With the news of Tilda Swinton being chosen for the role of the “Ancient One,” an allegedly “Tibetan” character created by comic book writer Stan Lee, the Tibetan American was outraged by this blatant erasure of our unique cultural identity. As such, we demand that Marvel refrain from essentially whitewashing a poorly cast role insensitive to the plight of Tibetans to preserve our culture in the face of ongoing political persecution and a global freedom struggle.
We strongly advise Marvel cast a Tibetan American actor or actress to honor the cultural heritage and history of our people and contribute to much-needed diversity in this film. Due to Hollywood’s constant casting of white actors and actresses in roles meant to portray people of color, selecting an actor/actress who represents the actual ethnic background of the Tibetan character in Marvel’s upcoming film would not only do justice to comic and its fans, but also the movement for racial equality in this country. As exemplified in the similarly whitewashed casting in the recently released “Aloha,” the decision to cast Emma Stone, a white actress, in the role of an Asian American character caused significant backlash and criticism of the film. Marvel would do well to learn from their mistake and take this opportunity to avoid a similar fall out for this film and indeed help turn the tide in honor of the civil rights legacy of America.
The role of film and media in contributing to the public dialogue on race is undeniable. So, considering that Asian Americans are significantly underrepresented in the entertainment industry, casting a Tibetan to play the role of a Tibetan character would not only be the ethical thing to do, but also a smart business decision.