One thing that I really, really loved about Shang Chi was the representation of what Asian families are really like— basically the concept of “tough love.”
I actually watched the film with my dad the first time and even he liked the film even though he doesn't usually like films with a lot of fiction and CGI. I kind of feel like it is because he is the kind of father that Wenwu was to some extent (he didn't train me to be an assassin but you get the point).
The film in itself was so, so relatable.
The way that Wenwu sent his men to kill Shang Chi just to test him— Asian dads expect their children to be the best— but the fact that he was right there keeping an eye on the fight tells you that he definitely wouldn't have let his son actually get hurt even if he lost.
Wenwu shunning Xialing constantly after Ying Li’s death but training Shang Chi reflects how in most Asian families, the boys are expected to be tough and the girls are expected to be quiet and demure.
Xialing teaching herself to fight better than the boys, and ‘building an empire of her own’ is pretty accurate in that girls have to work so much harder than boys and make their own future if they want to have one at all. And even after Wenwu comes to collect his children, he barely acknowledges her and that hurt me so much because of the ACCURACY. Even though she was more successful than Shang Chi, her father didn't pay any heed to her. In Asian families, it's kind of the norm for parents to expect the son to support their family and never the daughter, even if the daughter is more successful. It's a matter of pride when the son achieves something but not when the daughter does.
Even though my own family is comparatively supportive, I've also had to hear it from my parents about how I don't have to worry about having to support the family or earning enough because that's my brother's responsibility. And my brother is eight fucking years younger than me.
And like I said, my parents are pretty supportive when it comes to studies. I guess that's just a deep rooted belief that's not going away anytime soon.
Then there's that scene where young Shang Chi is practising his punches, his knuckles are bleeding and Wenwu notices that and tells him to stop. Then he even cleans his son's cuts himself. This scene shows you that he does love his son and that he's not just some sadist or anything who loves to torture his child.
It's also one of my favourite scenes in the film because of this reason. It established Wenwu as a grey character and not just as a villain. He wasn't the best father, but he was a father to Shang Chi, he did love his children.
There's rarely an open display of affection from parents to children in Asian families. Especially not from fathers. But that doesn't mean that they don't love you. My father has never even hugged me once, unless it was for a photograph or something. He never ever praised me for scoring well in my exams but when I didn't score that well, he would criticize me endlessly. That sounds harsh, but I do know he's proud of me. He'll say that to others but never in front of me. He'll buy me stuff that I want but also keep comparing me to others. He is barely aware of what's happening in my life, what my interests are. He wants me to do what he wants me to do in life, and fulfill his dreams more than he wants me to fulfill my own. Even though I'm an adult, I'm supposed to live by his rules. But whenever I get even just a bit sick, he gets so worried and treats me like a baby. Just because he doesn't seem to care doesn't mean he doesn't actually care. And that's the deal with most Asian parents.
They will push you and keep pushing you to the edge but pull you back just before you break.
Just like Wenwu did in that scene. He kept making Shang Chi practise, but stopped him when he was bleeding.
And then there's the fact that Wenwu had a bad temper which is so typical of Asian dads lmao
They do and say things in their anger that they regret later but they also don't know how to apologise, so they just start treating you nice.
In the final battle, when he's fighting his son, he literally shows no mercy. But you just know that Wenwu is confident that his son won't get killed. And in case he did, Wenwu would never ever have forgiven himself for what he did in his rage.
Asian parents can't stand it if you dare speak up against them. But they have the right to say whatever they want to you and blame you irrationally. Wenwu blames his son for Ying Li’s death even though he was just a child because he's blinded by grief. He doesn't see any reason why his wife had to die and so he blamed his own son. When Shang Chi tells him that he wasn't there for them, you see him start to understand his feelings. But when he says that his mother wouldn't want him anymore because of who he's become, he gets pissed. Because how dare his son say something like that to him.
Even after he blasts Shang Chi into the lake, you see him contemplating whether he should save him or not but then he hears Ying Li’s voice and decides to rescue her first.
When the monster is freed though, Wenwu doesn't hesitate even a second to save his son. And then he gives him the rings. I suppose it was his way of apologising for the mess he realised he had made when he saw that he was truly just imagining Ying Li’s voice to be calling to him, that she was no more, that he hadn't been there for his children when they needed him and that he had unleashed a soul sucking monster on top of that. Asian dads don't know how to apologise.
When the Dweller in Darkness is sucking his soul, Wenwu’s last memory is of Shang Chi as a baby. And that's so important because no matter how old you are, Asian parents will always see you as a child.
And after his father dies, Shang Chi is distraught inspite of all their misunderstandings and even though his father traumatized him for so many years of his life.
And I swear that's exactly what your relationship with your parents is like in an Asian family. You may disagree with them four times a day, have a huge argument twice a week. But in the end, there's love even if it is rarely expressed and buried under all those strict commands and stern glances.
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Remember when Dusik told Hyejin that her life must've been smooth, since she was smart, had good grades and became a dentist. That all it hit her were simple speed bumps, but life isn't so fair for everyone???
Clearly, Dusik prejudged Hyejin. From their first encounter she showed herself as a delicate citizen of the great Seoul city; she looked wealthy, she was picky, she ordered tons of expensive clothes from worldwide. She clarified that she didn't like others to touch her belongings, she bought a new car, the silver heels were her most beloved possession. She was well-versed in wine, etc. Like us, the spectators, Dusik believed that Hyejin's life had been comfortable and smooth, like a princess life. He even kept telling her that she had "the princess syndrome."
Obviously these were the intentions of the director and screenwriter, that we believed Hyejin was a preppy and spoiled princess; nevertheless, later we could see how Hyejin really is. But I noticed that, until these last episodes, Dusik continued to believe that our female lead's life had been smooth.
For me, the first time he realized that all that “your life must've been smooth” wasn't true was in episode 3, when they all travelled together to Seoul. There, the ahjummas ask Hyejin about her mother, and she replies that her mother passed away when she was a child. Then Dusik watches her, and meditates for a moment. He knows first-hand what it feels like to lose a parent.
Later, ahjumma Gam-ri warmly talks about Hyejin and says, “she must have been through a lot in her life.” Again, Dusik thinks about these words.
In episode 7, when Hyejin offers to do the dishes, Ji PD tells her that she shouldn't as she has back problems due to a car accident (something I hope they'll delve into later).
Another moment I noticed was during episode 8, when Ji PD says that Hyejin was always busy on college days. Then Dusik asks, amazed, were you busy? Why? As if he's saying: why were you busy if you had a smooth life as a princess?
That's when Hyejin tells that she took various part-time jobs and tutoring gigs to pay for her tuition.
Finally, the scene where she meets Dusik in the store wearing the neck brace; something that helps with her herniated neck (something that comes with dentistry work, as she said). Here Hyejin affirms: "My vision is getting worse, and I deal with chemicals all day. It has its own hardships."
Now, Dusik has completely realizes that Hyejin didn't live a smooth life. He even questioned himself why he had asked about the brace neck, since he couldn't stop thinking about it. Consequently, he prepared for Hyejin that acanthopanax thing, and we know what happened after lol
I think it's incredible how in the drama, episode after episode, that first prejudice that both had with each other was gradually destroyed. It's also something that happens to us, as spectators, with them and other residents of Gongjin. At first we have our prejudices about them, but we discover that we were soooo wrong. That was the case of Hyejin with Aunt Joo-Seok
As I said in a previous post, we only see the tip of the iceberg and, therefore, we shouldn't judge people.
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