Marvel’s Shang-Chi star Simu Liu has become one of the latest examples of why you should periodically delete old social media posts. Last week, fans began sharing screenshots of Reddit comments the actor allegedly made years before he was well known. To say they were “not great” would be an understatement.
Though the “NippedInTheBud” profile—which has been credibly linked to Liu via a searchable GitHub tool that archives Reddit accounts—has since been deleted, multiple screengrabs of posts tied to the account have been making the rounds online and causing a certain degree of backlash because of their content and where they were initially written. In addition to making casually sexist remarks about women being inferior athletes to men, and inelegantly expressing disdain for extremism in a way that carried Islamophobic overtones, NippedInTheBud (and by extension, Liu) came under fire for participating in r/AZNidentity, a subreddit that’s known as a hub for an Asian-identified subset of the Men’s Rights Activist community.
Though r/AZNidentity purports to be a space that’s “against all forms of anti-Asianism (anti-Asian racism)” the subreddit has a well-documented history of being a meeting place for aggrieved men who launch coordinated attacks typically against women—some of whom are Asian themselves—that they’ve identified as being “race traitors” in some way or another. While none of the screenshots making the rounds have directly linked NippedInTheBud to any of the group’s more vicious behavior, the account being at all present associated with r/AZNidentity raised eyebrows because of what kind of place it is.
Somewhat more concerning than the digital company NippedInTheBud kept, though, were ideas expressed in a post likening pedophiles to gay people. In a comment posted back in 2015 (when Liu would have been 26), NippedInTheBud described how they’d done “a significant amount of research” for a show in which they portrayed a pedophile, and how the experience made them “much more sympathetic to anyone who is born with those urges.” The deleted post read: “From a biological standpoint, it’s no different than being gay - a small mutation in the genome that defines our sexual preferences. Depending on what area of the world you were born and what time, it also may have been a perfectly acceptable thing to act on those urges.” The post also made clear that the person writing it felt that people preying upon children was wrong, as is the history of queer people’s sexualities being pathologized by both the medical and criminal justice systems.
Though NippedInTheBud did not mention specifically which role they were describing, because the account seems to be Liu, it stands to reason that it was talking about the actor’s stint on Blood and Water, a trilingual Canadian crime drama that began running in 2015. In the series, Liu portrayed Paul Xie, the eldest son of a powerful real estate magnate, who becomes one of the suspects after his younger brother Charlie (Osric Chau) dies under mysterious circumstances. Over the course of the first season, you learn how, as children, Paul molested Charlie, and the abuse eventually drove Charlie to substance abuse in the following years. When Charlie ultimately threatens to tell everyone what Paul did to him, the elder brother kills his younger sibling in a panicked rage, and the bulk of Blood and Water focuses on detective Josephine Bradley (Steph Song) piecing the mystery together.
What’s particularly galling about NippedInTheBud’s old comments when you consider them in the context of the story Blood and Water was actually telling is that Paul Xie was not just a man suffering from an unfortunate affliction he had no control over. Throughout the series’ first season, Paul’s shown to be a manipulative liar who tries to use the power that comes from being an editor at a local newspaper to get the authorities off his back. When Paul’s father Li-Rong (Oscar Hsu) confronts him, he tells his son that he’s always had some inkling of what was going on, and struggled with the shame of it. The “help” Paul claims he’s received to deal with his compulsions is contrasted by his willingness to deceive others within his family about the circumstances of his brother’s death, and it all creates a picture of a tormented, but ultimately monstrous man who only feels remorse once his secret is exposed.
To its credit, Blood and Water thoughtfully explores ideas about how familial shame and secrecy often end up becoming sources of trauma in and of themselves. But it was, and continues to be beyond irresponsible and deeply homophobic to liken queerness to pedophilia as NippedInTheBud did after the mountains of research they purportedly put into preparing for the role. Unsurprisingly, Liu’s made no direct statement in response to some of the questions about the NippedInTheBudAccount. However, as the screenshots circulated and gained more attention, the actor added a tweet to a thread from 2019 reiterating that he’s only interested in advocating for “positive cultural pride.”
io9 reached out to Disney as well as Liu’s management and representatives multiple times and did not hear back by time of publishing. This entire situation certainly seems to be the sort of thing that Liu’s team would want to address concretely with a proper statement, but as it stands now, this is yet another example of why, in the end, it’s probably better to just save these sorts of posts for the drafts. Or better yet, just log off.
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now in theaters. Liu is expected to reprise the role in other MCU productions in the future.
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