Ancient One Tilda Swinton

Hollywood has bowed before China for years now, but for numerous reasons its power players refuse to publicly acknowledge their Communist overlords. Reuters did superb reporting on the subject in July 2015, and fans of the MCU remember all too well the decision to make Mandarin a white guy for 2013’s Iron Man 3.

The release of Marvel’s Doctor Strange trailer put a giant spotlight on the latest capitulation to China — the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One — and now the studio is in full spin mode. Marvel released a statement to Mashable on Tuesday that laughably cast its creative servitude in a self-congratulatory way:

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast.”

Do not buy the diversity pivot. It is a cheap illusion, which is doubly sad because a film about Doctor Strange deserves top-notch propaganda smokescreens if studio executives decide to go that route.

Here is the truth, given by Doctor Strange co-writer C. Robert Cargil during an appearance on the Double Toasted podcast:

“Every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one. And just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you’re willing to lose. …

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 — 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.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Cargil, at least his statement comes from the heart. 

One can appreciate the honesty of a man who says it all comes down to cold, hard cash. Marvel Studios resists stating the obvious because to do so sends a depressing message to fans: Fidelity to a character’s integrity ends where China’s censorship bureau begins.

Is Tilda Swinton a great actor? Yes.

Will she do a good job with the role she’s been given? Highly likely.

Will Marvel throw its own characters under the bus if communist thugs threaten to block the movie from China’s market? There is no doubt about it.

As I said April 14, Marvel’s track record for making quality movies is impressive and will probably continue with Doctor Strange. It’s just a shame that it is willing to sacrifice its own creations at the alter of political correctness and the almighty Yuan.

Yuan

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

    1. You won the speed prize, Doug.😉

      I was either going to post on this something related to national defense since the next couple of days will be Marvel-heavy. The “Ancient One” statement won out because I cannot stand that a small group of communist thugs have defacto veto-power over American movie scripts.

  1. Stop it Doug. Marvel in incredibly brave. They are standing up for bathrooms right now. Christian maniacs are known for their violence and totalitarian governments. Just ask any left-wing college moron.

    Their fight against radical Islamic regimes and communist human rights abuse is just around the corner!!

    Also, I truly believe Kevin Feige when he said changing the Ancient One’s gender was just a chance to ‘play with gender’ with a mantle that’s been worn by so many! It surely isn’t an attempt to reduce the negative impact they will have on a REAL social justice issue by presenting a fix for a fake one!! (really! there’s not near enough female roles in superhero movies because we haven’t hit 75% female casting yet!)

    Besides, there’s hardly anyone in the audience that can even find Tibet on a map! They think it’s a fictional place from an Ace Ventura movie!

    1. “Besides, there’s hardly anyone in the audience that can even find Tibet on a map! They think it’s a fictional place from an Ace Ventura movie!”

      They might not know where to find Tibet on a map, but they know that it brought the Beastie Boys and a host of groups together in 1996. 😉

      Actually, the more that I think about it, Millennials probably haven’t even heard of the Tibetan Freedom Concert. Sigh…

      Side note: the 90s were a great time for music. Anyone who doubts it just needs to look at the Tibetan Freedom Concert album. You had Radiohead, U2, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, Beck, Bjork, Blur, Michael Stipe, Rage Against the Machine and a ton of others all at the top of their game.

    2. I’m a big fan of Sonic Youth.

      Anyway, we know what happened to The Tibet freedom movement. They behaved like liberals do, which is what they always accuse others of doing….when the Chinese money started to roll in, they forgot all about it. The rise of the Chinese economy and Tibet (we had concerts, movies, the Dalai Lama became a celeb…) fading into nothing happened at the same time.

      A historian for the lefts hypocrisy and failure wouldn’t even know where to start.

      Lets be honest about Rage, Beastie Boys, all these bands…they were and are a pack of cowards. Tom Morello has only found the will to protest OUR torture, Terrorists have no reason to fear him, in fact, they would have a lot to talk about. They protest ‘power’ that they know deep in their hearts will never threaten them personally or financially. They know if they protest the military using their music, a pack of soldiers won’t show up and kill them, and the government won’t seize their assets and imprison them. They wanted to help Tibet when China had no power and they sat safely in our borders.

