Marvel defends casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange

Tilda SwintonThere’s been a lot of talk lately about Hollywood’s tendency to whitewash its films, most recently with Scarlett Johansson playing a prominent Japanese character in the live-action Ghost in the Shell.

Marvel’s Doctor Strange is yet another feature that’s been hit with such backlash, due to the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, a character who was originally depicted as Tibetan in the comic books.

The studio has been quick to quash the controversy, releasing a statement defending the casting: “Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] to life.”

“We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast,” the statement continued.

Fans and critics questioned why Tilda, a white woman, would be cast as a someone who was once portrayed as both Tibetan and male.

The film’s screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, while on the show Doubled Toasted, explained Marvel’s choice, calling the original character a “racist stereotype.”

“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place,” he said. “He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people.”

The film adaptation is taking a decidedly different turn from the comic books, with The Ancient One transcending all gender and race, a creative choice that Marvel is firmly standing by, “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.”

Doctor Strange, starring Benedict CumberbatchRachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor, will hit theaters on Nov. 4.

~Shelby Morton

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Comments & Discussion

  1. P.W.C. • April 28, 2016 @ 10:20 AM

    I never have understood detractors of certain movie productions on the basis of political correctness. Of course, we all have the right to express our personal opinions, but not the right to DEMAND. I lament, but do not demand, the end of poetic licence in re-writes for the silver screen of certain stories classics that I grew up on. Disney has been one of the worst offenders that has created a couple generations that still don’t know the wonderful original stories and their true intended messages. DEMANDING political correctness tends to do the same – distort history. But that’s just my opinion.

  2. Musical Magpie • April 28, 2016 @ 11:10 AM

    P.W.C. I would like to see more original stories and less feeding on other sources. As for Disney, my lament is that Disney has robbed a generation of great literature, and turned the stories into candy-coated versions of the originals! Take Jungle Book – people who grew up with the sappy Disney musical are complaining that the new live-action version is “too dark” – hello? Kipling’s wonderful stories have No singing bears, no comical snake! No happy ending for the Hunchback of Notre Dame! No spoonfuls of sugar in Mary Poppins! Peter Pan is a biting social commentary on the British class system! Gone is the brilliant writing and subtle humour of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories, replaced by heavy-handed visual jokes
    and character assassination! READ THE STORIES TO YOUR KIDS!!!!

  3. LJ • April 28, 2016 @ 2:33 PM

    So this really isn’t some kind of bold choice, nor is it about not depicting racist stereotypes…they just want to pander to the Chinese to make sure Marvel get those Yuan for this movie.

  4. LadyAurora • April 28, 2016 @ 3:14 PM

    Tilda Swinton is about as androgynous as you can get with a major, fantastic, movie star! People need to get over it. They were upset that Fury was made black and it turned out to be an awesome choice. It’s movie universe that has repeatedly stepped outside of the very strict views of race and gender for it’s characters. And if they are replacing a racist stereotype, what exactly is wrong with that?

  5. Vegeta • April 28, 2016 @ 10:42 PM

    Ghost in the Shell creator said that he never saw her as Asian, so how can that be whitewashing?

  6. Stratusfied • April 29, 2016 @ 3:58 AM

    It’s okay to turn Nick Fury black for Samuel L. Jackson, but God forbid we change a minority white for the story. They even changed Nick Fury black in the cartoons/comics to fit with the movies. Talk about double standards. Marvel has always embraced the tough societal issues of the day. They created the X-men in order to talk about diversity & to be able to parallel issues such as racism,, homophobia, poverty..etc. & that was long before it was cool to talk about such things. I would much rather be hired for the job for being qualified for the role based on my talent, then get the role because someone screamed diversity & so they felt obligated to hire me.

  7. David • April 29, 2016 @ 4:44 AM

    Wasn’t nick fury black it the comics? He started out white in wwII and got mind transferred into a black body if I remember correctly.

  8. Neil • May 8, 2016 @ 1:56 AM

    This isn’t about offending people, exactly, as much as about pandering to the largest growing movie audience for this type of film, the Chinese, who are in a proxy war with Tibet. Most movie companies are gutless when it comes to the financial bottom line. They will literally do anything to appease the largest paying audiences, and that is why I do not generally patronize most mainstream movies because I simply don’t want to further encourage them.

    Take a look at the movie poster for “The Force Awakens” for North America and Europe, and then compare it to the one they designed for the Chinese population. Magically, John Boyega character’s placement and size was diminished on the Chinese poster, because black people are not well appreciated in China.

    Don’t believe me, look here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/04/star-wars-the-force-awakens-john-boyega-chinese-promotional-poster_n_8723198.html

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