Asian Amer­i­can Me­dia Group Blasts Tilda Swin­ton Cast­ing in ‘Doc­tor Strange’

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

The Me­dia Action Net­work for Asian Amer­i­cans (MANAA) has blasted the cast­ing choice of Tilda Swin­ton in “Doc­tor Strange” on the eve of the Marvel Studio movie’s open­ing week­end. In a lengthy state­ment re­leased Thurs­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said the film was “tar­nished” by the “white­wash­ing” of “The An­cient One”-the ti­tle char­ac­ter’s men­tor. In the film, the Bri­tish ac­tress plays “The An­cient One,” who in the orig­i­nal comic book is por­trayed as a Ti­betan male.

“Given the dearth of Asian roles, there was no rea­son a monk in Nepal could not be Asian,” says MANAA Pres­i­dent Rob Chan. “Had [writer/di­rec­tor Scott] Der­rick­son cast an Asian as the revered leader who guides the main char­ac­ter to be­come a bet­ter hu­man be­ing and to de­velop his sor­cery pow­ers, it would’ve given a big boost to that actor’s ca­reer. While ac­tresses de­serve the kinds of bold roles usu­ally re­served for men, white ac­tresses are seen on­screen more than Asians of any gen­der. And Tilda Swin­ton can af­ford to turn down roles.” Re­fer­ring to 1984’s clas­sic film “The Karate Kid,” which landed Pat Morita an Os­car nom­i­na­tion, Chan points out, “Asians can’t even be the Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-San any­more!”

“White­wash­ing”

When Va­ri­ety asked Der­rick­son about the film’s “white­wash­ing” con­tro­versy at the “Doc­tor Strange” premiere two weeks ago, he ex­plained how se­lect­ing Swin­ton was a di­ver­sity choice in it­self.

“In this case, the stereo­type of [the An­cient One] had to be un­done. I wanted it to be a woman, a mid­dle-aged woman. Ev­ery it­er­a­tion of that script played by an Asian woman felt like a ‘Dragon Lady,’” Der­rick­son ex­plained, ref­er­enc­ing an­other neg­a­tive on-screen stereo­type of an ex­otic and dom­i­neer­ing Asian woman. “I’m very sen­si­tive to the his­tory of ‘Dragon Lady’ rep­re­sen­ta­tion and Anna May Wong films. I moved away from that. Who’s the mag­i­cal, mys­ti­cal, woman with se­crets that could work in this role? I thought Tilda Swin­ton.”

Writer Jon Spai­hts also praised the cast­ing choice. “Tilda is an in­stance of us tak­ing a male role and putting a woman in it, which I think the film badly needed. The comic world of ‘Doc­tor Strange’ is very male. So we were look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to have not only eth­nic di­ver­sity, but to have gen­der di­ver­sity in the film.”

Found­ing MANAA Pres­i­dent Guy Aoki doesn’t ac­cept their ra­tio­nal­iza­tions: “You’re a writer. You could mod­ify ANY prob­lem­atic, out­dated char­ac­ter and main­tain its eth­nic­ity, es­pe­cially when it’s a mi­nor­ity to be­gin with. So the An­cient One was racist and stereo­typed. but let­ting a white woman play the part erases all that? No, it just erases an Asian char­ac­ter from the screen when there weren’t many prom­i­nent Asian

Ac­tress Tilda Swin­ton

char­ac­ters in Marvel films to be­gin with.”

Aoki noted while that di­ver­sity choices have been made in comic book films, Asians do not ben­e­fit. “90% of Marvel and DC char­ac­ters were orig­i­nally white. So in or­der to be more in­clu­sive in their movies, both com­pa­nies have tried to change these char­ac­ters to mi­nori­ties. But they’re al­most al­ways black: Baron Mordo (Chi­we­tel Ejio­for in ‘Doc­tor Strange’), Heim­dall (Idris Elba in ‘Thor’), Gamora (Zoe Sal­dana in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), and Nick Fury (Sa­muel L. Jack­son in ‘The Avengers’),” Aoki ex­plained. Of the few Asian char­ac­ters that orig­i­nated in the comic books, they were changed from Asian to white: the Man­darin (Guy Pearce in ‘Iron Man 3’), Talia Al Ghul (Mar­ion Cotil­lard in ‘Bat­man Rises’), and now, The An­cient One.”

Chan also said he doesn’t buy the ex­cuse that Marvel Stu­dios didn’t want to of­fend China-the world’s sec­ond big­gest movie market-by hav­ing “The An­cient One” be Ti­betan or re­side in Ti­bet, as writ­ten.

“That makes no sense,” says the MANAA pres­i­dent. “Marvel could’ve cre­ated a fic­ti­tious Asian coun­try then cast any kind of Asian they wanted with­out any po­lit­i­cal fall­out. In fact, they changed the set­ting from Ti­bet to Nepal. So the rest of Cargill’s ar­gu­ment falls apart. It’s just a con­tin­u­a­tion of the white­wash­ing legacy il­lus­trated re­cently by movies like ‘Aloha,’ ‘The Mar­tian,’ and the up­com­ing ‘Ghost in the Shell.’”

Chal­lenged Aoki, “Name one mem­o­rable Asian char­ac­ter in any of the movies they’ve pro­duced. Just one!” — Reuters

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