Meng’er Zhang On Her Character’s Stereotypical Hair

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Xialing broke stereotypes even behind the camera.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has the internet abuzz for all the good reasons. One of the good reasons is its quartet of strong female characters, one of whom is Xialing portrayed by Meng’er Zhang.


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Zhang’s character is a fierce and skilled fighter who is the top dog in a male-dominated violent world. She also has no love lost for her thousand-year-old father, Wenwu.


© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Even though this is Zhang’s first movie, she has made an indelible impression on the mind of the viewers. Not only does she electrify this eye-popping extravaganza, she made some serious changes to the movie behind the camera.

However, one fact fans of the movie might not know yet is that Zhang’s character was originally portrayed with hair wearing the color red. “Originally my character had some like odd red color extensions underneath my hair,” Zhang said in an interview.


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She had already finished one month of shooting when one day, thanks to an article in Teen Vogue, she felt that she had fallen victim to a problematic trope centered on Asian rebellious female characters.


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You can read the Teen Vogue article here. 

Zhang explained further, “We have already shot the film for over a month and one day and I just read an article from Teen Vogue. It said how Asian female characters in Hollywood films always have a hint of color in their hair to show that they are rebels, they are tough, they can fight.”


Amy Sussman / Getty Images for Disney

In a trope that is quite common in Hollywood, the easiest way to show that the East Asian supporting female characters are “cool and rebellious” is to streak their hairs with garish purple or red.

The trope is problematic because it indirectly reinforces a belief that Asian women with normal/natural hair color are meek and submissive.


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Nevertheless, Zhang realized just in time that she too has become another sheep shepherded by this trope and decided to undo it. She revealed, “I talked to our director Destin. I asked him if we could take it out, and they supported me and they agreed with me.”


Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney

Destin Cretton corroborated the turn of events, saying, “[Meng’er] had sent me this article about how Asian female characters often in movies don’t use their natural hair color, that characters are often using color to show that they are rebels or outsiders or whatnot and that itself was contributing to a certain type of stereotype.”

“And when she sent that she asked is it too late to change — and to Marvel’s credit, they didn’t blink an eye. We instantly changed her hair from that point moving forward and then went back through the footage and through the magic of the VFX took all of that out.”


Amy Sussman / Getty Images for Disney

Aren’t we all glad that Meng’er Zhang decided to junk that colored hair look?

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