Tilda Swinton Responds To ‘Doctor Strange’ “Whitewashing” Controversy

still-of-tilda-swinton-and-benedict-cumberbatch-in-doctor-strange-(2016)-large-pictureFollowing the first teaser trailer for Marvel’s Doctor Strange, there was a bit of backlash regarding Tilda Swinton’s character in the film. In the film the actress portrays a female version of ‘The Ancient One’, which initially the studio received praise for the casting choice. However, following the trailer’s debut, Marvel Studios was accused of “whitewashing” the character who in the comics is a Tibetan-born male. Well, the actress is very aware of the backlash and has now commented on it brieflly while speaking with Den Of Geek.

The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it. It all will be revealed when you see the film, I think. There are very great reasons for us to feel very settled and confident with the decisions that were made.

The actress then added that she is “looking forward to seeing what’s made of what we’ve done. We’re feeling really excited and it was a good feeling to make it.” Sounds like the Scott Derrickson directed film might be tweaking more than just the character’s sex  but we will have to wait until November to see exactly what they’ve got up their sleeve. Sound off with your thoughts in the commments section below.

Source: Den Of Geek

Shawn Madden

Shawn Madden

I write stuff. Sometimes.

  • Pinché Memo

    Source material aside, it’s a brave choice by Marvel to cast Tilda…and casting Tilda in your movie is ALWAYS the right answer.

    Besides, this is a movie BASED upon an old comic book…Marvel Studios is free to interpret that in any manner they see fit, as they have done with ALL their cinematic properties so far – they are under no obligation whatsoever to anyone to adhere to the comics 100%. (Civil War? Perfect example)

    At any rate, it’s a fictional character in a fictional comic book that takes place in a fictional universe. If you seriously have an issue with the casting here…you have some issues to work out. Really.

    • Vegas82

      If casting Tilda is ALWAYS the right answer how can it be brave to cast her if you’re setting the source material aside? Couldn’t be bothered to read the rest after such a faulty thesis statement.

    • aaflo

      It’s not so much about having a problem, because I agree Tilda is a great actress! And Marvel should have the absolute right to pick and choose who they want to see on the big screen…but it wouldn’t hurt to show some diversity for once…match what’s seen in the real world, all colors. But we only get two lol… Falcon and Nick Fury? that’s it.

      • Pinché Memo

        Hey, I’m not really arguing against you here, but the MCU as it stands is actually pretty representative of America, if you want to get down to it…assuming we want to match what we see “in the real world” as you say.
        At the moment, we have 4 black characters with major roles, and one can argue a 5th, as you left out Black Panther, Baron Mordo, and even Heimdall (whose role has been increasing with each successive film). Mathematically speaking, that’s pretty much right on target with demographics here.
        Could it get better? Sure. Why not? I hope that it does…but keep in mind that at some point there may be similar backlash for changing those characters as well from the source material – everything goes both ways. And at the moment, I don’t hear many complaints (I don’t have any, nor have I cared) about Nick Fury, Baron Mordo, or Heimdall being changed to Black actors.
        As for Tilda portraying the Ancient One…I rather see her as a bit of an androgynous character here in DS, kind of like what she has done a few times in the past. Now, isn’t that too something that should be represented in our real world as well?
        But whatever…I’m just attempting to have an objective discussion here. I realize that whatever I say, someone will pounce and pick it apart. Personally, these issues have never really played a major role in whether or not I enjoyed a film/TV show or whatnot…I was however, a very early champion when Ron Moore’s BSG completely messed around with the racial and gender dynamics and casting in that show. The same thing is occurring here in the MCU, just at a slower pace.
        Anyways…I welcome your thoughts in the matter.

        • SAMURAI36

          Hey, I’m not really arguing against you here, but the MCU as it stands is actually pretty representative of America, if you want to get down to it…assuming we want to match what we see “in the real world” as you say.

          Not sure I agree with this.

          At the moment, we have 4 black characters with major roles, and one can argue a 5th, as you left out Black Panther, Baron Mordo, and even Heimdall (whose role has been increasing with each successive film). Mathematically speaking, that’s pretty much right on target with demographics here.

          I think you are overselling the Black presence in Marvel.

