‘Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior’: Did Brenda Song Learn Martial Arts for the Disney Channel Original Movie?

Former Disney star Brenda Song is a recognizable face in Hollywood. The star is mainly known for her involvement with the Disney Channel. In one popular Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM), Song exhibited a particular set of skills in martial arts. Did she learn these for Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior?

Brenda Song’s martial arts skills in ‘Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior’ are real

Wendy Wu Brenda Song
Brenda Song during San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival – “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior” at AMC Van Ness Theatre in San Fransisco, California, United States. | Albert Chau/FilmMagic

Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is a teen-comedy film. It stars Song as the titular character who learns of her heritage and destiny from a monk. Shen, the monk, informs her she is the reincarnated version of a mighty warrior whose fate is to fight evil before it consumes the world.

Wendy doesn’t believe him and prepares for her crowning as homecoming queen at her high school. However, when the evil force, Yan-Lo, possesses those around her, Wendy realizes the gravity of the situation. When Shen goes to battle on his own, she feels guilty and joins him, and the pair destroy the evil force forever.

In the final battle, Song shows off some impressive martial arts moves. While there’s CGI involved, Song performed some of her stunts herself. The Dollface star revealed her skills in 2022. 

“I have a black belt in martial arts,” she told Cosmopolitan. “This was an opportunity to show this other side [of me] that a lot of people didn’t know.”

‘Wendy Wu’ controversy and Disney response

Wendy Wu movie came out in 2006. However, in 2021, a TikTok user brought to his followers’ attention something he considered racist. The person alleged Disney painted a stunt double to make them look Black like the actor.

Newsweek reports Disney had hired a Maori stunt double named Nooroa Poa to play Gaylyn’s double in the martial arts scene. After the video went viral, Disney responded that Poa had worn a light-colored body pad during filming for his safety. Disney’s spokeswoman, Patti McTeague, told the publication what TikTok users saw was the body pad many stunt doubles usually wear.

The Disney rep didn’t respond to the debate about using skin paint. However, Poa himself confirmed the makeup department darkened his skin. “I was painted darker with makeup to suit the complexion of the main actor James Gaylyn,” he told Newsweek.

Some feel ‘Wendy Wu’ and Brenda Song reinforced Asian stereotypes

Looking back on early ’00s entertainment can lead down a dangerous path. Representation was scarce. When depicted, it ran the gamut from relatively innocuous microaggressions to flat-out harmful stereotypes. Wendy Wu isn’t the worst offender, but it’s not entirely innocent, either.

Content creator Nick DiRamio dove into Wendy Wu for his YouTube series Clip Breakdown. In it, he referenced how the film depicts a “typically narrow Hollywood view of Chinese traditions.” However, he adds Song’s character “was still a role model for children all around the world who felt seen by getting to see a non-white Disney star put at the forefront of a film.”

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