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Being an Asian Adoptee in the Western World

Or: My journey as a Chinese born Australian who doesn’t see herself as Asian but, after seeing Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I realise a part of me deep down still has some strong connection to my Chinese roots.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Gif created by me. Credit: Marvel Studios)

That is one heck of a subtitle, hey? But, this is how I felt after watching this new entry into Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This is not going to be a typical review, and there will also be no major spoilers (probably), but fair warning I will be gushing a lot as my love for this film surpasses any other MCU film. Also, this post will most likely be all over the place. So please bear with me.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brings something different to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even at the same time as having the recognisable façade of a superhero film. There’s the titular hero, Shang-Chi, a man who is living a normal life but by the end of the film discovers he is more than that. But, in some ways, the discovery is seen through the eyes of his best friend as well, an ordinary every day human being who also finds something extraordinary inside themselves. You’ll have to watch the film to understand what I mean by that.

There’s the best friend, Katy. (My best friend is also a Katie, hehe.) Played so well by Awkwafina, she brings so much joy but also such gravitas to a character who could easily have just become the comedic relief. (To be honest, a certain Englishman was more the comic relief than she ever was in this film.) I love, love, love Katy. Her droll wit, and the fact that she is Shang’s best friend and not a male character, I think speaks volumes. Not a lot of films have a male-female best friend dynamic that doesn’t go that way. You know what I mean. There’s never any romance between them, just two best friends facing life together. Oh and taking pot shots…

How not to hide from your warlord father… (Gif created by me. Credit: Marvel Studios)

There’s a lot more karaoke in this film than anyone would deem necessary (Two scenes) …. but, I love karaoke so for me, it is just enough karaoke. Oh… and they sing A Whole New World, and that song holds a special place in my heart for always. So, that’s just next level.

Shaun (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) singing karaoke (Gif created by me. Credit: Marvel Studios)

Just seeing so many faces that look like mine in this film… My heart was so full to bursting. I can’t describe it. See, the thing is, I don’t think a lot about my ethnic heritage, my Chinese roots. I was born in Hong Kong in the mid 80’s when it was still a British territory. And my early life, some might say, was sad. My birth mother was only seventeen when she had me, and her and my Po Po tried to look after me. But due to my becoming ill, and their not being able to afford hospital fees, they ended up relinquishing me to the state. And I ended up in an orphanage. Several years later on my third birthday I was adopted by an Australian family and brought up in Australia.

Being brought up by an Anglo-Celtic Aussie family meant that I was surrounded by a culture that was distinctly not Asian, though we did celebrate Chinese/Lunar New Year when I was a child (I’m an Ox by the way…. 2021 is my year…haha) and there were attempts at learning Mandarin when I was a teenager. And I did have friends who were ‘more Asian’ than I was. But, my bestie jokes that I’m more Australian than she is because I love footy (Aussie Rules) and cricket and she doesn’t. And, I don’t mind that. I identify as Australian. That’s my nationality, and my citizenship. And I am proud of that. And I’m sure that’s how I’ll always feel.

But, this film. My gosh. This film.

The force of the connection I felt to my Chinese roots just…. I don’t even know. I have no words to do justice to the feeling, it was almost spiritual. I mean, I don’t have a disapproving Asian father. I don’t even know my birth father. I honestly don’t care to know about him either…. imagine if he were some thousand year old warlord, though…. haha I could be Shang’s long lost sister. Jokes, jokes. He has a very cool sister in Xialing… a sister who can beat him up, granted….

Meng’er Zhang as Xu Xialing (Credit: Marvel Studios)

But, something deep within me awoke on seeing this film. jsFdjagfkjaegjyawjavhd. Yes.

I’m not sure what to do with the feeling at the moment. However, it has definitely lit some kind of spark. I think the most logical thing to do though is to start with the language. Granted I spoke Cantonese when I first arrived in Australia, but they don’t teach Cantonese…so I’d be better learning Mandarin, which would be helpful for work as well (I work in early learning childhood education and a lot of the children I work with are Chinese). So, time to do some research on where I can learn Mandarin. Yes.

But, aside from all that, just being aware that I have this connection is enough for now. For now being right in this moment. As I type these words.

I am a Chinese born Australian, raised in an Australian western-centred family, who feels more connected to her roots, thanks to a little Marvel film. And that is something truly special.

Shang and Katy meet Morris, “What is that?” aka me looking at my feelings on my Asian roots (Gif created by me. Credit: Marvel Studios)

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