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Marvel repsonds to the ‘white-washing’ accusations of Doctor Strange’s The Ancient One

April 28th, 2016 by Matt Gault Comments


The first teaser trailer for Marvel’s Doctor Strange was generally well-received, with fans excited to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s cinematic debut of the popular comic book character. However, amid the hype and excitement was controversy over the studio’s decision to cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.

In the comics, Stephen Strange’s mentor is portrayed as a male Tibetan mystic who has a vast knowledge of all things magical.

Swinton, being American and white, has caused controversy and some have claimed the studio is ‘whitewashing’ the role. However, screenwriter C. Robert Cagill recently explained the casting decision saying that it was made as to not upset foreign markets, like China.

“[The Ancient One is] a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in [a] very weird political place,” he said in an interview for the Double Toasted Podcast, via The Guardian (via Squareeyed).

“He 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 bullsh*t 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.’”

Marvel has since issued a statement, which you can read below:

“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 statement reads.

“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.”

Earlier this year, Marvel was also central in a maelstrom of fan-anger when they cast Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones as Iron Fist, an Asian superhero.

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Matt Gault is a sports writer and film fanatic. He is a fully-qualified journalist and has worked for BBCNI, Sunday Life and has been published on The Guardian's website. He interns at REDNI, sub-editing for the Belfast Telegraph. He studied at Queen's University pretending to like history and literature and then University of Ulster Coleraine, where he slacked off enormously for a year and somehow got away with it. He also enjoys Captain Morgans, The Sopranos, Led Zeppelin and Hunter S. Thompson which makes him a remarkably uninteresting person.

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