          Rhodes/War Machine is barely a supporting character, as is the case with Falcon. Heimdall is a glorified door man.While Fury is in a position of power, he’s never been portrayed as the hero of the story. Then we have the character that Djimon Hansou played (can’t even remember his name, which tells you how pointless he was).

          I think Black Panther will be their first attempt at solidly making a Black actor and/or character have a substantial role/presence in the MCU.

          Personally, these issues have never really played a major role in whether or not I enjoyed a film/TV show or whatnot…I was however, a very early champion when Ron Moore’s BSG completely messed around with the racial and gender dynamics and casting in that show.

          Judging by your avatar pic, I can understand why that wouldn’t bother you, and why BSG would bother you.

          • Pinché Memo

            “Judging by your avatar pic”

            Clearly, you know everything about me that you need to know.

            You have a very narrow view of the world, and should try to not be so pedantic about everything.

          • SAMURAI36

            I know everything I need to know, based on what you’ve said here. Your pic was just the icing on the cake.

            But to use your own words back at you, “Clearly, you know everything about me that you need to know.”

            You should try not to be so defensive about everything.

          • Pinché Memo

            “You should try not to be so defensive about everything.”

            It’s called sarcasm. Eyes were rolling…not darting defensively. And you know nothing.

            But as I stated, it’s merely an objective opinion, and nothing more. As a mixed-race guy from a mixed-race family with an even more mixed-race child, I could honestly care less about all this silly stuff.

            The big picture here, is that most of the folks whining about this clearly have little to no understanding of the film industry, either here or abroad. Anyways…have a good day.

          • SAMURAI36

            You’re about as disingenuous as it gets. If you don’t care, then you wouldn’t have spent all this time typing several responses on the subject.

            And I’m not sure what you thought mentioning your mixed race was going to establish, as if that affords you a level of expertise on the subject. Plenty of mixed race people tend to skew towards the “right” as opposed to the “left”. Which is more or less what you seem to be doing.

          • Pinché Memo

            Whatever dude. Enjoy your trolling, and tiny outlook on the world.

          • SAMURAI36

            Says the guy that lives under a bridge. Good luck with that, my son.

    • SAMURAI36

      It’s brave to white wash? LOL.

  • unpaidpundit

    There was no way for Marvel to win in this situation. If they had cast The Ancient One as an Asian male, social justice warriors would have complained that Marvel was perpetuating the stereotype of the “inscrutable Asian.” Marvel changed the race of the Mandarin for the same reason.

    • Vegas82

      You certainly seem misinformed.

      • Nikko99

        actually he’s right

        • Vegas82

          Not in the slightest. 1) Watch the one shot regarding the Mandarin. 2) If they’d cast a race appropriate person for the role there wouldn’t be backlash and 3) Marvel didn’t race change the GD Mandarin. A white guy stole the name from the real Mandarin.

          • AlphaBlu

            Nah, he’s right. We don’t know what race the MCU Mandarin actually is. He could be descended from Vikings for all we know.

          • Axxell

            That would be even worse.

          • SAMURAI36

            LOL at the MCU “Mandarin”. That’s just them trying to clean up that big mess from IM3.

          • unpaidpundit

            You’re just wrong. Shane Black, the writer/director of “Iron Man III,” said that the comic book version of the Mandarin is racist.

          • Kane VonDoom

            Are you talking about that “white guy” Ben Kingsley who is of Indian decent and who’s given name is Krishna Bhanji?

    • AlphaBlu

      Cast Ancient One as Asian male? OMG! Such racism! Perpetuating stereotypes!

      Cast Ancient One as a non-Asian male? OMG! Such whitewashing! Such sexism as well.

      Cast Ancient One as a white woman? OMG! Such whitewashing!

      Cast Ancient One as an Asian woman? OMG! Such racism! Perpetuating stereotypes!

      And on and on and on. SJWs only have one setting – offended – so there’s no winning that battle.

    • Axxell

      Yeah, just like the backlash when they perpetuated the stereotype of the black man running faster than the white guys in Civil War…No? There was no backlash?!….

      • unpaidpundit

        It will be interesting to see whether Captain America gets beaten up by Black Panther in “Civil War.” I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. Social justice warriors will be gratified if Captain America takes a fall for racism, colonialism, and “white privilege.”

