Monday we all went to the movies to see the latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s a very long title, it brings back terrible memories of Fiona Apple’s second album title, shortened to “When The Pawn…” It’s super long, nobody can remember it and feels 50% too pretentious (which could also be an apt description of Fiona Apple and her terrific music, “50% too pretentious.”) She said this about the title, a poem she wrote after poor reactions to an unflattering article written about her, “It came from being made fun of,” she said, “and then, of course, it becomes a thing I’m being made fun of for.” Ha! 50% too pretentious or not, she’s awesome, and if you don’t believe me, listen to the “Extraordinary Machine” album and you will.
Anyway. Shang-Chi is amazing. It’s slow and patient, and feels quite intimate (until the last act, which has all of the explosions, dragons, punching, kicking and supernatural derringer-do you could ever want.)
What I loved about it is what I loved about Black Panther and what I love about being alive. Shang-Chi was a celebration of Chinese culture in the same way Black Panther was of Black culture. The ethic, music, dress, color, feel, pace were all differently gorgeous from each other and from me. It seems pretty strange to hold a superhero movie up as an example of depth and care, but these MCU movies aren’t what we think they are. I’ve said before, they are our mythology, complex explorations of the human condition in it’s glory and it’s brokenness.
The problem with racism is that it strives to eliminate this kind of difference, to whitewash everything and everyone until it is all the same monochromatic shade, no matter what the shade is. It’s gross and grounded in fear. And the reaction is strikingly similar, looking to achieve a colorblind world that either pretends to not see the beautiful differences or annihilate them. Of course, this is also rooted in fear.
Why would we want to do any of that? Why would I want to pretend to not see different colors, different cultures? Why would I want to avoid cool interesting defining textures? Why would I want all food to taste like chain restaurants and all shops to look like Walmart? Why would we ever want to sand the edges from our world?
Captain America isn’t the only superhero. The MCU has room for Shang-Chi, Black Panther, Gamora, and Groot, all heroes, all given room to exist exactly as they are. Why can’t we?
It feels so disrespectful to ignore our differences, exactly the opposite of open-minded progress or social evolution. I want to know who you are, where you came from, how you see politics and religion, and I want to let you know who I am. I want us to love each other authentically, as we are, all the amazing things that make us, us, and not from behind some ridiculously fake inanely crafted image of Blah.
So, I think we should do that. Instead of the politically correct masquerade, let’s take those dumb masks off, hammer them into sand, and breathe deeply in nothing else but love.