One of Marvel’s upcoming blockbusters, “Doctor Strange,” has been met with allegations by one of its writers of blatant and politically-motivated whitewashing to please Chinese censors and audiences.
A recently-released trailer for Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourteenth film revealed that Tilda Swinton would fulfill the role of the Ancient One, a character of Tibetan origins, according to the canon of the comic books that the film is based on. The casting of a white actress for the part of a Tibetan man naturally struck a nerve among advocates of ethnic diversity in film casting. But one of its writers claims that there was more to the decision than normal Hollywood whitewashing.
According to Yahoo News, Christoper Robert Cargill, one of the screenplay’s writers, said that the decision was made with respect to the preeminence of the Chinese box office, the second largest in the world behind only the United States:
[The Ancient One] 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 bullshit 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.”
In the past, Hollywood has been known to cut scenes of aliens blowing holes in the Great Wall and add unnecessary ones of Fan Bingbing in order to appeal to Chinese censors and audiences. Last year, Stephen Colbert mocked Hollywood for its China pandering, before the premiere of the politically-influential movie “The Martian.”
While some critics suggested the casting of Chinese-Malaysian martial arts actress, Michelle Yeoh, for the part, Cargill believes that would have been a poor decision for the film’s financial success. “If you are telling me you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind,” he said.
However, Marvel has denied these charges, releasing a statement to Mashable explaining the logic behind selecting Swinton for the role:
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 to life. 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. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.
See, no pandering whatsoever… unless you count pandering to the Celtic box office.
Meanwhile, fellow graphic novel publisher DC Comics is also pushing boundaries, introducing superheroes from all over the world, including a Shanghainese successor to Superman.
On another positive note, the decision to cast a woman as the Ancient One, traditionally a role played by a man, has received positive recognition. Plus, who doesn’t like Tilda Swinton?
Watch the trailer for the movie below:
By Matthew Patel