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Back when Doctor Strange was about to go into production, fans of the comic book were outraged that the studio was white-washing the character of “The Ancient One” by casting Tilda Swinton in a role that should’ve went to someone of Asian decent.
Though the move was to avoid racial stereotypes of its Marvel characters (the reason The Mandarin was played by Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3), many felt the casting choice was disrespectful and called Marvel out at the time.
Now Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige says he regrets going that route with Doctor Strange. In an interview with Men’s Health for Marvel’s upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Feige admitted that the casting of Swinton as “The Ancient One” was actually a snafu on Marvel’s part saying, “We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge.”
It. Was. Not.
“We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”
That’s not to say she did a bad job with the role. It was actually good, but of course it would’ve been much better had Marvel just given us what we were familiar with in that film. Just sayin.’
To be fair though Marvel did cast Idris Elba as Heimdall in their Thor franchise. A move that outraged white folks who remember the character for being Thor’s white-skinned and blond-haired counterpart. So it’s not like they whitewash a role every time they go off script.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hits theaters this September 3. Let’s hope it doesn’t somehow lead to accusations of stereotyping and eventual cancellation or something.