Every year we identify the extraordinary people who moved us over the past 365 days and will continue to inspire us for the next 365. We celebrate these individuals as our Authentic People of 2021 who demonstrated authenticity, courage, passion, vulnerability, and world-class character.
2021 brought one of the biggest debates of all time. It was one that took over the internet — social media feeds, chat rooms, blogs, and messages between friends intensely argued the topic for months and the debate is still raging on to this day.
What topic could possibly get the internet in such an uproar, you ask? You must be new to the internet because that could be pretty much anything. However, in this case, the very important question at hand is: Who is the best Spider-Man?
Tobey Maguire. Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland. The internet is at each other’s throats trying to decide which actor portrayed the webhead the best.
My answer? None of the three. My favorite Spider-Man of 2021 was Simu Liu.
From Spider-Man to Shang-Chi
You may be asking yourself: “But Simu Liu was Shang-Chi, not Spider-Man! What is he talking about?!” Let me tell you what I’m talking about.
The Chinese-Candian actor’s most notable role is Shang-Chi, Marvel’s “Master of Kung Fu.” But long before he was playing one of Hollywood’s biggest superheroes, Liu had a smaller superhero role to help start his acting career.
When Simu Liu hosted Saturday Night Live the weekend before Thanksgiving, he shared a story about being the most iconic character in comics — Spider-Man.
10 years ago, before his TV & Film acting career took off, Liu would dress up as Spider-Man for children’s birthday parties. Not exactly the dream job an aspiring actor wants to be doing.
Liu said that one such party lit a fire under him to be a big star. One of the children kept kicking him and saying “You’re not Spider-Man!”
Simu had a response for that kid ten years later during his SNL monologue: “If you are watching this, you were right. I’m not Spider-Man. I’m Shang-Chi, b****!”
We Are The Underdog.
Before his SNL hosting gig, Simu Liu and Marvel Studios tackled a gargantuan challenge — releasing an “In Theatres Only” film during a pandemic.
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings had doubters aplenty. A lot of people thought it was going to be Marvel Studio’s first big box office flop.
Releasing in the midst of a pandemic, when most new releases had a simultaneous digital and theatrical release, Disney made the decision to only release Shang-Chi in theatres and not on their streaming service Disney+.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek even went as far as to say, “We think it’s going to be an interesting experiment for us.”
Simu Liu passionately responded on Twitter: “We are not an experiment. We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US.”
Imagine calling out your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss — who happens to be in charge of the largest media empire of all time — and being right.
A Box-Office Hero
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings brought in $71.4 million during the opening weekend. This is the largest Labor Day box office opening of all time, completely shattering the $30.6 million record set by 2007’s Halloween.
The film would go on to make $432 million in 2021. Nearly half a billion dollars isn’t bad for an “interesting experiment.”
Liu, who is also a former model for stock image photos, took to Twitter to poke fun at his doubters by posting an old stock photo of him with the caption “Me laughing at the people who thought we’d flop.”
This is just one example of the many gems you will find on Simu Liu’s Twitter feed if you’re looking for a new favorite follow.
A Hero for the Next Generation
In the days after Shang-Chi’s release, Simu Liu joined the hosts of The View to talk about the movie, share his story, and talk about what it means to be the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He spoke on the importance of representation in film and media. “I was always very aware of the characters Asian people play on screen. The sidekick. Or the background character. Growing up I never felt like I was the lead of my own story. I felt like I was always taking up space in someone else’s room,” said Simu.
“What I really hope that this movie can do is show Asian kids everywhere that it is okay to take up space. That they belong.”
Move over Captain America. Simu Liu has arrived. And he belongs.
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