioned my acting ability, and I’ve been rejected from countless conservatories, grants, programs, etc. I’ve been second-guessed at every single possible step of my career,” Liu wrote in a Facebook post published Friday.
“The reason why I’m still standing is because I’m singularly focused, I have the utmost belief in my abilities and I refuse to let the opinions of others define me. In your careers, in your lives, no matter where you go, you will always encounter voices of doubt. Some will come from people who are frighteningly close to you. Are you going to let those voices own you?”
He continued, “That isn’t to say you can’t have bad days, and that you shouldn’t use your support systems and talk about how you feel like I’m doing right now. I’ve never been called ugly so many times in my entire life! For me, it’s never been about trying to shut the voices out - it’s a fruitless effort (especially if people happen to be making Youtube videos about it lol). Rather, it’s about learning to let the voices exist and be OKAY with it. I’m still doing my thing, and I’m still over the moon happy I get this amazing opportunity.”
“I’m not going a few voices of doubt ruin that for me, and neither should you, in whatever you are pursuing in your life,” Liu concluded, adding, “I also seriously question the integrity of the channel that puts this up LOL.”2comments
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung as The Mandarin, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens February 12, 2021.
(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)