        • Bruce Norris

          Cap did get beat by Panther in the comics.

        • SAMURAI36

          You don’t know what you’re talking about. BP has basically always owned CA in the comics.

      • Bruce Norris

        Panther can run his @$$ off…in the comics.

  • Whyte Lyon

    Like Tilda, even Scarlett Johansson is playing a character who was originally meant to be Asian and though its a noble cause to call out against this “Whitewashing” of Hollywood I really do think that Marvel is being unfairly judged by the community. In defense of Tilda her character was created by an American company (Marvel comics) for American readers and now this American movie studio who own the rights to this character wants to bring it to live action. With a real example of “Whitewashing” is Scarlett’s role in Ghost in the Shell which is content created by Japanese writers for predominantly the Japanese people. The key difference between the two is when the casting is made by people with a clear vision of what direction they want to take THEIR ambiguous character compared to casting made by suits who only own the by legal rights to a different cultures content.

    • aaflo

      Except in the american market, Marvel wouldn’t feel a pinch if they choose someone that wasn’t white to play a superhero, in fact it would be refreshing for once…but the Japanese produced film wouldn’t get the american exposure they got if they hadn’t grabbed someone like Scarlett Johansson. You think the american market would have cared equally of the film if the character was played by a Japanese woman? lol not a chance… not trying to come off as one of those people that “american only cares about white people” but white washing, no matter how big or small is a real thing. Those that should be put to blame…should be blamed. Like Marvel.

      • SAMURAI36

        In other words, white folks are not interested in seeing non-white actors, and/or characters.

    • Bruce Norris

      IMHO, Japan has some issues with race/looks. Many of their characters are drawn to LOOK WHITE but are called ______. Scar Joh LOOKS close to the character. Just call her _______ and let the world “take a look at themselves”.

  • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

    First of all to everyone who’s mentioning the Scarlett Johansson playing the main role in the live action “Ghost in the Shell” movie. The original creator himself said that he never envisioned the main character of the movie to be Asian, and this may as well be the case of Doctor Strange as well. Maybe Tilda’s character isn’t even human, to assume the character should be Asian when the source material involves parallel universes, magic and aliens is ludicrous. People need to focus on real whitewashing instead of being desperately pedantic.

    • Hyperdrive

      How about they change doctor strange to asian woman then ?

      • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

        That’s not the issue here. Whitewashing is when a character withing the narrative is a different ethnicity than the actor/actress playing the character. So if a character is for example an alien, then ethnicity doesn’t really matter. It all depends on the setting of the story. In Ghost in the Shell the main character is a girl who was in an accident early in her life and had almost her whole body exchanged with robotic prosthetic. In the anime even though she has a Japanese name, she is portrayed as white, and even the publisher of the original work said he never imagined this character being played by an Asian actress.

        • Pinché Memo
        • Hyperdrive

          Enlighten me how she is portrayed as a caucasian

          • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

            Well first of all the majority of the character in the anime are actually caucasian, it’s easy to tell by their physical features. It’s easy to just look up the difference in the physical features of caucasoid and mongoloid races, the most distinct differences are skeletal and are very definitive. Head shapes and facial features are most noticeable while looking at these. Google images and wikipedia are your friend.

          • SAMURAI36

            That’s false.

            They are drawn as Caucasian, because of the Zenophobia that is portrayed in Japanese media. How do Caucasians have names like “Tetsuo”, and “Sasuske”?

            And since you’re talking about Google being your friend, then perhaps you should google racism in anime and manga.

          • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

            Just because a culture is xenophobic, doesn’t mean artists follow their views. It’s actually quite common for artists in any culture to push the limits and go beyond their own culture. It’s also very common for people in any storytelling medium to create something they wish for themselves. Drawing Caucasian characters is common in Japan because regardless of how they view outsiders, they still find westerners quite attractive physically.

            In addition, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of parent’s in the US who call their children after Japanese characters. Just as much as there are Japanese parents who name their children with European and American names.

            And again, my main argument and point was that this story is set in the future. Where most likely everyone is of mixed races, it’s common sense that the further in the future you are, the more homogenized the human race will be. Not even to mention all the cheap cosmetic surgery and body mod implants.

