‘Doctor Strange’ Writer Reveals The Real Reason Ancient One Isn’t Tibetan

Ancient One

A couple weeks ago Marvel Studios released the first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, which provided fans our first look at Tilda Swinton’s turn as The Ancient One, a character traditionally depicted as Tibetan in Marvel comic books. The footage, paired with the first images of Scarlett Johansson in the film adaptation of anime Ghost in the Shell, sparked controversy online about “whitewashing” characters that were ethnic in their original source material. Most recent examples of films that received negative backlash for this stunt are Gods of EgyptThe Last Airbender, and The Lone Ranger, all of which did poorly at the box office.

C. Robert Cargill, writer of Doctor Strange, sat down with his friends at Double Toasted and revealed the thought process behind changing the Ancient One’s ethnicity.

“The Ancient One was 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 bulls**t 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 we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… if 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**k you’re talking about.”

Cargill raises some understandable points. The Ancient One is arguably an outdated character that was a racial stereotype back when he was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the pages of “Strange Tales #110,” released in July 1963. We live in a much more multicultural world today, if there is room to update a character and prevent upsetting the Chinese market and engaging political clashes, that is a good thing.

Tilda Swinton recently addressed the controversy surrounding her casting. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has also explained that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Ancient One is a title that many people have had. A clever way of not dismissing the possibility that The Ancient One was once a Tibetan man at some point in the MCU.

What do you think of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One? Are you open minded to giving her a chance, or are you sill bent on Marvel changing the character’s race? Chime in and tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Andrew Gifford

Andrew Gifford

Andrew Gifford is an aspiring writer and head of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe fan pages on Facebook.

  • Vegas82

    So the Chinese government dictated the race the character would be? That’s awesome…

    • SAMURAI36

      More like, Marvel doesn’t want to lose the biggest country in the world as an audience, and huge money maker. Otherwise, I doubt they’d care.

  • Robert Mexico
  • MonDaddy

    So did he just say Stan Lee created a racist, stereotypical character? Hmm… And after everything Ike Permutter has said…

    • SAMURAI36

      Precisely. It’s not just Ike. Marvel has a history of this stuff, that has been maintained up until very recently.

      • MonDaddy

        Yeah until this point all Avengers characters have been White. They could’ve mixed it up some kind of way. Then they wonder why they’re fielding the whitewashing questions.

  • Jax Maxton

    That makes sense. In the post-American box office these kinds of issues can be difficult for a studio with difficult characters. Tibet is a very, very touchy subject in that part of the world, not only with the government, but the populace as well.

    • SAMURAI36

      Best believe, Marvel isn’t doing it for any sort of altruistic reasons. They don’t want anything jeopardizing their bottom dollar. Full stop.

    • MonDaddy

      They could’ve just not mentioned exactly the race of the Ancient one and kept it ambiguous.

  • Carl

    It’s good that The Ancient One isn’t a stereotypical Asian mystic. Now please everyone shut up about this non issue. Baron Mordo is black in this movie! Is that black washing? No, it’s good casting, as is Tilda Swinton.

    These SJWs need to go back in their holes. Gods of Egypt had plenty of diversity, Elodie Yung, Chadwick Boseman and tons of extras. The Last Airbender did what? Zuko and Zhao weren’t Indian characters. No one is crying Indian washing. Johnny Depp was a good Tonto, The Lone Ranger was a pretty good movie except for the Old Tonto telling the boy a story bit, that was garbage that should have been cut.

    • Vegas82

      You must not have been paying attention when Airbender came out. People were quite upset with the entire thing(including what races they cast for various parts).

      • Carl

        Sure but I didn’t care because… it’s just a movie. One that’s not all white people at that.

        • SAMURAI36

          There aren’t hardly supposed to be any white people in it (sans the ones from the North).

          • Carl

            Really? It’s an American cartoon.

          • SAMURAI36

            Wow, that’s like saying the Chinese restaurant I just had lunch at, is an American restaurant. Could you possibly be more clueless?

          • Carl

            It’s an American cartoon created by Americans in an Anime style.

            Chinese food in America is modified Chinese recipes made by Chinese people.

            Could you possibly be more delusional / ignorant? The answer is no.

          • SAMURAI36

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar:_The_Last_Airbender#Production

            Avatar: The Last Airbender was co-created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, California. Animation work was mostly done by three animation studios in South Korea: JM Animation, DR Movie, and MOI Animation.

            Avatar: The Last Airbender is notable for borrowing extensively from East Asian art and mythology to create its universe. The series’ character designs are heavily influenced by Chinese art, history, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism,[32] and Yoga.[33] Traditional Chinese calligraphy styles represent nearly all the writing in the series.[34] For each instance of calligraphy, an appropriate style is used, ranging from seal script (more archaic) to clerical script.[34] The show employed a cultural consultant, Edwin Zane, and calligrapher Siu-Leung Lee as consultants for the series’ cultural influences.[33][35] The choreographed martial art bending moves were affected by Asian cinema.[2]

            It should be illegal for you to breathe air.

          • Carl

            I guess all Apple products are Chinese then. Idiot.

