[Chinese Martial Arts. Credit to Pixabay]
Asian culture has been growing in popularity on mainstream media, and thus proper respect and a deeper understanding of the culture is more crucial now than ever. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the culture, it is imperative to understand the difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.
Cultural Appropriation is the act of taking some aspects of a culture without genuine understanding or respect for the culture, whereas cultural appreciation is the act of using aspects of culture while still honoring where it came from. These definitions are too often muddled in the media today.
Lately, there have been many attempts to incorporate Asian culture in Western mainstream media . For example, in the United States, the latest Marvel movie, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, depicted Chinese culture as it has the first nearly all Asian American cast.
The film stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy, and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan. Additional members of the cast includes Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng. This film was vexed from the start, centering villain Fu Manchu seeking to capitalize on a brief Kung Fu mania in the 1970s in the United States.
The film was based on the original Shang-Chi comic, and rather than focusing on the relationship between father and son as portrayed in the original Shang-Chi, it applied a twist of conflict between the hero and the villain as a 10,000 year old father imbued with magic-ring power against his son.
No matter its hyper-modern, flourishing, border-crossing media cultures, it’s considered a place apart- removed from the original cultural intention. It displays Asia as the home of backward mystics or obscure organized crime triads. A prime example of this would be the depiction of the village in China. The set is decorated with exotic cliches: recklessly and ignorantly depicted mythological creatures, guys with long beards. Asians are thus equally patronized and feared in the film.
After the film, Awkawfina, one of the main roles in the movie, recently shared on Twitter:
“My immigrant background allowed me to carve an American identity off the movies and tv shows I watched, the children I went to public school with, and my undying love and respect for hip hop. I think as a group, Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means for them – what is correct and where they don’t belong. And though I’m still learning and doing that personal work, I know for sure that I want to spend the rest of my career doing nothing but uplifting our communities.”
The point of cultural diffusion is to learn and experience unique lifestyles. So, while there is some disrespect towards other cultures, whether knowingly or unknowingly, we recognize that the vast majority of people are merely attempting to educate and immerse themselves. Respect is the foundation for social and cultural connections, and it can only be achieved if people are both more sensitive towards one another and understanding of each other’s intentions.
Archbishop Mitty High
Nathan Chyu firstname.lastname@example.org
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