Marvel’s Chinese superhero has the same name as a car company in China
A Chinese superhero might helm Marvel’s next movie franchise. But people in China think he has a funny name.
According to Deadline, the plot will center around Shang-Chi, a Chinese-born kung fu master. Shang-Chi turned against his father -- the notorious global criminal mastermind Fu Manchu -- after learning about his evil deeds. The ambitious project hopes to do what Black Panther did, but this time for an Asian (and Asian American) audience.
Before we get to any of that deeper stuff though, the Chinese internet has something to say about the name of the main character.
Shang-Chi translates phonetically as the Chinese characters 上气, which forms part of an idiom meaning “can’t catch a breath”. It’s commonly used to describe an exhausted or anxious person gasping for air -- not the best name for a character who constantly travels around the world battling villains.
But others pointed out that Shang-Chi in Chinese is also short for “Shanghai Automotive” -- the Chinese state-owned carmaker that partners with General Motors to sell Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs in China. The Chinese name of that joint venture roughly translates as “Shang-Chi versatile” -- which bodes far better for the superhero.
Interesting name aside, some are wondering which actor will play the role of Shang-Chi.
“Needs to be someone of Chinese descent at least,” said one popular Weibo comment.
“I feel like as long as the acting is good, Asians can play the role too. Doesn’t have to be a Chinese person,” said another comment.
In a country where moviegoers tend to be picky about which foreign franchises they embrace, Marvel films have done exceptionally well. This year’s Avengers: Infinity War raked in US$200 million during its opening weekend in China -- the second highest on record. Venom isn’t doing too bad either: It topped China’s box office for nearly two weeks after an early November debut, and currently still ranks second.
Earlier this year, Marvel introduced two new comics in China that are led by Chinese superheroes. Developed in collaboration with NetEase, both feature plots that are steep in Chinese elements, such as ancient folklores and a city that resembles Shanghai. Marvel Comics editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski has said that the company wants to hire more Asian writers and artists to “bring a piece of their culture to Marvel comics.”