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Yesterday I watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), and noticed that in the scene in which Shang-Chi's friend, Katy, is asked her Chinese name, a group of people in the audience laughed when she answered. Nobody in my group could figure out why. Theories included laughter because

  1. Katy gave the Chinese name of an established comics character, leading some members of the audience to recognize Katy as a significant part of the Marvel pantheon
  2. Katy did not know her Chinese name and, in lying, accidentally said something rude in Chinese.
  3. Katy did not know her Chinese name and, in lying, accidentally gave the name of somebody else in the story (perhaps even somebody at the table)
  4. Katy knew no other Chinese, but did know her own name, leading to recognition laughter among Chinese Americans who similarly know no Mandarin except their 'Chinese names'.

I'd love to know — was Katy's Chinese name intended to be funny? If so, in what way?

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    Not sure why someone vtc'd as 'opinion-based'. All we need is one Chinese/English bilingual speaker who's seen the movie & we could have an authoritative answer. Names can be amusing in the right/wrong context. Though I'm 'English/caucasian' my Japanese friends think my last name is hilarious - because to them it sounds like something they perceive as Chinese. [The joke itself isn't funny in translation, so I'll leave it out;)
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 26 at 16:21
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    […or it means nothing & they were laughing at something else entirely]
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 26 at 17:56
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    Do you have the original clip from the movie?
    – sorbet
    Sep 27 at 1:46
  • Apparently her name is Chen Ruiwen, make of that what you will.
    – Paulie_D
    Sep 27 at 13:17
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    According to TV Tropes "Katy's native tongue is English and admits her Chinese sucks. While normally brash, she struggles to even say her Chinese name" - so possibly they were just laughing at her pronunciation.... or someone told a joke and it's completely unrelated. A better title for this question would be "IS Katy's Chinese name funny"
    – Paulie_D
    Sep 27 at 13:23
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Katy's Chinese name is pronounced very similar to the Chinese pronunciation of "Riven", a character from the video game Destiny 2: Forsaken. There are several online theories/similarities connecting the plot line of Shang-Chi to Destiny 2.

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I don't believe it is a joke. I could be wrong.

I believe it is a long commentary about culture, assimilation, identity, and loss. And its neatly boiled down into a single question.

The movie character Xu Wenwu is pointing out how powerful names are. That it his true name held a apart in what changed his identity or who he is. His question to Katy then points out that Chinese Americans have changed their names or adopted a secondary western name to accommodate westerners in order to better assimilate. Even someone who cannot speak Chinese well like Katy still has a Chinese name because that is apart of who she is, even though she may have trouble pronouncing it. There is a sense of loss of identity and culture or feelings of having split identities. Also maybe one or both identities feel incomplete. These individuals are stuck not here or there. Not feeling American but not feeling Chinese either. Which can weigh on a person psychologically. And of course this applies to every other ethnicity not just Chinese.

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