Marvel is preparing for the launch of the Phase Four films of its film universe, which will begin with the premiere of Black Widow on July 9, after it was delayed more than a year by the Covid-19 pandemic. They will later debut in US theaters, Eternals, on September 3, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, on November 5.
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These last films have a direct relationship with China, since Eternals is directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland – 100%) of Chinese descent, while Shang-Chi will be the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about an Asian superhero, in addition to starring Simu liu, born in China. However, new information was recently released that reinforces rumors that the two Marvel films could be banned in this country (via Variety).
In its new report on the MCU’s Phase Four films, the Chinese government agency CCTV6 issued a list of the US release dates of eight of the ten scheduled titles, but left out Eternals and Shang-Chi, so many have begun to speculate about its ban in the Asian country.
The omission may seem small, but its significance lies in its provenance: the agency is under the jurisdiction of China’s powerful propaganda department, which has the final say on the approval of the films. In this country, all foreign-made tapes that seek their release in Chinese cinemas must receive government approval, likewise, there are separate quotas for imported films in terms of flat rate and those, such as titles from Hollywood studios, seeking a more lucrative income distribution through a state distributor.
Although the CCTV6 report is not strong evidence that the two titles will be banned from the Chinese market, its omission could be an indication that something about them has concerned Chinese officials. The fact that the two films that one might expect to resonate the most with Chinese viewers are now the ones facing censorship concerns highlights the difficulty of navigating the world’s largest film market.
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Now, what reasons could the Chinese government have for banning both films? On the one hand, Eternals It is directed by Zhao, a persona non grata in the Asian country, after a series of statements in which he criticized China and referred to the country as “a place where there are lies everywhere.” This caused Chinese state media to give less coverage to his nomination and subsequent success at the Oscars.
As for Shang-Chi, the conflicts would be related to representation and nationalism. On the one hand, the character Fu Manchu, a villain from the original comics who turns out to be the father of the protagonist, has faced criticism for years for being an incarnation of the stereotype of the “yellow danger” and although he has been eliminated from the new film , many in China seem to be unaware or consider that the character of The Mandarin, by which he was replaced, is just as racist.
Another of the most common complaints about this film has to do with the appearance of the actors, as many Chinese commentators have criticized Liu and Awkwafina for not meeting the typical standards of thin chin, high nose, pale skin and double eyelids of the ideal chinese beauty. One of the most controversial critics said that Marvel chose them because ‘it discriminates the appearance of the Chinese’. More broadly, the initial reaction to the poster and the film’s trailer in Chinese-speaking regions has been negative, and many commentators in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong agree that he seems poised to offer a ‘pretty stereotypical’ view of the film. Chinese people and culture: full of kung-fu, lanterns, pagodas and lots of red.
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