I don’t often watch late-night talk shows — let alone when they air live on television. And, when I do, I don’t usually feel the urge to cry. This is especially so when considering the comedic, light-hearted tone many of these shows take on.
But that wasn’t the case on August 19th when Simu Liu appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
As a Marvel nerd, a fan of Liu and an Asian who’s ecstatic about the fact there is now an Asian-led Marvel movie, I was willing to stay up to watch the show instead of waiting for it to be uploaded online the following day.
Liu appeared on the late-night show to promote the upcoming release of Marvel Studios’ next film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The guest appearance came just days after the movie had its world premiere, so Liu spoke of the event and preparation for it.
He mentioned that his parents were among those he brought to the premiere but that they didn’t quite offer the support he would have liked. His mom, in particular, wasn’t fond of his outfit — notably the diamond Buddha chain by Ben Baller that he sported. Liu said his mom commented that the necklace made him look more like a “gangster” instead of a “wholesome superhero.”
It seems like a silly, trivial thing, but I couldn’t help but feel compelled to tear up at the story because of how much I related to that anecdote.
Earlier this year, I had a very similar interaction with my mom when she expressed her disapproval of the new chain necklaces I bought. Thinking back to my own experience, it felt kind of surreal to watch Liu speak about his mom’s feelings toward his necklace. I felt like the living epitome of the pointing Leonardo DiCaprio meme, as I yelled and pointed at my television screen.
That one instance helped me realize I’ve never related to a celebrity more than I relate to Liu. Much of that sentiment comes from the fact that I, too, grew up in North America and was raised by Asian immigrant parents who had the stereotypical high expectations for their children.
For example, in regards to one of the earliest scores Shang-Chi had on Rotten Tomatoes, Liu joked about the reception his parents would have to the imperfect score despite it being a high percentage. It reminded me of all the instances in which my dad would ask why I didn’t get 100% on whatever test or assignment I had even when I still got an A.
One of the best things about the upcoming release of Shang-Chi is the Asian representation it provides — both on- and off-screen. It’s a story about Asians that is made by, and stars, Asians.
Asian kids will watch this film, see Shang-Chi action figures in the toy section at the store and believe that they, too, can be a superhero. My nephew’s fifth birthday is coming up, and he’s having a superhero-themed party. Among other things, I’m getting him a Shang-Chi book and toy. Is that in an attempt to make Shang-Chi one of his favorite superheroes? Yes. But it’s also so he knows that he has a superhero like him that he can look up to as he grows up.
Fellow Asians, such as myself, also have in Liu a movie star they can relate to just as an everyday person. He is, after all, a member of the “subtle asian traits” Facebook group.
But that shared Asian heritage and culture is just one reason why I relate to him.
Liu, in general, is simply a fun, charismatic, relatable person. He exudes an amiability that makes him someone who people want to root for. A Marvel fan himself, he’s someone fans can see themselves in. It’s those qualities and more that make him a fantastic pick for Marvel‘s next star.
There is an inherent childlike wonder and excitement that Marvel — and other franchises — innately brings out in its fans. If his social media posts these past couple of months are any indication, that remains true for Liu despite now being an official member of the Marvel family.
On Twitter, he has shown that seeing other Marvel stars support him and his movie is something that still leaves him in awe. The GIFs he used in response to Chris Hemsworth’s and Mark Ruffalo’s tweets about Shang-Chi both evoke fan-like reactions.
There’s also the fact that, when he went jet-skiing earlier this year, Liu dedicated his corresponding social media posts to Loki’s Agent Mobius as a nod to the character’s love for the water craft.
And let’s not forget the sheer excitement Liu had when the Shang-Chi teaser trailer was released in honor of his birthday.
During a time filled with negativity and sorrow, it’s especially heartwarming to see him fully embrace his fandom and the fortune of his role within the MCU.
But with all the fun he gets to have as a Marvel hero, Liu also has a new platform to do good. And he’s already been using it to do just that.
In March, Liu wrote a guest column for Variety about anti-Asian racism and hate. On the anniversary of the tragedy, Liu posted about the 1982 racially-motivated murder of Vincent Chin, educating his followers about the event.
At the world premiere for Shang-Chi, Liu was asked by Variety about what it’s like to lead Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, and what struck me about his answer was not his part in the historic feat but his hope for more.
“I’m looking forward to the moment where we no longer celebrate firsts,” Liu said. “We’re celebrating seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and fifths. So I’ll take this moment for what it is. It is absolutely that watershed moment. … But I hope that there are many more just like it afterwards.”
So get ready, Marvel fans. Because, if you don’t already love Simu Liu, you’re about to.