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The cast of Marvel Studios' "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Disney

Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero film hits theaters around the world this weekend, with some earlier showings starting Thursday. 

Why it matters: For many in the Asian community, the release of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” marks a rare cheerful moment after more than a year of watching near-daily violent attacks on Asian people around the world.

  • For Disney and those hoping to prove something with Shang-Chi through box office sales, the resurgence of COVID-19 and this week’s deadly storms might lead to a lower turnout, which could throw off one measure of success that studios look for.

"Shang-Chi" was fast-tracked after Warner Brothers’ “Crazy Rich Asians” smashed records three years ago.

  • Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu, who plays the superhero, famously “manifested” his role when he tweeted at Marvel (again) after the success of “Crazy Rich Asians.” 

The character of Shang-Chi debuted in the comic books during the '70s at the height of the martial arts craze.

  • But Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Press Trust of India this week that avoiding racial stereotypes was the most important goal for the cast and crew. 
  • Creative teams worked with organizations like Gold House, a nonprofit aimed at advancing Asian socioeconomic opportunities, to ensure that the characters, story, themes and community engagement were authentic.

Axios previewed the film on Monday at a Gold House VIP premiere in New York City, in collaboration with Marvel Studios.

  • I shared my personal review of the film on our "Axios Today" podcast, which you can listen to here.

What they’re saying: “I expected to be a very small cog in a very big machine,” Liu told audiences after the screening. 

  • “But I was pleasantly surprised by how collaborative [the process] was,” he added.
  • Actress Meng'er Zhang talked about how her character, Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing, originally had a streak of red hair underneath her black hair.
  • She said that after she read a Teen Vogue article about how many Asian women have color in their hair, she told director Destin Daniel Cretton that she didn't want it and he didn’t hesitate to take that feature out. 

The big picture: Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., according to the latest census data. 

Our thought bubble: Franchise films like "Shang-Chi" will not solve Asian representation problems overnight, especially if the film is seen only by the Asian community. 

  • At the same time, the movie helps to drive more media attention to the stories behind the film.

The bottom line: "You're going to have more stories to cover," said Awkwafina, who plays Shang-Chi’s sidekick, Katy, in the movie, when Axios asked how the movie might change the media industry.

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Nov 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

Audiences build their own solutions to gaps in media

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Media consumers are more empowered than ever to create their own content, or to access new options, when they see bias in coverage and gaps in representation.

Why it matters: Legacy news and entertainment companies no longer have a monopoly on audiences and attention. Organizations that ignore blind spots risk further losing trust and potential revenue from the fastest-growing segments of the population.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

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