This is the second part of a series I began almost exactly three years ago with “Asian Comic Book Fan Watches Thor: The Dark World Expecting Racial Representation, Deals with Crushing Disappointment by Writing Blog Post“. The Marvel sequel in question sidelined Hogun, played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, almost completely, and as the title of the blog post would suggest I had been very excited to see him again.
With Doctor Strange, on the other hand, that anticipation was not present at all. Last June I covered the news that Tilda Swinton was in talks to play the Ancient One, the title character’s mentor, in “Celebrity Blind Spots and Fixing Racist Narratives [By Making Everyone White]“. The gist of that post was how, in an effort to be more “progressive” filmmakers have been choosing to “fix” problematic minority characters by simply casting them with white talent. That’s as opposed to simply amending what made them so racist and stereotypical to begin with.
At that point in 2015 Swinton starring in the film had not yet been confirmed, and absolutely nothing had been mentioned about the character of Wong, Doctor Strange’s manservant in the source material. With Benedict Cumberbatch already locked into the role it was a magical time in which there was still the possibility of Marvel releasing a movie with two prominent Asian characters.
Look, my hopes were never particularly high that Swinton wouldn’t land the part. As soon as it was announced she was in talks for the role support began pouring in. That she was a woman in her 50s in a genre that has helped shine a spotlight on men of all ages and women of a very particular age was laudable to many. The thing is, the optics are so bad.
Posted in comics, film, race, Uncategorized, writing
Tagged actor, Asia, asian, Benedict Wong, Cast, casting, character, comic book movie, Doctor Strange, film, Hogun, Kevin Feige, Marvel, Nepal, Racebending, representation, role, Scott Derickson, Tadanobu Asano, The Ancient One, Thor: The Dark World, Tilda Swinton, whitewashing, Wong
Last week it was announced that Tilda Swinton was in talks to join Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, specifically in the role of the Ancient One. For those of you who don’t read a lot of comic books [and even those who do] the character in question is Doctor Strange’s teacher, a Tibetan mystic named Yao. If it wasn’t plainly apparent to you, Swinton is about as Tibetan as Emma Stone is Chinese or Native Hawaiian. The numerous comic book news outlets that I frequent have covered this in as much depth as they possibly can seeing as nothing is set in stone at this point, but I’ve noticed a trend in responses to the presumed casting choice. That perspective is what I’ll be covering first, following that up with how “progressive” Swinton playing this role would actually be-
“Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice.”
Look, we’ve all seen at least one episode of Modern Family, and most of us can remember Cam reciting those exact words when lauding the actor’s ability to be perfect in any role. Like most effective jokes it’s funny because it’s a slight exaggeration of how people actually think and feel, in this case about their favourite talent.
Gordon lambasted the blog “Your Fave Is Problematic” last year, and for reasons that I generally agree with given their penchant of going overboard when finding areas in which celebrities and media have screwed up. That being said, at bare minimum the title of the site is effective in that it forces us to realize that nobody is above reproach. No one is so incredible that they should be given carte blanche to do [or be] whatever they want, yet that’s the attitude I’ve seen so many people give this news.
That’s not to say that people aren’t entitled to their own opinions of who can play what character, but that we’ll so quickly make exceptions when they involve people we love to watch perform. After it was announced that Martin Freeman would be appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the number of people who wanted to see Martin Freeman as Wong opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange was staggering. That’s right, Martin Freeman. As a person named “Wong”.
Posted in Asia, comics, film, race
Tagged actor, Ancient One, Asia, asian, Benedict Cumberbatch, casting, Doctor Strange, film, Hollywood, Khan, Liam Neeson, Mandarin, manservant, Martin Freeman, Marvel, Matthew Nable, Ra's Al Ghul, race, racism, Star Trek into Darkness, Tibetan, Tilda Swinton, Trope, white, whitewashing, Wong, yellow peril, Your Fave Is Problematic