'Doctor Strange' Writer Addresses Ethnicity Controversy

Monday, 25 April 2016 - 8:12PM
Marvel
Doctor Strange
Monday, 25 April 2016 - 8:12PM
'Doctor Strange' Writer Addresses Ethnicity Controversy
When the casting of the Ancient One in Marvel's Doctor Strange was announced, it was met with a mixed reaction. The traditionally Asian male character is being portrayed by a white woman, Tilda Swinton, and for every fan praising Marvel for gender-swapping the role, there was another one deriding them for whitewashing. So why did Marvel go in such an opposite direction from the comics when casting the character? 

C. Robert Cargill, one of the writers of the film, gave a recent interview to the podcast Double Toasted, and here's what he had to say about the matter (some Star Trek knowledge is required):

Opening quote
"The thing about the Ancient One is it is Marvel's Kobayashi Maru. There is no other character in Marvel history that is such a cultural landmine, that is absolutely unwinnable. I've been reading a bunch of people talking about it and the really frustrating thing about it this week is that most of the people who have thoughts on it haven't thought it all the way through and they go, 'Why didn't they just do this?' And it's like, I could tell you why. I could tell you why every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one, and just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you're willing to lose. The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he's Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that's bulls-t and risk the Chinese government going, 'Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We're not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.' If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet... if you think it's a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the f-k you're talking about."
Closing quote


We can definitely see the risk of not wanting to offend the Chinese Government, since China is soon expected to pass the U.S. as the world's biggest box office market, but him acknowledging that reality really paints a pretty bleak picture for the future of U.S.-produced blockbuster films. We suspect that we're going to see movies tailored to China more and more, and since the country has very strict rules about what can be shown on film, it could affect what type of content we see in big budget movies moving forward.

Cargill also makes a good point about the casting of the Ancient One being unwinnable. Since the character is a stereotypical Asian mystic, casting an Asian actor in the role would have been seen as playing into that stereotype and being culturally insensitive and racist. But by going in the opposite direction to avoid the stereotype and casting a non-Asian actor, they've been criticized for taking a rare Asian lead role away from a potential Asian actor.

via GIPHY



It's tough to see a scenario where Marvel could have cast the Ancient One without stirring up controversy, but given that Tilda Swinton is one of the most-talented actors working today, we're looking forward to seeing what she does with the role.


Science Fiction
Comic Book Movies
Marvel
Doctor Strange

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