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
As some of you know, I review the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls every Monday night. I do so mostly because The A.V. Club has dropped it from its reviewed shows, and partly because it brings in the hits. This past episode featured the following exchange between Korean diner owner [he’s Korean, the diner is not] Han Lee, played by Matthew Moy, and casting director Tom, played by Eddie Shin:
Before you ask, yes, I put the video together myself.
The reason this struck me is that it highlights a humorous turn of events that I’ve observed more than once. As I mentioned in my review, Shin’s character’s response echoes, almost word for word, that of Howling Commando Jim Morita, played by Kenneth Choi in Captain America: The First Avenger:
Yes, I put that clip together as well. Sorry for the out-of-sync sound. Continue reading
Posted in America, Asia, film, race, television
Tagged asian, Asian-American, assimilation, Captain America: The First Avenger, CBS, Chinese, comfort, Dum Dum Dugan, Eddie Shin, film, Han Lee, Howling Commandos, Japanese, Jim Morita, Kenneth Choi, Korean, Matthew Moy, Nisei, Olympus Has Fallen, race, racism, Red Dawn, television, threat, Tom, Xenophobia, yellow peril
This is part of a multi-blog series about Race and Comic Books put together by RodtRDH. Justin Tiemeyer has written the first of many such posts [about black comic book characters] on his blog, Cavemen Go.
One of my favourite blogs [you can see it in the sidebar] featured an article sometime ago titled “On Marvel, Mandarin, and Marginalization.” The gist of said article asking why an Asian villain like the Mandarin is being portrayed before any Asian American lead heroes. I’m going to start my defence with the quotes racebending.com used:
“There are certain fears and certain strengths the character evokes that are applicable, but of course you have to completely remove any of that short sighted cultural ignorance that leads to any sort of bigotry in the storytelling. That isn’t to say those fears and shortcomings of Iron Man as relating to that character aren’t relevant…He was based in China which was then mysterious because it was Red China. Today China is mysterious in other ways because it’s Global China.”
– Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 to CHUD in 2006
“You have to do The Mandarin. The problem with The Mandarin is, the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that.”
– Favreau again, to MTV in 2010
“The Mandarin is a racist caricature.”
– Iron Man 3 director Shane Black at Long Beach ComicCon, October 2011
I’m not going to skirt around the fact that the character was indeed rooted in the “yellow peril” that was rampant at the time of his inception, but the following images should paint a picture of his evolution since that time.
From left to right: The Mandarin as he first appeared in the 60s, then the 90s, and the present day.
Posted in Asia, comics, film, race
Tagged Ben Kingsley, Captain America: The First Avenger, casting, China, comic book movies, Comic-Con, comics, film, Hogun, Iron Man, Iron Man 3, Jim Morita, race, racebending.com, racism, racist, The Howling Commandos, The Mandarin, The Warriors Three, threat, Tony Stark, villain, yellow peril