A few days ago Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings was released – 95%. For better or for worse, the film brought to the table a discussion that has not completely died down over the years. The fact that in the past various comic book characters were the embodiment of racist stereotypes.
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When talking about racial stereotypes linked to Asians, it is inevitable to talk about the yellow danger. What is this you must be wondering? It is a racist metaphor typical of the 19th and 20th centuries that was used by Western countries to justify their colonization of Asia. What does it consist of? In thinking that Asians are subhuman who represent a danger to the “civilized” society of the West. This generally resulted in stereotypes of these people as criminals unable to integrate into the societies of this part of the world and in drawing them with yellow skin. One of the most famous characters of this type is Fu Manchu, from Sax Rohmer.
In fact, Kevin Feige had to assure a Chinese film critic that Fu Manchu is not going to be part of the film nor do they have any interest in appearing:
Fu Manchu is not a character that we possess or that we want to possess. It was changed in the comics many many years ago. We never intended it to be part of this movie. Fu Manchu is definitely not in this movie, he is not Shang-Chi’s father and, I reiterate, he is not a Marvel character nor has he been for decades.
That said, for the same reason it has not been possible to premiere in that country. We have decided to leave you other equally troublesome examples
Mandarin is the one who replaced Fu Manchu in the new MCU movie, but, it must be said, not in the comics. This villain today has been updated to look and behave more like a person than a collection of stereotypes in human form. The main way to do that is to make him look more normal and not be intrinsically related to his ethnicity as a villain. Today he is basically Iron Man’s Ra’s al Ghul. In ancient times, he was basically Tony Stark’s version of Fu Manchu. In a not so different outfit, but with a mask, mustaches, and an urgent need to visit the dentist.
This character is one of the most extreme and intense cases. The problem starts from its name. It is named in honor of the egg foo young, which is a type of vegetable omelette very typical of Chinese food in the United States. It is so named because, obviously, it is a gigantic yellow egg that speaks with a strong accent and has stereotypical whiskers. It should be said that they are not decorative. He used them as whips against his enemies. Needless to say, he is an even more exaggerated version of the typical yellow hazard cartoon features. It’s amazing to think that someone thought it was a good idea to make a gigantic whiskered egg a Wonder Woman villain, but it was definitely a different time. As you can imagine, in more recent years it has tried to remove these elements and even redeem it. In fact, today his name is Chang Tzu and he is part of the Chinese superhero team The Great Ten (Shi Hao Xia).
Another case that takes the yellow danger to its limits is this Daredevil villain, but not Marvel’s, but that of Lev Gleason Publications and that today is part of Image Comics and an antagonist from Savage Dragon. Like Egg Fu, this villain is a sample of what happens when the yellow danger is pushed to its limits. If the other is the bizarre and laughable limits, in his case they are the grotesque and monstrous. At first his appearance is like that of Fu Manchu or the Mandarin, but with the difference that he is literally a monster with a vaguely draconic appearance and the ability to do all kinds of things, including change the Earth’s climate. In the golden age of comics, he came to brainwash the President of the United States and, therefore, conquer that country.
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One undeniable thing is that manga and anime are tremendously popular in France. One can get on the metro in Paris and see a spectacular of One Piece. All of that is here to stay. The problem is, some old comic book artists didn’t take it well. That is the case of Albert Uderzo, creator of Asterix and Obelix. That made it clear in his graphic novel The sky is falling on us! (2005). So in the XXI century. In it, two competing alien races visit the Gauls, they are the Dyswaltians and their enemies the Nagma. As you can see no subtle names. The latter steal the technology from the former to defeat them and both want Asterix’s potion to defeat their rivals. Needless to say, this whole story is not a very veiled mockery of the manga and the aliens are drawn in a way that refers us to the yellow danger; in this case, a cultural invasion based on plagiarism and the degradation of Western animation. Many readers and critics saw this comic for the racist complaint that it is and that caused a dent in the reputation of Albert uderzo from which he did not recover.
Chin-Kee (although this is in a critical tone)
Gene Luen Yang. He is one of the best comic book writers and cartoonists today and one who has particularly reflected on the Asian experience in America and in the world. For this reason, in addition to his original graphic novels, he has been hired by various publishers to write stories focused on Asian characters. One of his most famous graphic novels is American Born Chinese (2006). In it he mocks and reflects on the characters of the Yellow Peril. That book tells three stories, which at first seem to have no connection to each other. One of them is about an American boy named Danny who is visited one day by his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. He is an incarnation of the danger yellow and all the racist stereotypes towards Chinese, which range from skin color, teeth, exaggeratedly slanted eyes, teeth, and behavior worthy of the worst of sexual harassers. In fact, her name is a pun on a derogatory term for Asian communities: chinky. This in turn comes from chink, which is basically the equivalent of the word with N, but to insult people from countries like China. Chin-Kee is a manifestation of the fears about his Asian identity that the protagonist of the story has, derived from living in a racist society.
Pilón: Yellow Peri
Unlike all the other characters on this list, Yellow Peri is neither a villain nor an embodiment of stereotypes against Asian communities. In fact, as you can see, she is white. That is why he is the character of pilón. She is a young woman named Loretta York who becomes a sorceress when she finds a grimoire. Its name, without any doubt, is a reference to the yellow danger and a play on words. She is yellow because she is blonde, Peri is a type of winged spirit from Persian culture, her equivalent, in a fairy sense, and she is a danger because her spells never end well. In that sense, she is a sort of accidental Superboy villain. She belongs to a time when the characters were more serious and that is why she was disappeared by many. That and that nowadays no one would think of making puns with racial insults.
Keep reading: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The importance of Asian representation away from stereotypes and how they are broken in the film
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Characters that embody the yellow danger that are not Fu Manchu