Following trailer being unveiled of the upcoming Marvel Studios film, Doctor Strange, the internet exploded with a mix of joy and a little confusion. The confusion rests with the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. In the comics, The Ancient One is a Tibetan man who teaches Steven Strange the mystic arts. This naturally sparked debate on the internet, much like the Ghost in the Shell controversy.
The film’s writer, C. Robert Cargill, spoke up against the claims of racism on a YouTube talk show, Double Toasted. Cargill explains that they were facing backlash no matter what considering the current state of politics in Tibet.
“The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place.”
He also adds his concern for alienating and possibly offending an entire culure.
“He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people.”
There were also concerns in losing a HUGE market in China if the character stirred up political sensitivity in one of the film industry’s top world-wide markets. The Chinese Communist Party occupied Tibet in 1951 and are aware that there is some debate as to whether or not Tibet should of had independence. This causes an issue in film making when trying to make a world wide box office hit. If the Chinese are made to look as the villains, the movie is banned from being shown in China.
According to The Wrap, producers wanted to avoid the similarities to the Batman Begins origin story, in which Bruce Wayne is trained by Tibetan based Ra’s Al Ghul. The Wrap also reported that
Marvel Studios released a statement as well concerning the “racist” claims.
“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,”
It seems Marvel Studios was facing a lot of trouble in the decision of which way The Ancient One would be portrayed. Cargill also mentions that there were talks of eliminating the character all together, but that would infringe on the roots of Doctor Strange. So they went with giving the role to a strong and talented female actress. I, for one, am excited to see this film on November 4 of this year.
What do you think of the new direction? Is it cause for concern? Give us your input, thoughts, and opinions in the comments below.