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Doctor Strange writer uses Star Trek to explain Tilda Swinton's Ancient One

04.25.2016

tilda swinton, marvel studios, the ancient one, marvel cinematic universe, doctor strange

There has been a lot of conversation about the casting of Tilda Swinton in DOCTOR STRANGE as The Ancient One and the charges of "whitewashing" that go with having a white female play a character that has traditionally been an elderly Asian man in the Marvel comics. There are those who will wonder why an Asian actor couldn't have been chosen to play the part. There are others who will complain about so-called "gender swapping," employing some sort of gimmick to turn the character from male to female. Even more will complain about why anything at all has been changed from the source material, because it's always been that way and should never be altered at all as a result. 

Swinton herself recently offered up explanation that her casting will be explained in the final cut of the film, but, for now, no answer provided appears likely to satisfy any of the lines that have been drawn. However, C. Robert Cargill, one of the co-writers on the solo DOCTOR STRANGE film, recently sat down for a conversation with Double Toasted where he was asked about the creative choices made for The Ancient One. And in a very good explanation about all the difficulties faced in trying to find the right path to take, he invoked STAR TREK (WRATH OF KHAN, to be exact) to put things in perspective for the various sides of outrage.

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.

The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. 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 bullshit 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.’ 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.

It's always easy to consider what the best way is to proceed with a particular property, given the standards and values that many of us share in the United States, but what many often fail to realize with these optimal solutions is that the rest of the world doesn't always think the same way we do - and that involves, gender, race, sexuality, etc. America is incredibly tolerant when compared to many other nations, and it isn't a far-fetched concept to believe we should use our power to attempt to change hearts and minds over time. However, when we're talking about private businesses - like a movie studio - that has a great deal of money at stake in an industry that relies greatly on global dollars now more than it ever has, it is a bit of a pipe dream to believe they are going to put idealistic principles over their bottom lines. They make attempt to make small strides whenever and wherever they can, but they're not going to lead on these sorts of issues. They'll be more than happy to follow once breakthroughs happen... but they're not going to be the ones taking the chances to push them, not on their dime.

As Cargill says, there really are no good choices... Just less degrees of bad that ultimately someone has to make the call on. Which is the most palatable way of losing? That's where Marvel's Ancient One decisions came from.

DOCTOR STRANGE arrives in theaters on November 4.

 

Source: Double Toasted

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