Jamie Chung's casting as 'Blink' in the pilot of a new X-Men TV series should be celebrated as another win for the Asian representation, but we've been here before haven't we? It’s time to give our female superheroines a voice.
There was a little apprehension on my part after reading the announcement that Jamie Chung’s will star Brian Singer’s X-Men TV series pilot. As much as I want to believe her “lively and sarcastic tomboy” will be front and center as a superheroine for the show, the reality is often the opposite. You see, Asian actresses have an arduous history when it comes to getting cast as superheroes in Western movies and television shows.
Cast your mind back to when Lana Condor was cast in the role of Jubilee in X Men: Apocalypse. I, personally, was ecstatic at the news. Jubilee was one of the first Asian characters I identified with. Her story lines in the animated series in the 90s also rarely focus on her ethnicity. There was much excitement seeing the first paparazzi shots of Condor in her bright yellow jacket alongside Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey. But when the film finally premiered? Condor barely a word in. She was relegated to the role of Asian sidekick, her powers rarely displayed and her only scene removed from the final cut.
I was devastated.
The erasure and suppression of Asian story lines is well documented in both the Marvel and DC film universes.
As a comic book nerd who happens to be Asian, this is not a new feeling for me. The erasure and suppression of Asian story lines is well documented in both the Marvel and DC film universes. Last year we had Karen Fukuhara in Suicide Squad and her subtitled role as Katana and Fan Bingbing’s iteration of ‘Blink’ in X-Men Days of Future Past (Chung will presumably be rebooting the character). It’s no secret Asian actresses are often relegated to the role of femme-fatale (e.g. Lady Deathstrike in X2 or Psyclocke in X-Men: Apocalypse) or dragon lady (e.g. Madame Gao in Marvel’s Daredevil series). Both perpetuate the popular ‘yellow peril’/House of Flying Dragons tropes we’ve seen far too many times. The sad alternative is that they’re not cast at all (e.g. Ghost in a Shell, Dr Strange, Iron Fist etc.).
In my opinion, the fantasy world of superhero crusaders comes with plenty of ready-made opportunities to really push for well rounded Asian story arcs. An entire Wikipedia page exists listing the vast number of Asian characters writers from Marvel, DC and beyond. But the same arguments appear every time they forgo casting an Asian actress. The star power isn’t there. The actor won’t ‘sell’. We can’t fit their story line in next to this rehashed one about Wolverine.
I appreciate there’s been some progress. Examples include Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennett in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, Pom Klementieff’s ‘Mantis’ in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, and Chung’s additional race bent casting as Valarie Vale in DC’s Gotham. However, as with all conversations about Asian representation, we should be demanding better. We should also always be demanding more.
There’s still a long way to go for Asian actresses in this genre. I’m still holding out hope that one day we might see Kamala Khan chasing down bad guys in a future Ms Marvel movie; Cindy Moon’s Silk web-slinging alongside Tom Holland’s Spiderman; or maybe Jubilee will finally get some justice alongside Chung’s Blink.
I’m certainly keeping my fingers crossed. Watch this space.