          • SAMURAI36

            Well, technically, yeah. As is probably all the clothes you’re wearing. But that’s a false equivalent, & you know it.
            So, a story that consists of Asian main characters, taking place in Asia, living an Asian way of life, & happens to be produced in Asia….
            Tell me why it’s not Asian? Why, because a couple of white guys’ names are on it?
            So I guess Empire & Black-ish are not Black shows based on that same “logic” too.

          • Carl

            It’s all fictional characters and worlds. No real world ethnicities need to be applied.

            Also technically Apple products are American because they are owned and designed by Americans. Just because something is manufactured somewhere doesn’t mean it’s that place’s product.

          • SAMURAI36

            It’s all fictional characters and worlds. No real world ethnicities need to be applied.

            Except those fictional places are deliberately meant to be real-world analogues. That’s like saying it’s a coincidence that Gotham looks like NYC, and Bruce Wayne somehow isn’t a White American.

            Also technically Apple products are American because they are owned and designed by Americans. Just because something is manufactured somewhere doesn’t mean it’s that place’s product.

            Yeah, good luck with that. 3/4’s of the worlds products (and that includes IP’s) come from Asia. Like it or not, this is their world, we’re just living in it.

          • Carl

            Isn’t Gotham supposed to be more like Chicago and Metropolis is NYC. Point is that these are fictional places that can be interpreted different ways and people shouldn’t take offense by an adaptation.

          • SAMURAI36

            Wrong:

            http://comicvine.gamespot.com/images/1300-4002838

            http://www.karridian.net/dcatlas.html#usa

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotham_City

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_(comics)#Legion-Era_Metropolis

            For someone that’s always ragging on DC, you sure ignorant about it.

            Anyways, Snyder said that the DCEU puts Gotham and Metropolis as Oakland and SF, respectively.

            Point is that these are fictional places that can be interpreted different ways and people shouldn’t take offense by an adaptation.

            Says the guy that complains that the BVS versions of these characters are not “true to what general audiences know”. You’re full of $h!t.

          • Carl

            I’m not offended by the different adaptation, I’m offended by the bad adaptation of BvS.

            It doesn’t matter what Snyder says about DC comic stuff. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for it. Gotham and Metropolis are not sister cities and it’s ridiculous to make them so. With them being so close there is no reason that Batman wouldn’t also be fighting crime in Metropolis and with Superman so close, Gotham’s crime would be taken care of with ease.

            Also many people say Gotham is like Chicago and Metropolis is like NYC. No one is implying that they are literally the same though. In the comics they are their own cities separate from real cities. They certainly aren’t across the river like say NYC and Jersey City. That’s a much better analogy than SF and Oakland but Snyder is a moron and can’t see that.

          • SAMURAI36

            I’m not offended by the different adaptation, I’m offended by the bad adaptation of BvS.

            I’m not gonna get into it with you about that nonsense.

            It doesn’t matter what Snyder says about DC comic stuff. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for it. Gotham and Metropolis are not sister cities and it’s ridiculous to make them so. With them being so close there is no reason that Batman wouldn’t also be fighting crime in Metropolis and with Superman so close, Gotham’s crime would be taken care of with ease.

            So wait, it’s okay to make Gotham into Chicago, cuz somehow that equals “respecting DC comic stuff”, but changing it to the Bay Area is a problem? You sound like a fool.

            Also many people say Gotham is like Chicago and Metropolis is like NYC.

            There you go with that “many people” nonsense again. Stop trying to speak for others. Both you and those “many people” are ignorant about DC history. Simple as that.

            No one is implying that they are literally the same though. In the comics they are their own cities separate from real cities. They certainly aren’t across the river like say NYC and Jersey City. That’s a much better analogy than SF and Oakland but Snyder is a moron and can’t see that.

            First off, Bludhaven is between Gotham and Metropolis. If you bothered to look at the maps I linked, you’d know that.

            Second, it’s not about replacing those cities (since both clearly exist in the DCU), it’s about being geographical analogues to them.

            Also, DC (it wasn’t just Snyder’s choice, you &$$-jack) making them Bay Area analogues is more about the geography, than the actual location. Both have rival football teams, just as the Metropolis and Gotham teams; NYC and JC share the same team. Not to mention, the abandoned ports more closely resemble the Port Authority in the Bay Area on the Oakland side, rather than anything in the NY Tri-State area. Plus, Stryker’s Island in the film is more related to Alcatraz in it’s positioning (“abandoned prison” in the film), rather than Ryker’s in NY.

            So in addition to being ignorant about DC history, looks like you also flunked 8th grade geography.

          • Carl

            WTF are you smoking. I said nothing that was fact. Just pointed out analogies that many others have made. Yes, MANY, you f*ucktard, because I’ve seen it and heard it MANY times before.

            What is wrong with you? You seem to have a serious problem comprehending meaning and accepting reality. The DCEU hasn’t had a really good film yet. You as a DC fanboy should accept that and demand better. By licking their balls you only encourage them.

          • SAMURAI36

            WTF are you smoking. I said nothing that was fact. Just pointed out analogies that many others have made. Yes, MANY, you f*ucktard, because I’ve seen it and heard it MANY times before.

