From Fu Manchu to 'Shang-Chi': The Unfortunate History of 'Yellow Peril' Villains

There’s a reason why the MCU took so long to introduce the "real" Mandarin -- and to understand why, you have to go back to 1913.
From Fu Manchu to 'Shang-Chi': The Unfortunate History of 'Yellow Peril' Villains

For over a century, Hollywood has been fascinated by the so-called "Yellow Peril," a catch-all term for the xenophobic fear of East Asian people and culture. This fear has manifested in countless ways, from the 19th-century "Chinaman" villain Fu Manchu to the more recent "Shang-Chi" comics. In many ways, these villains are a reflection of the deep-seated anxieties and prejudices of Western society. At the same time, however, they also serve as a powerful reminder of the racist history of Hollywood. By understanding the origins of these characters, we can begin to understand the ways in which Hollywood has perpetuated racist stereotypes. Only by recognizing these problems can we hope to create a more inclusive and diverse industry.

Representation matters. Just look at how mad some fans got when the Mandarin wasn't represented as an actual villain in Iron Man 3. But we should also consider that Mandarin has a history that began long before it was created in the 1960s -- a history that is, to put it in one word, yikes. And if instead of one word, we used 15 facts, it could be these.

BUT... THAT'S NOT THE REAL MANDARIN! Iron Man 3 irked many fans when the Mandarin turned out to be some guy named Trevor Slattery. The fake Mandarin, however, was a nice illustration of the archetype's origin -a stereotype-laden caricature, created by white people to leverage fear for personal gain.

Source: IGN

FU MANCHU WAS A MARVEL CHARACTER FOR SOME TIME. Marvel did more than come up with their own knock-off Fu Manchu - in the 1970s, they licensed the original character. Fu Manchu was made the father of the newly-created Shang-Chi, to give the new comic some star power.

Source: CNN

Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril IRON-MAN 3 STARTED A RE-EXAMINATION. By the 21 st century, Fu Manchu-type villains were long past their expiration date, as director Shane Black publicly acknowledged even before the movie came out. So when the Mandarin did appear, he was in-universe what he had always been in real life - a caricature.

Source: CBR

ALSO, SHANG CHI FINALLY MADE FU MANCHU ACTUALLY ASIAN. As Xu Wenwu is partly an updated, humanized version of Fu Manchu, this would make Tony Leung the first Chinese actor to play this notorious Chinese character. Ever. After an entire century.


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