“Strange” Casting of Tibetan Character in Upcoming Marvel Flick

The Hollywood Reporter recently published a story about Marvel’s decision to have actress Tilda Swinton play the role of a historically Tibetan character in the upcoming movie “Doctor Strange.”

The Internet responded. Fans of the original comic book series were outraged and accused Marvel of whitewashing yet another character. Others praised the publishing company for considering a woman to play the role of a man.

This move is far from a victory for breaking glass ceilings. Certainly, women should have more leading roles in Hollywood, but not at the expense of casting out yet another minority group — one that is already misrepresented in western society at large.

Hollywood suffers from a serious lack of diversity, and it didn’t just start today. The film industry constantly mystifies other cultures and whitewashes them with predominantly white (cis)male actors leading as “heroes.” There will sometimes be one or two Asian American characters playing the role of the token minority. Apart from casting issues, a problematic element within the comic book itself is the character in question — “The Ancient One” — who is called Yao in the story. Yao is actually a Chinese name, not Tibetan.

strange one
“The Ancient One” featured in the original comic book.

Marvel still has time to fix this. The movie is set to come out in 2016. To start, they should cast more people of color and consider Tibetan actors and actresses. There is certainly no shortage of talent within the Tibetan diaspora. What about Dichen Lachman?  Or how about Tsering Dorjee Bawa? Why not reach out to the world-renowned Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts for casting calls?

Racebending said it best: “Nope. I love Tilda. I was there for Orlando. This is not about Tilda. This is about it not being OK for Hollywood to consistently bypass PoC, who are already under-represented, in favor of the same white folks we see all the time. The character is Tibetan. Tilda is not, and if she takes the role, that’s one more film where the same white folks we see all the time got a role that is canonically a PoC.”

Leave a Reply