For some time now, we’ve been hearing about the controversy surrounding the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in ‘Doctor Strange‘. Many are accusing Marvel Studios and those involved in the Sorcerer Supreme’s live-action cinematic debut of whitewashing a character that is typically portrayed as being an elderly Tibetan monk. In response to the accusations, a number of people such as a representative from the House of Ideas, writer C. Robert Cargill (whose comments drew the ire of pop culture icon and activist George Takei), and Swinton herself have weighed in with their thoughts on the situation. Now, Kevin Feige is the latest to give his two cents on what is going on.
Previously, when Feige touched on this topic in the past, he only focused on saying that rather than being the name of one character, the Ancient One is a title passed down throughout the years from person to person in the MCU. But in a recent conversation with Deadline, the Marvel Studios President went into more detail regarding the choices they made for Dr. Stephen Strange’s upcoming Phase Three film. Before explaining that the reports of the choice being made to appease China are “completely erroneous”, the executive gave us a brief look at the thought process behind the casting:
“We make all of our decisions on all of our films, and certainly on ‘Doctor Strange’, for creative reasons and not political reasons. That’s just always been the case. I’ve always believed that it is the films themselves that will cross all borders and really get people to identify with these heroes, and that always comes down to creative and not political reasons. The casting of The Ancient One was a major topic of conversation in the development and the creative process of the story. We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more. We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical storyline. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man? We made changes to some of the other key character in the comic for similar reasons. Specifically, casting Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and there’s a character named Wong, who is a very big part of comics, and we cast this amazing Asian actor [Benedict Wong] and modernized that role and his talents people will begin to see as materials on the film begin to come out.”
Though the interviewer seemed to get a bit insensitive with his line of questioning when it came to diversity both in front of and behind the camera, Feige powered through and continued to say that the conversation arising because of Swinton’s casting is extremely important to him and Marvel as a whole. In fact, he even teases that some developments down the line will show their audience how important this all is:
“The truth is, the conversation that’s taking place around this is super-important. It’s something we are incredibly mindful of. We cast Tilda out of a desire to subvert stereotypes, not feed into them. I don’t know if you saw [‘Doctor Strange’ director] Scott Derrickson’s tweet the other day. He said we’re listening and we’re learning, every day. That really is true. As long as we’re starting on this topic, it means so much to us that people know that. We also know that people expect actions and not words in a Q&A, and I’m hopeful that some of our upcoming announcements are going to show that we’ve been listening.”
While I am in no way advocating the act of whitewashing in Hollywood (which has been going on far too often for far too long), I’m more inclined to forgive this infraction, especially when it’s compared to something like Scarlet Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. But also as a whole, Marvel tends to be more in tune with having their stories onscreen and in their comics reflect the real world, so I have a little more faith that they will do the right thing in terms of diversity unless evidence surfaces indicating otherwise. This especially holds true when Feige says that they’re listening since he’s very rarely disappointed in the past. Basically, let’s just wait and see how things turn out for now, shall we?
What do you think about Kevin Feige’s comments regarding Tilda Swinton in ‘Doctor Strange’? Does his explanation put your mind at ease? Let us know in the comments below.
‘Doctor Strange’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benedict Wong, and Mads Mikkelsen emerges on this plane on November 4, 2016.
Despite being a “professional writer”, Ben likes run-on sentences and puns far too much. For more of his attempts at being funny and the occasional insightful thought, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.