Emil Guillermo: “Shang-Chi” rules the world, but 2021 Emmys’ a different universe
It’s Shang-Chi’s world. So why don’t I feel better, especially after seeing the Emmys?
This is the year Asian Americans got the Marvel superhero treatment, and from all accounts, the spell is working at the box-office. In its third weekend, “Shang-Chi” is the top movie in the nation bringing in $21.7 million, for a domestic total of more than $180 million, and $300 million worldwide, according to reports.
Great, right? Asian faces are commercial. We are a hit. We can see ourselves as part of the world. Does it really make a difference in our lives?
Beyond a point of self-pride, are we at a higher level of acceptance than when I bought my first bootleg Bruce Lee VHS tapes? Or DVDs?
“Shang-Chi” is a modern update from its original comic book. And we want to make our inclusion in pop culture important, but we’ll have to wait and see how that translates or trickles down at the community level.
A sense of value and worth? A sense that we belong or have a place in society?
You mean with or without martial arts skill?
There’s no denying the media mirror provides uplift. When we see our images in pop culture, it’s empowering. Or should be.
The box office is just numbers, the capitalistic reaction. We’ll have to wait and see if “Shang-Chi” really makes a difference. Or does “Shang-Chi” become our new stereotype?
EMMYS—At Least We Were There? It used to be movies were movies and TV was TV. But now in the pandemic and with streaming, who knows anymore? Shouldn’t it be movies, TV, and your iPhone? Even the awards shows seem all the same.
The shows, once so white, now they seem to have a lot more color. But if Shang-Chi is the current media king, with Asians having that kind of profile, I sure didn’t get that feeling after watching the three-hour Emmy Awards show.
Maybe that’s because with all the categories and subcategories, there were so many awards it almost seemed like kids soccer. Does everybody get one?
That, of course, is not true. Unless your name is “Ted Lasso” or you’re associated with that show (a good comedy, but somewhat overrated).
For Asian Americans, the first sign the Emmys would not be a Shang-Chi moment was when Bowen Yang in his high-heeled platforms didn’t win in his category of supporting actor in a comedy for his antics on “SNL.”
In this space in the past, I’ve chastised the show for its crimes against Asian Americans. Yang has since been the show’s penance. But funny too, if you saw him in the role of the pinkish iceberg that sank the Titanic. It was only as presenters that Asian Americans got some notice. Yang did a funny FitBit bit about doing 10,000 steps in his stylishly clunky shoes. But then there was Ken Jeong, who is the Asian American comic everyman. He’s gone from “The Hangover” films and “Dr. Ken,” to coming into our homes with “The Masked Singer.”
So why make his star turn into a joke that puts Jeong outside the event arguing with an African American security guard who doesn’t think Jeong belongs inside?
It’s a little too true for funny, made more painful when Jeong is the leading Asian American comedic figure on TV.
And poor Awkwafina deserved better, too. The talented comic actress made a joke about being a presenter and not nominated. But then she seemed lost in the bright lights and out of her neighborhood, all the while appearing in a dress that consumed her.
The Emmys, just like the Academy Awards, have always been a kind of barometer of our visibility and acceptance. That’s why we pay attention. And why we care. We look to see how we show up, or even if we show up.
In 2016, when writer and producer Alan Yang won for “Master of None,” it seemed like a breakthrough moment.
Five years later in TV and film, we’ve been through “Fresh Off The Boat,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and now “Shang-Chi.”
We’re on the map now. But we still didn’t win any major awards. And there was only one big nomination. Is it enough to say, at least we were at the party? Or, as in the Ken Jeong skit, is it still an issue getting past the gatekeepers to tell our stories, our way?
In the end, the one thing about the awards show is they have become conscious about diversity. So indigenous/Native American actors were presenters. Black shows and actors were prominent. “Blackish” didn’t win. But when the show’s executive producer roster includes Reginald Hudlin and Cedric the Entertainer, who also hosted, you know the show would have a completely different look and style. You knew it when the opening number was a tribute to the late comic rapper Biz Markie and his hit, “Just a Friend.”
But in the end, the night’s top award for best drama? “The Crown.” As white and as colonial as it gets.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.