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Rotten Bananas: Disney vs Shang Chi

The next Marvel Cinematic Universe offering is upon us. “Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” releases in theatres today, but vigilant fans have noticed something odd in contrast to other MCU films: there has been almost no marketing done for Shang Chi by official avenues at Disney.

Let’s lay it out: Disney is a corporation. Their only purpose in the world is to make money for themselves and shareholders. Any other concern is ancillary to their pursuit of the almighty dollar. So why would they insist barely marketing a film that they’ve invested time, resources, and namely money into? The answer is not as simple as their mission. Disney currently owns the Marvel Cinematic Universe (in addition to a multitude of other properties and counting) and it strikes me as odd that the marketing strategy for “Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings” has been practically non-existent.

There’s been something of a controversy, particularly among discourse on TikTok and Twitter, about this exact issue. Many creators have noted the distinct lack of an online presence from content related to the movie. Additionally, they’ve accused Disney of this because of racism towards people who are Asian descent. The film features an entirely Asian cast as well as much of the production staff. It is absolutely no secret that Asian representation in the film industry, let alone a superhero film, is distinctly lacking and a lot of the roles that Asian people receive are caricatures or stereotypical archetype characters such as the “dragon lady” or the “wise old master.” Sure, these characters are often engaging from a story reason, but they can create problems in the real world.

So now to the question at hand: why would Disney intentionally shoot one of their movies in the foot? The answer is simple. Disney, being a corporation, wishes to extract the most money out of the greatest number of people they can. Because of their incredible public relations, Disney is thought of as a force for good by a large swath of people. They allow people from disadvantaged backgrounds to be in their movies and attend their theme parks. However, when you rub off the sheen, it gets much grimmer.

Disney largely plays to a base that is predominantly white, straight, cisgender, and conservative. They toe the line of course because as I said, they want to cast the widest net possible but to do that, you must play the middle, so to speak. You must equate both sides of a spectrum as being completely the same. Disney has become an expert in this practice, sometimes known as “horseshoe theory.” They allow a single gay person with no developed personality traits other than the fact they are gay into one of their movies and they call it a day. Simultaneously, they play soft on the marketing for an Asian led film, meaning they won’t anger any conservatives who’ve drunk too much of the “white replacement” Kool-Aid.

So, what’s the answer here? There isn’t an easy one. On one hand, we could all go out to the theatres to support the actors who have been doing the heavy lifting on the marketing for this one and show Disney that an Asian-led superhero film can be successful at the box office, but in that scenario, you’d be giving more money to Disney. It’s ultimately a win-win situation for Disney. It’s up to you to decide for yourself.

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