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.