C. Robert Cargill, the “Sinister” scribe and the co-writer behind Marvel Studios’ upcoming “Doctor Strange” film, says that no way the studio could avoid upsetting audiences in regards to the cast of The Ancient One role in the movie.
The character has traditionally been an elderly Asian man, but when it came time to cast the film it was tall, caucasian actress Tilda Swinton that scored the role. It was a left field casting choice that has been met by good reaction in some circles for smashing stereotypes, but bad in others for it being yet another case of Hollywood whitewashing.
Speaking with Double Toasted podcast, Cargill drops a “Star Trek” reference in his explanation as to why they couldn’t win whatever choice they made:
“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 onto which way you’re willing to lose.”
He also has an explanation as to why casting an Asian actor in the role was such a tricky proposition:
[The character is] 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 you are telling me 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— you’re talking about. Oh, ‘she could be Asian!’ Asian? She could be Japanese, she could be Indian, really? The levels of cultural sensitivity around this thing is, everyone is staking out their one particular place and not realizing that every single thing here is a losing proposition.”
Cargill credits director Derrickson with making the decision to cast a woman in the role:
“There’s not a lot of talk about, ‘oh man, they took away the job from a guy and gave it to a woman.’ Everybody kind of pats us on the back for that and scold us for her not being Tibetan, and that’s just the way it’s going to go. We knew that the Social Justice Warriors would be angry either way.”
“Doctor Strange” is currently slated for a November 4th release.