The new Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been dominating the box office for several weeks, but its leading star, Simu Liu, is wrapped up in controversy after several of his Reddit posts show him comparing pedophilia to homosexuality. Screenshots of his posts have since gone viral as members of the LGBTQ+ community call out his behavior.
The scandal first came to light after Reddit users connected Liu to an account called “NippedInTheBud” through multiple touch points. In one post, the account shared a headshot of Liu and asked for feedback. Later, in a thread titled “Ask Me Anything”, the account identified the owner as Liu.
In 2015, the actor wrote that he had recently played a pedophile and the experience had made him “much more sympathetic to anyone who is born with those urges.”
“From a biological standpoint it’s no different than being gay — a small mutation in the genome that determines our sexual preferences,” he wrote. He added that “taking advantage of minors is wrong. Disgusting and vile, even.” But he said treating pedophilia as an illness, similar to conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people, is the wrong approach.
He didn’t mention what kind of therapy or treatment he would recommend for pedophiles instead but urged anyone experiencing these urges to avoid child pornography. “It may seem innocent but even watching it is propagating the entire industry which I’m sure you agree is disgusting,” he wrote.
“Some people with the disorder find themselves only attracted to children, and that could be potentially problematic especially in a society where there is absolutely no way to get help,” the post continues.
Reports from Heroic Hollywood claim Liu has been “harassing women and participating in racist subreddits.”
In 2019, Liu wrote on Twitter that the app can be “a slanderous place,” and that if anyone goes back far enough, they’ll find a “more immature version of me who gave in to anger and hate.”
Marvel has yet to respond to Liu’s comments. The source comic book behind the film has been criticized for featuring stereotypes of Asians. The film finally does justice to these characters by honoring the traditions of Asian culture. It has become a hit throughout much of the continent, but it has yet to be approved by China’s censorship board.
Putting His Comments in Context
Comparing pedophiles to homosexuals is an old debate that relies on false logic.
Gregory Herek, a research psychologist at the University of California, defines pedophilia as “a psychosexual disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners, which may or may not be acted upon.” He points out that not all pedophiles act on their urges.
A pedophile may be attracted to children but never actually engage in sexual contact with them. In many cases, pedophiles never develop a sexual orientation toward other adults of either gender.
Experts say the act of molestation may not be inherently sexual, but rather an act of violence or exploitation using sexuality.
In Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists and other Sex Offenders, Anna C. Salter writes that when a man molests little girls, we call him a “pedophile” and not a “heterosexual.” However, when a man molests little boys, people often say, or mutter under their breath, “homosexual.”
Herek argues that the problem is rooted in society’s aversion to homosexuality. Calling pedophiles homosexuals is an attempt to represent gay men as a danger to traditional family values.
He compares this to the time of slavery of Jim Crow, when African Americans were often falsely accused of raping white women, and when medieval Jews were accused of murdering Christian babies in ritual sacrifices. Both examples show how mainstream society has a history of jumping to conclusions that justify discrimination and violence against minorities.
The exclusion of openly gay men and boys in the Boy Scouts is another example of this. In 2013, the organization voted to allow openly gay boys for the first time. They didn’t allow openly gay male leaders in the scouts until 2015.
The world is so excited to see the first Marvel movie with an all-Asian cast, but Liu’s past comments could overshadow the moment.