There is a serious issue with whitewashing in cinema at the minute. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Dormer have been the actors whose roles have most recently been pushed into contention as they both take on roles originally written for Japanese characters. Even more recently, Marvel have found themselves accused of whitewashing in their upcoming movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch Doctor Strange. But it is not the protagonist that the issue is with, this time it is Tilda Swinton’s character The Ancient One that has been accused of being wrongly cast. The question here is, have Marvel made the right choice in their casting and is that choice justified? Earlier today Marvel released a statement regarding their stance on the issue of Tilda Swinton‘s role…
Marvel outright defended their decision in an official statement with reference to the character itself and the fact that The Ancient One may be a designation, rather than a single character.
“The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”
Marvel also detail their excellent record in employing a diverse range of actors and the fact that they are proud to have Tilda Swinton in the role and so they should be. Swinton has proved herself to be an astounding actor in a varied roster of films. But it was not Marvel’s statement that gave context to the entire story.
Earlier in the week NerdBastards covered an interview with Doctor Strange writer C. Robert Cargill (Full article here.) Cargill described the cultural landmine that is The Ancient One, working around a racial stereotype created in a different time.
This is such a difficult situation for the Doctor Strange and Marvel team to be in as it seems that they will face criticism whoever they cast in the role of The Ancient One but they have to make the decision that is right for them and audiences alike. It is important to consider this from all angles and understand that it is not worth Marvel alienating 1.4 billion people in China as Cargill so elequently put it
“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 fuck you’re talking about.”
Doctor Strange is scheduled for release November 4th 2016.