    3. I look at bands like China’s Demerit and then compare them to artists like Tom Morello and laugh. If you haven’t seen the documentary “Bejing Punk” and you’re a fan of rock/punk, then I’d highly suggest checking it out.

      As you point out, it’s easy to speak “truth to power” when you know the power you’re speaking to is a guy who was such a “dictator” that walked away from the White House and retired to his Texas ranch many years ago. 😉

  2. Hope the movie turns out good.

    I’ve always found it strange, how so many screenwriters and comic book writers in America have their characters go to Tibet to find wisdom, like Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon, etc. As if the only place in East Asia to find wisdom is in Tibet. Ridiculous.

    1. I’m not opposed to characters finding wisdom in Eastern religions, but I do find it strange that many writers seem hesitant to champion Western civilization.

      Dumping on one’s own cultural roots in a knee-jerk manner is often interpreted as a sign of intelligence in America, which is rather sad to me. In reality, that behavior is done to mask ignorance regarding the pillars of Western civilization, the principles that made the nation’s founding unique, an the importance of key historical documents (e.g., The Federalist Papers).

  3. Wow, that’s just a pathetic statement from Marvel. I’ve poked fun at the Ancient One’s casting, but only to mock the hypocrisy of SJWs (who were more concerned about Danny Rand being played by a white guy than this) and comic writers (who freak if you suggest something like Peter Parker being played by a white actor). I like Cargil’s comment, though, at least for his honesty. Usually, cast and crew pussyfoot around a controversial issue ahead of a project’s release like Marvel did and wait until after it flames out to speak up (just compare the rhetoric before and after Trank’s Fantastic Four movie). Honesty is such a rarity.

    1. “Usually, cast and crew pussyfoot around a controversial issue ahead of a project’s release like Marvel did and wait until after it flames out to speak up (just compare the rhetoric before and after Trank’s Fantastic Four movie). Honesty is such a rarity.”

      Fox’s Fantastic Four is a really great example of that. The whole house burned to the ground and then everyone started pointing fingers. Heh. It’s time for Fox to swallow its pride and admit that Fantastic Four belongs back with Disney/Marvel Studios.

      I would have much more respect for Marvel if it just said, “Listen, China’s movie review board has us in a bind. We need China’s market to help ensure we make money on our investments, but we also want to stay as faithful to the source material as possible. Does it stink that a small group of communist thugs have so much sway over what movies hundreds-of-millions of people see? Yes. But that’s the reality and sometimes we don’t have the luxury of reshooting individual scenes to skirt the censors. Yes, we want the cash. On many levels, we need the cash. So…yeah. Don’t hate us.”

      I can accept something like that. What I don’t accept are mealy-mouthed, self-congratulatory statements about diversity when that is just a distraction from the real issue.

    2. Well, for what it’s worth, the rumor is that the FF will find their way to Disney soon enough, even though Fox hasn’t said anything public yet. Tensions with Fox have lessened a lot since Disney restructured and freed Feige (a guy with a long history at Fox) from Perlmutter’s oversight. The working theory is that Disney agreed to let Fox do a couple X-Men-related TV shows in return for the FF rights. Time will tell if it pans out.

      ‘Course, I agree with what the people on Midnight’s Edge said: if Disney does get the FF rights, they’re gonna have to do a lot of prep work in the shows and movies to make the brand viable again instead of just dive right in. At this point, Disney probably wants the FF rights more for the sake of the alien characters/races (fodder for Guardians of the Galaxy) than the team itself.

    3. “‘Course, I agree with what the people on Midnight’s Edge said: if Disney does get the FF rights, they’re gonna have to do a lot of prep work in the shows and movies to make the brand viable again instead of just dive right in.”

      I honestly do not think they would have to do much. Just having a single trailer that totally nails it and announces to the world, “It’s our turn now,” would be all it would take to generate huge excitement. Perhaps have the FF make a decent appearance in a Guardians flick like Spidey is in Captain America: Civil War, and Fox’s efforts will just be a bad memory.

  4. 1. Marvel publishes Atheist Spider-Man at Easter, in which Peter Parker calls Christ on the cross a lie. Then sells out the Tibetans.

    2. All Marvel would need to do is to produce an exciting, fun movie with the FF, and all the past junk would be forgotten. Just don’t do the origin again! Use an old FF tag-line from many years ago: “Together Again….For The First Time!”

