Several filmmakers have been taken to task lately for casting white actors in roles assumed to be non-white characters. Even though the publisher of Ghost in the Shell approved of Scarlett Johansson playing The Major, there are others who wanted a Japanese actress, and feathers were thoroughly ruffled by the news that Paramount tested out (but rejected) the idea of using CG to make the actors look Asian, as opposed to, you know, just hiring more Asian people.
And then there were the controversies surrounding all the white Egyptians in Exodus, Emma Stone playing an Asian character in Aloha, and Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One — a character who was a Tibetan man in the comics — in Doctor Strange.
Now the co-writer of Doctor Strange, C. Robert Cargill, is talking about Tilda Swinton’s casting, which he compares to the Kobayashi Maru, in that there’s just no way to win; any decision made regarding handling a character originally based on terrible racist stereotypes is going to make someone angry. Cargill speaks to Double Toasted in the video below (starts at 17:54), and we’ll highlight some quotes afterward.
It should be noted the choice to cast a white woman as The Ancient One was made very early. Cargill wasn’t even hired as a co-writer yet, although he expresses regret that he wasn’t involved in the decision. Here’s his explanation of the unwinnable situation, as transcribed by Screen Rant:
“The thing about the Ancient One is it is Marvel’s Kobayashi Maru. There is no other character in Marvel history that is such a cultural landmine, that is absolutely unwinnable. I’ve been reading a bunch of people talking about it and the really frustrating thing about it this week is that most of the people who have thoughts on it haven’t thought it all the way through and they go, ‘Why didn’t they just do this?’ And it’s like, I could tell you why. I could tell you why every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one, and just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you’re willing to lose.”
He goes on to explain that — due to China’s occupation of Tibet — the film would have likely been banned in China for being “political” if they kept The Ancient One as a Tibetan man. Considering China frequently bans media mentioning Tibet, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossed over $115 million in China, it’s a legitimate concern.
Cargill also addressed the fans who suggested casting a Chinese actress in the role if they wanted to cast a woman:
“If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… 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 f*ck you’re talking about.”
For what it’s worth, Tilda Swinton has already gone on record — while remaining mysterious — saying the version of The Ancient One she’s portraying is not an Asian character, but you’ll “just have to wait and see” what that means. If it’s anything like how Marvel handled another racist stereotype of a character — Ben Kingsley’s The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 — Swinton probably isn’t joking when she suggests this version of the character is completely different. We doubt she’ll end up being a washed-up British drug addict, but you know Swinton could handle it.
(Via Screen Rant)