            Actually, you did in fact try to pass off what you said as fact, as you always do.

            You said:

            It doesn’t matter what Snyder says about DC comic stuff. He clearly doesn’t have any respect for it.

            You love to spew nonsense like this all the time, that I & “MANY OTHERS” have to check you on, on a daily basis.
            There are no “many others”, it’s just you. And even if there were, so the f#₡k what? Stop using them (whoever “they” are) as a crutch to lean on, or a shield to hide behind. The FACT is, YOU & “THEY” were WRONG.
            AND, you just threw this childish tantrum, for the sake of deflecting the info that I gave you. It pains you to know that this “DC fan boy” knows more about this product than you do. #ell, I know more about your precious Marvel than you do too. But your ego won’t let you say “hey man, you might be right.”
            The hate that you have or this stuff is really funny to me. It’s just an indicator of the hate you have for yourself.

            What is wrong with you? You seem to have a serious problem comprehending meaning and accepting reality. The DCEU hasn’t had a really good film yet. You as a DC fanboy should accept that and demand better. By licking their balls you only encourage them.

            And on that note, I’m out. You sound like a rabid dog. I think it’s time for me to put you on the “ignore” list, like I have people like Marquis, & Axell. I have a problem with people (especially another grown man) making quasi-h0m0 statements in reference to me.
            Go ahead & respond if you need to, I’m not gonna read it.

          • Carl

            I’m still waiting for you to comprehend my words. I’m not gonna hold my breath. Relax. It’s just fiction.

    • Peter James

      False Equivalence is false.

      And multiple times too.

      Good job.

      • Carl

        Nonsensical comment is nonsensical!
        Good job.

        • Peter James

          Oh, he needs it spelled out for him.

          You made a FALSE EQUIVALENCE.

          “blackwashing” isn’t a thing because we don’t have a history of black people and black executives in Hollywood writing roles and creating movies that ONLY exclusively showed black people at the expense and the exclusion of all other races, and even erasing other races in the roles that would be normally played by them.

          So when a black person or (insert-person-of-other-race-here) is cast today in a role that was played by or written as a white person in the original source material – in a clear attempt to make their movie more reflective of the world we actually live in (as opposed the to fairy tale world of only white people that the original writers of the source material wrote their story in),…..that’s not the equivalent or opposite to “whitewashing” as an injustice or a wrong move by a studio.

          Do you still need me to explain it to you some more?
          Maybe with visual aids and coloring drawings this time, to help you along?

          You must be one of those people who whine about “reverse racism” as if it’s a thing or who talks about diversity being equivalent to “white genocide”.

          What a pathetic crybaby.

          • Carl

            No I just don’t give a sh*t when people cry about fictional characters when there are real world problems.

    • SAMURAI36

      Wow, you really are an idiot.

      BTW, I’ve come to realize that whenever people on the internet complain about “SJW’s”, all they are really saying is “hey, leave me alone, while I continue to be a racist/sexist”.

      Good luck with that.

      • Carl

        Moron.

        • SAMURAI36

          Idiot again.

    • Peter James

      Oh, he needs it spelled out for him.

      You made a FALSE EQUIVALENCE.

      “blackwashing” isn’t a thing because we don’t have a history with black people and black executives in Hollywood writing roles and creating movies that ONLY showed black people at the exclusion of all other races, and even erasing other races in the roles that would be normally played by them.

      So when a black person or (insert-person-of-other-race-here) is cast in a role that was played by a white person in the original source material – in a clear attempt to make their movie more reflective of the world we actually live in (as opposed the to fairy tale world of only white people that the original writers of the source material wrote their story in),…..that’s not the equivalent or opposite to “whitewashing” as an injustice or a wrong movie by a studio.

      Do you still need me to explain it to you some more?
      Maybe with visual aids and coloring drawings this time, to help you along?

      You must be one of those people who whine about “reverse racism” as if it’s a thing or who talks about diversity being equivalent to “white genocide”.

      Pathetic crybaby.

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    Conversation regarding the article starts at 18:00 by the way…

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  • Peter James

    Why not just make it an Asian character without necessarily mentioning the nationality or ethnicity?

    Fans of the comic would get it.
    There’d be enough ambiguity in the identity for plausible deniability;
    And most of all you now wouldn’t be forced to do this ridiculous post-rationalization tap-dance to explain your decision.

    All they’ve achieved now is demonstrate that they easily bent to China’s will while choosing the worst possible alternative as an escape route.

    • SAMURAI36

      Right, it’s just pandering to the highest degree.

      But I also call BS on what the DS writer said. Marvel (and Disney proper) has never had a problem with numerous stereotypes in their stories all this time.

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  • Axxell

    They could’ve left it ambiguous. It’s not that hard. But I hope they realize that willfully overlooking asians as a way of dodging potential race issues only makes matters worse.

  • ghost race Killa

    That’s bullshit when it comes down to it there’s more people of color and race that need jobs than white people in the film industry it needs more exposure and this is just another Testament of whitewashing no matter how you look at it how you going to say casting an Asian character from an Asian country is racist