  5. It’s a shame things that were once so commonplace in mainstream markets have to probably considered avat garde or even “old shame” to get remotely looked at in a fresh context. It’s funny because television output like Agent Carter was not afraid to embrace certain stereotypes of the era, even if the object was to rise above it in the end.

    Also, congratulations on being nominated for a HUGO Doug. I suspect you already have a write-up prepared for this news, but I wanted to congratulate you ahead of time. It shows just what conviction and uncompromising courage in conveying viewpoints can accomplish. I’m very proud of you.

    1. “Also, congratulations on being nominated for a HUGO Doug. I suspect you already have a write-up prepared for this news, but I wanted to congratulate you ahead of time. It shows just what conviction and uncompromising courage in conveying viewpoints can accomplish. I’m very proud of you.”

      Thanks, Zariusii. I appreciate it. 🙂 Honestly, I did not have a blog post planned in terms of addressing the nomination. Should I? I’m sort of new to the whole process because I always just write on what interests me. I’m very grateful to all the readers out there (obviously many who do not comment but appreciate my work), who helped make that happen. I suppose if I were to do a post it would really just be a “thanks” to individuals who I call the “invisible readers.”

      The one thing I will say on the subject now is that I wanted this to be a blog where people could share their opinions on comics, movies, etc., and not worry about being banned over stupid stuff. I wanted to write a blog where it’s obvious that I only care about getting to the truth of the matter as opposed to currying favor with people in the industry or creators. Yes, I have my own political biases, but I will always stress that everyone is welcome to comment and I harbor no ill-will towards anyone. When people start swearing and using gutter language, then it’s an issue…but the vast majority of the time I’m proud to say that I don’t even have to put my “moderator hat” on to police that sort of thing.

      I have some pretty cool readers. They make my job easy. I’d much rather be focused on writing new material than telling people not to swear at one another.

    2. Heh, well if you don’t write one up, that’s fine too.

      I told tropers on TVTROPES about your nomination, but they were more upset that Vox Day got nominated and accused him of slate voting.

      I have to say, this hasn’t been Dan Slott’s week, besides you getting a nomination, Slott was also recently reprimanded when he tried to elbow his way into a conversation surrounding the recent controversial sexual harassment scandals over at DC Comics. I’m not sure if you picked up on that or not. Here’s the link:

      http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/news/135165-dan-slott-reprimanded-for-reckless-tweeting-in-lame-attempt-to-discredit-berganza-reports.html

    1. “How did a old Tibetan man get turned into a white woman? There’d better be a good explanation for this in the movie.”

      I will definitely be reviewing the movie. If you see it, then make sure to circle back here and let me know what you thought! I think that’s going to be a very fun weekend with fan feedback.

  6. “Every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one. And just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you’re willing to lose.”

    This seems pretty humorous to me because that sentence and the swagger that follows it goes directly against the whole idea of the message of Star Trek 2. They pat themselves on the back for their ingenuity on finding a way to beat the no-win scenario of “The Ancient One”

    If you rewatch the movie with me for a few moments:

    We start with Saavik’s test. Her test and failure matters, but Kirk’s first appearance is more important: he appears walking out of the light, an all-powerful being full of himself.

    In his talk with Spock he is somewhat boastful when Spock find his solution unique.

    In the Genesis cave while eating an apple, be tells Saavik how he cheated on the test and grinning he tells her he doesn’t believe in a no-win scenario.

    And then Spock dies and he understands on how he knows nothing and that he never faced a true no-win scenario.

    The point of calling “The Ancient One” the Kobayashi Maru shouldn’t be trying to find the least worse solution or what scenario allows you to cheat over it. The point is that if you keep adding more and more rules , guidelines and lions and tigers and bears based on your own presumed privilege and character models from before you were born ( like the old Ancient One) you end up with worse and worse scenarios.

    Make your characters whatever you like, cast whatever actor or actress in whatever role you desire, but please don’t pat yourself on the back because your casting of Tilda Swinton is a unique solution.

    It diminishes all the great acting this woman has done so far.

    1. “Make your characters whatever you like, cast whatever actor or actress in whatever role you desire, but please don’t pat yourself on the back because your casting of Tilda Swinton is a unique solution. It diminishes all the great acting this woman has done so far.”

      Well said, bvdemier.

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