Disney-owned Marvel has recently come under fire for their casting decision in the upcoming ‘Doctor Strange’ set to hit theaters this November. The role of a historically Tibetan character know as ‘The Ancient One’ has been horribly whitewashed and replaced with a British actress named Tilda Swinton. The movie plot has also taken a significant departure from the original comic storyline, completely erasing its Tibetan origins.
Screenwriter Cargill revealed last week in an interview on a podcast called ‘Double Toasted’ that the studio made the decision to erase the character and film’s Tibetan influences to avoid angering the Chinese government. He noted that casting an Asian actress like Michelle Yeoh would be no less controversial than casting a white actress, noting that ‘the social justice warriors would be angry either way.’ He has since gone back on his remarks, claiming that he only spoke for himself and was not justifying Marvel’s casting decision.
TFC spoke out against the casting decision last year and launched a petition campaign demanding that Marvel rethink the move to whitewash the Tibetan character. Despite numerous attempts to reach out to the studio, Marvel carried on with the film’s production and release. Fans, Tibetans, human rights activists, and film critics alike have all condemned the film’s insensitive and tone-deaf treatment of the casting controversy. There are notable cases of Hollywood treating the Tibet issue fairly and including Tibetan people in films telling our stories, like the award-winning 1997 biopic Kundun directed by long-time Tibet supporter Martin Scorsese.
TFC continues to oppose this film and its casting amid ongoing backlash against Hollywood’s legacy of whitewashing, with the most recent case being the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the Japanese Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie, inspired by the anime series of the same. We ask that our readers also continue to speak out against Hollywood’s whitewashing of people of color and stand in solidarity with us and our allies for fair representation in cinema.