          • SAMURAI36

            Just because a culture is xenophobic, doesn’t mean artists follow their views.

            Uhmm, that’s exactly what that means. It’s called art imitating life. There are very few exceptions to that rule, and Japanese anime/manga is not one of them.

            It’s actually quite common for artists in any culture to push the limits and go beyond their own culture. It’s also very common for people in any storytelling medium to create something they wish for themselves.

            You’re making this up. Now granted, there is always the power fantasy, such as Superman being the personification of what 2 Jewish guys envisioned themselves as being. The ultimate Jewish hero.

            But that’s not the same as what the Japanese are doing. They have a love/hate relationship with Caucasians.

            Drawing Caucasian characters is common in Japan because regardless of how they view outsiders, they still find westerners quite attractive physically.

            The problem with this, is A) they don’t glorify themselves in the same manner, and B) they view Black people as precisely the opposite.

            In addition, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of parent’s in the US who call their children after Japanese characters. Just as much as there are Japanese parents who name their children with European and American names.

            LMAO, WTF??? You just made all of that up. This is the length that people go to justify the mental acrobatics of the racism of another culture. How said.

            And again, my main argument and point was that this story is set in the future. Where most likely everyone is of mixed races, it’s common sense that the further in the future you are, the more homogenized the human race will be. Not even to mention all the cheap cosmetic surgery and body mod implants.

            Man, I know about GITS. I’ve watched the films, and read the books. These aren’t “mixed race” people. People always wanna imply that the world will be “mixed race” in this so-called “future”, but GITS takes place in 2029. That’s just a decade and a half away from now. Does the world look like it’s about to be one big mixed race to you?

            In order for that to happen, the world would have had to embark on this big race mixing campaign about a century ago.

            But never mind that, the reality is, that has nothing to do with the actual story of GITS. The film takes place in greater Japan. Like most anime/mangas, the story is about Japanese, they just look like White people.

          • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

            Art imitating life is a very nice catchphrase, but if you actually paid attention in history class (not american history) you’d know that most cultural shifts occurred because of artists and other free thinkers. Calling an entire country “racist” is very narrow minded as well. I agree that Japan has been a very xenophobic country throughout history, but if you follow media (especially social media) in Japan, you’d know that the xenophobic mindset has been fading out for quite some time, especially in the big cities. And it definitely doesn’t affect Anime as much as you claim it does.

            And how am I making up that most story telling is wish fulfillment? You used Superman as an example, and immediately went into racism mentioning the two Jewish creators of Superman. It had nothing to do with race, Superman is the embodiment of justice and good. They created an embodiment of everything they thought humanity should be. Modern Anime especially is full of wish fulfillment. Countless harem anime where the protagonist is a bland nobody and get surrounded by women, how is that not self inserting? The countless of character with mysterious out of nowhere powers? The whole medium is just self insertion and wish fulfillment, off course they’re going to draw their female protagonists as beautiful western women.

            Now to the naming thing. I am not making this up, how can I. There are tons of Anime fans who name their children after characters. And the other way around too, Erika, Naomi, Emily, Kent, Chris, these are all common names in Japan, and they’re all western based.

            And for the final point, which is the same argument I made in my original post. It’s only whitewashing if the character was intended to be Asian within the narrative. If the narrative dictates that the character isn’t Asian, then it’s not whitewashing, regardless of the source material. The movie isn’t going to follow the source material to the letter, so saying that this character is meant to be Asian and hence it’s whitewashing is premature. Unless off course you have access to the movie script and know for a fact.

          • Hyperdrive

            the character is drawn as a male asian old man, it doesn’t have anything to do with interdimensional race thingy unless he can shapeshift

          • You should make friends with not making nonsensical and wildly inaccurate comments.

          • Thorstein Nepomuceno Trøber

            Yes, because we all know that the only racial differences humans have is skin color…

            Took me literally 10 seconds to find an image on google that shows the very distinct differences in cranial structure of the two races.

            In addition it’s widely known that Japanese manga/anime artists draw most of their main characters with western features because they find it more attractive. Tall, blonde hair, slim noses, less protruding chin, big round eyes.

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