Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has opened up about the importance of the scene with Katy’s grandmother in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and Tony Leung, Shang-Chi represents the first Asian-led superhero film in the MCU, with the film aiming to break down barriers with its representation of the Asian community in Hollywood. The film has thus far received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and is currently on track to break the box-office record for highest grossing domestic release over the Labor Day weekend.
The film sees Liu’s eponymous hero dragged back into the secretive world of the Ten Rings organization, accompanied by his best friend Katy (Awkwafina). The two are shown to have an incredibly close friendship, with Shang often sitting down for breakfast with Katy’s family. In the scene in question, Shang-Chi interacts with Katy’s grandmother (waipo), played by Tsai Chin, as she prepares an offering to leave at her husband’s grave and emphasizes that loved ones have who have passed are never truly gone. She also asks the typical grandmotherly question of when Shang-Chi and her grand-daughter are getting married, to which he replies that they are “just friends.”
Speaking to SR at Shang-Chi‘s press junket prior to the film’s release, Feige emphasized the importance of that scene in terms of “bringing personal elements into the story.” He also added that it’s an important moment as it bring a sense of humanity to the film that allows “the audience to relate” to both the characters and the experience, while also acknowledging the “cultural specificity.” Read Feige’s full comment below:
“I think both, but I think that’s primarily what our screenwriters, with Destin [Daniel Cretton] who’s a screenwriter and David Callaham, who was the first writer to start building the story for us, wanted to bring those personal elements into the story. And it’s been remarkable in screenings. At that very moment with the grandmother, you can hear the audience relate to that and respond to that. So I do think it was very much a conscious effort on Dave and Destin’s part to bring that to the screen, and I hope with all Marvel heroes, it is their humanity that makes them relatable. Shang-Chi is probably a more universal story than a lot of them because of the family element and because of the cultural specificity in which that family exists.”
The scene is an important one, not just in establishing the rapport between Shang-Chi and Katy’s family, but also in depicting three generations of a Chinese immigrant family living in the US. Where Katy’s grandmother still holds on to older cultural traditions, Katy and her brother have firmly embraced being American. By contrast, Katy’s mother finds herself in the middle, conflicted between her Chinese and American identities. While there is a great deal of cultural specificity, as Feige alludes to, there is simultaneously something inherently universal in that experience that many audiences can relate to.
The scene certainly fits in well in a film that is, for the most part, quite a personal story with a strong family theme running throughout. A theme which the writers have strived to incorporate in many different aspects. It also offers a brief but memorable insight into Katy’s home-life, which is important in furthering her character development over the course of Shang-Chi. Hopefully it’s something which Marvel will continue to factor into their films going forward, as they continue to deliver these important personal moments that act as respite inside otherwise frenetic action-heavy spectacles.