The past two years have been wicked exhausting for Asian Americans. The media fails to report street violence against Asian Americans. Anecdotes of microaggressions are being shared on my private timelines. Asian Americans are also starting to rise up to have a voice in all of this. I started Mabuhay Bitches! just so I can have a space to voice my thoughts on Asian Americans and pop culture at large. However, we need to talk about the access media’s relationship with Asian Americans. Simply showcasing an Asian American cosplayer or influencer or celebrity isn’t enough. Yes, we are not an experiment, but we are also not your excuse for token diversity quotas. Don’t tell us that you have a diverse fanbase when your guest list is (not) so carefully curated.
While it does make me happy seeing friends at the Disney-Marvel ™ Shang-Chi premiere and my favorite Asian American celebrities at the Golden House Shang-Chi premiere, it made me reflect on Asian American voices that I have encountered in my activist work in the past few months. I asked myself where was Hen’s invitation. I mean, he did write a whole book on the past two years dealing with Asian American Hate and starting up his virtual dojo to train Asian Americans and allies in combative arts for defense. I asked myself where was Brav3, a grass roots organization also dedicated in free self defense training. I also asked myself where was Seniors Fight Back? Asians With Attitudes?
We always chime and have hot takes about diversity and how it’s needed. I see the same cosplayers and influencers invited to these premieres. And I know for a fact that one person (Gil Riego Jr, well documented bad man) is on Disney and Marvel’s guest list. I would have preferred if any of the folks at Dragon Combat Club, Survival Arts, or Sisters in Self Defense…you know…the people doing the activist work and fighting for the survival of our people would also be acknowledged at these events that celebrate Asians. Even Asian Twitter is attempting to amplify Asian American journalists who had the privilege for reviewing Shang-Chi. There’s so many more voices that need to be at these media events. The ones that need uplifting the most are the ones that put themselves on the front lines to help out our community survive. It’s been an exhausting past few years.
Asian Americans have had a history and perception of keeping their head down in activist situations. While Asian Americans have made bold attempts to have their voices heard, be it Justice for Vincent Chin or calling out presidential corruption in the Philippines, this pandemic era has made Asian Americans want to have their voices heard. This is our nexus event to be heard, to be believed, and to show that we are not your obedient model minority.
Shang-Chi is a martial arts fantasy movie set in the modern day and is meant to uplift Asian Americans. We can easily say have our Naruto’s, Bruce Lee’s, Heroes of Class 1-A, Tony Jaa’s, Akira’s, Mr. Miyagi’s, etc, but we need to keep having more and continue the cycle of Asian heroes – international AND domestic. I want to remain optimistic about Shang-Chi, but it doesn’t help that the Delta Variant and the lack of streaming options is setting Shang-Chi for failure. If given the option, I would have paid the $30 for Shang-Chi for Disney plus, but I am making plans to see Shang-Chi in the theaters because I want it to do well. I’ve heard amazing things about this movie and I want to show up for it.
All I’m saying is, I would love to have media groups hosting these Shang-Chi premiere parties and screenings to acknowledge and invite activists who have been pouring out unpaid emotional labor as a “thank you” for empowering Asians alike. Shang-Chi is meant to be an empowering experience for us. And if we love it, we will find a way to watch it again or Tweet at Disney Plus to have a streaming release. (who wants to bet that Disney Plus is going to stream this at the last minute?). I also hope that Disney and Marvel support grass roots causes like POC Culture’s Shang-Chi Challenge wherein one of the largest Asian American populations is crowd funding to get Asian American kids to see Shang-Chi next month.
Hey Disney / Marvel…you always brag about diversity. How about uplifting those who live and breathe the message? We deserve a seat alongside celebrities, cosplayers, and influencers.
PS: I know that Disney has flown out cosplayers for their Hollywood red carpet premieres, so don’t @ about the distance travel thing.